The Indiana Dunes are known as the “birthplace of ecology” in America because in 1899 University of Chicago botanist Henry C. Cowles published his classic paper on plant succession on the basis of field studies here. Many of Cowles's students and colleagues, such as Victor Shelford, Warder Clyde Allee, and Paul Sears, also did original research in the dunes, and became leaders of the new science of ecology.
The protracted battle to preserve the Indiana Dunes pitted several generations of socially conscious citizen environmentalists, with roots in Chicago and Gary settlement houses, against a powerful coalition of economic and political interests intent on industrializing the remaining Indiana shoreline. Chicago reformers associated with the settlement house movement initiated early attempts at Dunes preservation, culminating in the establishment of the Indiana Dunes State Park in 1923. In late 1966, Congress authorized establishment of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, one of the nation's first urban parks, after a protracted lobbying campaign pitting industrial giants against a coalition of conservation groups led by the Save the Dunes Council. Senator Paul Douglas of Illinois challenged Indiana's congressional representatives by supporting the park. Although compromised by Bethlehem Steel Corporation's preemptive leveling of centrally located high dunes, the establishment of the park represented a symbolic victory for Midwestern progressivism and the ideal of social democracy. At the dawn of the twenty-first century, industrial pollution and urban sprawl continued to threaten the Indiana Dunes.
Engel, J. Ronald. Sacred Sands: The Struggle for Community in the Indiana Dunes. 1983.
Franklin, Kay, and Norma Schaeffer. Duel for the Dunes: Land Use Conflict on the Shores of Lake Michigan. 1983.
Hurley, Andrew. Environmental Inequalities: Class, Race, and Industrial Pollution in Gary, Indiana, 1945–1980. 1995.
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