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Urban Natural Resources Stewardship

Calumet: An Ecological & Economic Rebirth

[photo:] Factory at Calumet site.The 160-square-mile Calumet region is a study in contrasts. Running along the southwest shore of Lake Michigan, Calumet includes a significant portion of the City of Chicago and sweeps east, encompassing Gary, Indiana, and the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Once one of the largest wetland complexes in North America, Calumet later became the heart of US industry. Its anchor was steel production.

This heavy industrial development dramatically altered Calumet’s landscape and ecosystems. Slag, a byproduct of steel making, was disposed of along Lake Michigan and in the wetlands. Rivers were dredged and channelized, wetlands were filled, and natural habitat disrupted. Still – and surprisingly – threatened and endangered species still flourish in Calumet in remnant natural areas.

Many of the industries that transformed the Calumet region have disappeared, and with them countless jobs. Numerous industrial sites are now abandoned, dotting the landscape with properties that are contaminated or are perceived to be contaminated, known as brownfields.

Although the region is a classic rustbelt, many industries still thrive there. The remaining natural areas draw recreationists who hope to see the rare bird, catch the big fish, or just enjoy the outdoors. Calumet is undergoing an exciting revitalization. Our unit works with many partners to help local and regional planners and managers decide how to advance the region toward ecological and economic health.

Research Summaries

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Research Highlight

Last Modified: 11/04/2014