This site is a complex of several separately-owned properties in Newton County. The Kankakee Sands property, owned and managed by the Nature Conservancy, is 7209 acres in size. It is bordered to the east by Beaver Lake Nature Preserve (640 acreas) and to the north by Conrad Station Savanna (809 acreas). Willow Slough Fish and Wildlife Area (nearly 12000 acres) forms a partial border to the southwest; given the size and habitat difference of this property, though, it will be nominated separately as an IBA.

The Kankakee Sands restoration project is an attempt to reconstruct a large contiguous segment of prairie within the original boundaries of Indiana's prairie peninsula. The Nature Conservancy is working to restore the hydrology, vegetation, and process regime on the property; the area is currently composed of a large mosaic of marsh wetlands, farm fields, and prairie. Because wet sand prairie is globally the most significant of the native plant communities within the area and because it has been almost eliminated from the region, the hydrologic restoration optimizes the conditions most likely to support these community types.

Conrad Station, which stretches two miles to the east and west, is a large, high-quality black oak sand savanna. It is managed as two nature preserves, to the east as Conrad Station by The Nature Conservancy, and to the west as Conrad Savanna by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources' Division of Nature Preserves.

Beaver Lake Nature Preserve to the east is also owned by IDNR; it was formerly known as the "Prairie Chicken Refuge" since the original plan for the property (circa 1950) was to establish a refuge for this species. This nature preserve, plus areas of Kankakee Sands, was originally part of Beaver Lake, a shallow, marshy body of open water which extended seven miles wide and four miles long before being ditched, tiled and drained for agricultural purposes.

Ornithological Summary

Few sites in the state of Indiana rival the Kankakee Sands Project in overall diversity and abundance of obligate and facultative grassland, savannah, and wetland birds, especially when combining Conrad Station/Savanna and Beaver Lake Nature Preserve with the area's consideration. Grassland species of management concern which regularly nest at this IBA include Upland Sandpiper (few), Sedge Wren (few), Grasshopper Sparrow (abundant), Henslow's Sparrow (locally common), Dickcissel (abundant), Bobolink (uncommon), and Eastern Meadowlark (abundant). Although water levels are not managed in the wetland areas of Kankakee Sands, in most years of average or moderate rainfall, the property hosts seasonal congregations of migratory shorebirds, a few species of which are considered of conservation concern - American Golden-Plover and Marbled Godwit, for instance. In addition, the property has in the past few years provided breeding records of wetland birds considered extremely rare or extirpated in the state - Black Rail (potential - present during the summer of 2002 and 2004) and Wilson's Phalarope (confirmed near Unit K of the main property in 2002).

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