2011 CPEO Military List Archive

From: Phillip Cox <philwcox@gmail.com>
Date: Tue, 20 Dec 2011 07:27:23 -0800 (PST)
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: Re: [CPEO-MEF] REUSE, BIOTA: Newport Chemical Depot (IN) Prairie

What a spin of a headline; there was never any doubt that farming was going to continue at the former U.S. Army Newport Chemical Depot.  The main question was whether or not the existing tallgrass prairie ecosystem and the wildlife that live there (including many endangered species) would be allowed to survive the farming and development.  The declining grassland wildlife species can't wait 15 or more years for a new prairie (even if it is double the size).  The Army's recently published Final Finding of No Significant Impact states, "Although if fully implemented, the reuse plan submitted by NeCDRA (Newport Chemical Depot Reuse Authority) could result in the loss of up to 300 acres of restored tallgrass prairie, this potential loss is not considered significant because the loss could be offset by tallgrass prairie restoration in the Land Bank".  Of course, "could be" is not a very good planning tool for environmental protection.  The Army did not require immediate mitigation or even evaluate the full impact of destroying the prairie; only that it was not considered significant.  Since when would destroying the largest black-soil tallgrass prairie in Indiana be considered insignificant; especially if there is no immediate mitigation for the wildlife?  As mentioned in the article there are federally endangered Indiana bats (Myotis sodalis) in the area.  These federally endangered bats may even use the existing prairie for foraging. It is not known for sure, because this area has not been surveyed for bats.

The existing prairie was planted by renowned prairie restorationist Peter Schramm and is surrounded by a mosaic of wetlands, woodlands and fields that comprise more than 800 acres (336 which are tallgrass prairie) on the southwest portion of the former Depot.  Acre for acre the diversity of this area and the wildlife that live there is unmatched in west-central Indiana. 

The existing prairie area was also identified in the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, June 1994 "Inventory of Natural Areas and Rare Plant Species within the Newport Army Ammunition Plant" (a previous name of the Newport Chemical Depot) as Special Interest Natural Area I.  This report provided inspiration to start reconstruction of a tallgrass prairie that formerly dominated the area, stating “A large acreage of the southwestern portion of NAAP was formerly mesic silt loam prairie. The Vermillion County Soil Survey showed prairie soils for this area, old Indiana county maps showed a large area of prairie, and we observed Big Bluestem and Prairie Dock along the road in the area. A restoration this large (1900 +/- acres) in this part of the Midwest is an exciting opportunity.  There are no remnants in Indiana of prairies of the size of this potential restoration. The largest prairies that do remain in the state are sand prairies; thus the significance of this area is even more important because it is silt loam prairie restoration.  Restoration will involve a long term process of converting existing, primarily agricultural land, into prairie.”  With this in mind the existing prairie was brought back to life, wildlife is now flourishing and it is already bought and paid for with taxpayers money.  Existing prairie populations of declining/endangered  grassland species such as quail, pheasant, sedge wren, grasshopper sparrow, Henslow's sparrow, Virginia rail, peregrine falcon etc. will continue to decline in this area (if the existing prairie is destroyed) because there is no place for the displaced wildlife to survive.   

To be sure, acquisition of 1,100 acres of woodlands and 600 acres of row crop fields in the year 2026 is exciting for the natural resources conservation community.  Hopefully this will come true.  However, the existing prairie and wildlife should not be collateral damage for this project.  The existing prairie and the future prairie reconstruction could even be connected via a conservation corridor already in place.  At least, destroying the existing prairie should be put on hold until an equal amount of the new prairie is reconstructed for the existing wildlife to find a new place to survive.   

Phil Cox

On Mon, Dec 19, 2011 at 10:19 AM, Lenny Siegel <lsiegel@cpeo.org> wrote:
[If one will excuse the adulteration of an old aphorism, the reuse authority seems to suggest that two prairies in the bush (the future) are worth more than one in the hand (providing habitat today). - LS]

Mega park OKs farming at site, doubles prairie acreage

Howard Greninger
Terre-Haute Tribune-Star (IN)
December 17, 2011

TERRE HAUTE - An existing restored tallgrass prairie located within the Vermillion Rise Mega Park will be converted to row crops, but a state conservation plan will restore a new prairie that is twice as large on the northwest corner of the area.

Steve Aker, executive deputy director of Vermillion Rise Mega Park, said the park's board of directors earlier this week entered into a land management contract with Farmers National Co., an agricultural management firm with an office in Lafayette.

The company will manage about 3,500 acres of land, which is expected to generate about $750,000 annually. That money will be used to help improve the park’s interior for industrial and commercial development, Aker said.


For the entire article, see


Lenny Siegel
Executive Director, Center for Public Environmental Oversight
a project of the Pacific Studies Center
278-A Hope St., Mountain View, CA 94041
Voice: 650/961-8918 or 650/969-1545
Fax: 650/961-8918

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