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The Goose Pond Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) project is a historically significant wetland complex located about two miles south of Linton, Indiana in southwestern Greene County.
The restored complex will include about 5,000 acres of swamp (woody), marsh (herbaceous), wet meadow and open water components.
The adjacent uplands have been planted to native trees, warm season grasses and forbs, and savanna habitat. The total WRP easement area encompasses approximately 7,200 acres, of which the Goose Pond component makes up about 6,000 acres. The remainder of the easement is located approximately one mile east at Beehunter Marsh.
State Highway 59 essentially runs through the middle of the proposed main basin of the Goose Pond unit.
The Goose Pond unit is a glacial wetland basin drained by Black Creek, and Brewer Ditch within the White River Drainage Basin. It lies within the Ohio River Ecosystem. This project will restore one of the most significant waterfowl use areas in Indiana due to its size, historic use by wildlife, proximity to federal and state owned natural areas, and location near the Wabash and White Rivers.
Early topographic maps show the area as permanent shallow water lakes surrounded by marshes, swampland, woodland and prairie. The Goose Pond is one of the lowest elevations in the county, even lower than the White River at the same latitude. Although it once supported a considerable number of waterfowl, extensive drainage efforts since the early 1900s had converted approximately 95 percent of the area to cropland. All streams draining the area were dredged and protected by levees to convey water around the lower lying wetland basin. The streams are essentially earthen aqueducts.
The soil in much of the basin has a clay content exceeding 70 percent, which greatly restricts subsurface drainage. The cropland was tiled and drained with lateral surface drains that emptied into an extensive ditch system. The open ditches conveyed runoff waters to pump stations where the water was pumped over the levees into the ditched creeks. Since it is a natural basin with low, level topography and tight subsoil, flooding was a constant agricultural concern that required constant maintenance of the drainage systems. This drainage problem was likely the reason for a large portion of the area changing ownership eleven times in approximately 35 years. Both Federal and State agencies had considered the area for acquisition and restoration at various times since the early 1950s.
The Goose Pond WRP project will provide critical migrating and wintering waterfowl habitat. The area is ideally located between the Wabash and White Rivers to receive migratory bird flights using the eastern portion of the Mississippi Flyway. A mid-winter waterfowl survey conducted by the IDNR accounted for 50,000 ducks using the nearby Wabash River bottoms when flooded. While mallards make up the majority of dabbling duck use, other species making significant use of the area include black ducks, pintails, gadwalls, American widgeon, wood ducks, and teal. With establishment of some permanent water, diving ducks including canvasbacks, redheads, ring-necked ducks and scaup will likely make more use of the area. Migratory waterfowl will also use the area as a spring staging area for northern bound birds needing a high protein diet for successful nesting.
Shore birds and other water birds will also make extensive use during migration. The area can be expected to become an important feeding and resting area for herons, egrets, and the Greater Sandhill Crane. Significant nesting use by bitterns, and rails along the marsh edges is anticipated. The area will likely attract osprey, and northern harriers.
Marshland fur-bearers such as beaver, muskrat and mink will increase, as habitat becomes available. Although otters have not been released close to this area, it is certainly conceivable that they could use it in the future as they continue to expand their range in the state. Macrotopography development (ridge and swales) will provide habitat for amphibians and reptiles. The state listed Northern Crawfish Frog has already been documented as using the site.
Open water and emergent marsh habitat is being restored. Water from direct precipitation, runoff, and flooding events will be captured by the construction of dikes. The dikes will be curvilinear in design resulting in the increase of edge and a more natural appearance. Borrow for the construction of dikes shall be taken in a creative manner, emphasizing "natural" meanders and other irregular shapes. The majority of the water will average less than 2 feet in depth and will be sought out by many species of waterfowl for resting and foraging areas. Depths within these pool areas will be further diversified through alteration of macrotopography. Some areas will be excavated 0.5 to 2 feet deeper and the spoil will be used to construct sunken islands as well as islands at and above the surface of the proposed water level. This will greatly encourage the development of a diverse plant community. At least five percent of the water in each of these units will be greater than 2 feet in depth, which should hold some open water in the event of drier than normal years. Water levels will be allowed to fluctuate naturally, encouraging diverse plant and animal communities. These areas will provide resting and loafing areas to migratory waterfowl and shorebirds, and will make excellent foraging areas for herons and rails.
Macrotopography (ridges, swales and depressions) have been created throughout the project area in order to restore the natural topography and to capture and hold water. Macrotopographic depressions vary in size from 0.1 to 1.0 acres and 0.5 to 2.0 feet in depth. These will capture and retain water from precipitation and flooding events. Macrotopographic depressions will serve as important reptile and amphibian habitats for both breeding and cover/foraging. Waterfowl such as wood ducks will also use these areas to rest, nest, and raise broods.
Some of the wetland units are designed to be used as moist soil units. In these units, water levels may be manipulated to favor prolific seed producing annual plants such as barnyard grass and smartweed species. Water control structures and pumps may be utilized in the management of moist soil units.
Prairies were restored on approximately 1300 acres of upland soil types and consist primarily of native prairie grasses and forbs (wildflowers). Species include big bluestem, little bluestem, Indian grass, prairie cordgrass, prairie dock, blazing star, and black-eyed susan. These habitats will provide excellent nesting habitat for waterfowl as well as grassland birds. Prairies also provide winter cover and foraging habitat for several grassland species that have shown population declines in recent decades, including short-eared owls, dickcissels, upland sandpipers, sedge wrens, and Henslow's sparrows.
Bottomland hardwood trees (including oaks and hickories) have been restored on approximately 300 acres. Once this forest community matures, it will likely become inhabited by squirrels, turkey, white-tailed deer, and many species of resident and migratory songbirds.
Approximately 75 acres of oak savanna will be restored. The historic data appear to indicate that oak savanna may also have been a component of the uplands surrounding the Beehunter Marsh. Midwestern oak savannas are among the rarest ecosystems in the world, with less than one percent of Indiana's original savanna remaining. Savannas are much like prairie habitats in that fire tolerant species comprise the majority of the vegetation. Unlike prairies, however, savannas, or oak barrens, do have a woody plant component generally represented by bur and/or black oak. The oak trees will be planted sparsely, approximately 27 to 48 trees per acre. Although many species of plants are common to both savannas and prairies, the animal communities will be slightly different due to the structural component the trees add. Prairie warblers, indigo buntings, red-headed woodpeckers, and loggerhead shrikes are just a few of the species which benefit from this type of habitat.
Beehunter Marsh: 541 acres
Goose Pond Main Pool East: 320 acres
Goose Pond Main Pool West: 1,223 acres
Goose Pond (other units): 1,876 acres
Total Acreage: 3,960 acres of open shallow water
There have also been more than 400 acres of tree plantings and more than 1,300 acres of native prairie grass plantings so far.