The Naval Support Activity Crane (NSA Crane), located principally in Martin County in southwestern Indiana, provides engineering and base support for Naval weapons systems. This Important Bird Area comprises 62,609 acres, of which nearly 49,000 are forested. These habitats are dominated by Oak-Hickory timber type, followed by mixed hardwoods, and bottomland hardwoods. The rest of the forest is composed of various artificially introduced conifers, especially White Pine. Over 3000 acres of wetland habitat have also been identified, including Lake Greenwood and the extensive marshes of Lake Gallimore. Such diversity of the land and successful integration of natural resource management with military mission has resulted in excellent wildlife habitat. Besides the significant populations of neotropical migrant birds it supports, Crane is inhabited by an interesting mosaic of other animal taxa, which includes the federally-endangered Indiana Bat.
Given its large size and the amount of forested land that is proportionally encompassed by the property (approximately 78%), the Crane Surface Warfare Center supports an incredible richness and density of breeding birds, especially when considering forest-dependent neotropical species. In all, roughly 100 avian species nest on the property, which includes at least 9 WatchList species and 8 that are listed on the state registry of species that are either endangered or of special concern.
WatchList species that are relatively common breeders on-site include Wood Thrush, Cerulean Warbler, Worm-eating Warbler, and Kentucky Warbler. Crane probably supports over 1000 individuals of each of these declining species; such numbers compose a significant percentage of Indiana's total population for these birds. Additionally, many species listed as a conservation priority for the Central Hardwoods Region can be found at CNSWC - Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Whip-poor-will, Red-headed Woodpecker, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Acadian Flycatcher, Yellow-throated Vireo, and Yellow-throated Warbler are examples of such species which are relatively common during the summer months. Acadian Flycatchers and Eastern Wood-Pewees are especially abundant, with likely more than 2000 breeding pairs apiece.
Crane also contains important breeding populations of diurnal and nocturnal raptors. Such nesting species within the area that are listed as either endangered or of special concern by IDNR include Bald Eagle, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, and Broad-winged Hawk, with the latter two species considered relatively common on the property. Additionally, CNSWC maintains the second largest known Great Blue Heron rookery in the state, with 450 nests tallied in previous counts. Yellow-crowned Night-Herons, a state-endangered species and a very rare nester in Indiana, can occasionally be found during the summer months, too.
Ironically, the greatest immediate threats to the bird communities at CNSWC are the continued proceedings and judgments of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process, which threaten the future viability of operations at the Crane property. Given timber management policies developed at the facilities, the Crane Division has been established as a model Natural Resources Conservation Program for the Navy and the Department of Defense, as recognized by Indiana State Legislature. Should operations eventually be halted at Crane by the DoD, and considering Indiana's shortage in fiscal and political capital for procurement of state lands, the natural resources and wildlife habitat maintained at CNSWC would probably go unprotected and be at risk to private development and unsustainable harvest. Thankfully, Crane escaped significant realignment or closure during the latest round of BRAC decisions in 2005; unfortunately, though, about 670 of the 4000 jobs within the Crane division were cut.
Additionally, the proposed Interstate 69 extension passes to the immediate northwest of the CNSWC property. If constructed, this highway could negatively impact the lands which buffer Crane's forested and wetland habitats via the consequential effects of increased industrialization and urban sprawl.