Judge ends group’s bid to stop Cowels Bog restoration
By Teresa Auch Schultz firstname.lastname@example.org July 3, 2013 5:38PM
Updated: August 5, 2013 6:36PM
A federal judge tossed a lawsuit by a group of Dune Acres residents against the National Park Service’s efforts to restore Cowles Bog to its original state.
U.S. District Judge Philip Simon wrote in his ruling that the park service did have the authority to decide to restore the bog and did so based on an informed decision.
The Coalition to Protect Cowles Bog Area filed suit against Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in December after the government started cutting down about 3,400 trees in 24 acres of Cowles Bog. Park officials said the purpose was to restore the area to its original natural state, which is a wetland, and said the trees were not native and were keeping other native plants and animals from returning to the area. Several local environmental groups, including Save the Dunes and the Field Museum, supported the project.
The coalition claimed that legislation creating the Lakeshore insisted the park be kept it in its state then, in 1966, which would prohibit the park from restoring it to a prior period.
However, they also argued that park officials purposely hid evidence proving that the area was not, actually, a wetland and did, in fact, have trees.
Simon ruled against both arguments and noted that the plaintiffs had no evidence supporting their claim about the original state of the bog.
“All of plaintiff’s perceived deficiencies are little more than fly specks,” Simon wrote. “... Calling these flyspecks is an insult to the comparative enormity of flyspecks.”
As for the National Park Service’s authority, Simon said that although the legislation that created the park is confusing, it doesn’t make sense to think Congress wanted the entire park to remain exactly as it was in 1966, especially considering parts of the park were not added until decades later.
“If that were the case, wouldn’t the secretary (of the Department of the Interior) have to make individualized decisions as to every flower, shrub, tree, etc. to ensure that the Lakeshore looks exactly as it did in 1966?” Simon wrote. “That is an absurdity, of course.”
The dismissal means the park can move forward with cutting down the trees in the area. Most trees already have been cut down, but the park reached an agreement earlier this year with the coalition to not cut down trees in the southeast corner of Cowles Bog, near Mineral Spring Road, pending the Simon’s order.