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Indiana Oil Response Training Focuses on Wildlife

PHOTO: Dozens of volunteers are becoming certified in Indiana to respond to wildlife during an oil spill. Photo:Leif Skoogfors/Federal Emergency Management Agency.
PHOTO: Dozens of volunteers are becoming certified in Indiana to respond to wildlife during an oil spill. Photo:Leif Skoogfors/Federal Emergency Management Agency.
April 29, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Dozens of Indiana residents are learning how to protect wildlife in the event of an oil spill. Save the Dunes, along with Enbridge, is hosting a 24-hour Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response Training for Wildlife Response. Those who complete the course, currently in its second day, will receive the certification they need in order to assist during an oil spill.

According to Cathy Martin, parks program coordinator with Save the Dunes, wildlife takes a back seat during an emergency, because response crews must first focus on human life and safety.

"Wildlife-response crews often can't make it in until a day or two after the spill, and there's a lot of damage done by then. So we can be the on-the-ground people, locally, who can help respond to an oil spill until the big companies like Focus Wildlife arrive."

In Northwest Indiana, pipelines and other transporters of hazardous materials run very close to Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Indiana Dunes State Park, Hoosier Prairie and other ecological areas. Martin said having trained responders is critical to ensure wildlife is protected, as well as the land, air and water.

Focus Wildlife is leading the training. It was the lead wildlife responder for the Kalamazoo River oil spill in 2010, which affected more than 2,800 animals. During that crisis, volunteers had to be turned away because they were not certified in oil-spill response, Martin said.

"That's very sad that you have to turn away extra hands, but it's for the safety and so the people can actually understand what they're actually breathing in, what they're touching, what they're near," she explained. "That's what this training will help provide us with."

Attendees are learning about oiled-wildlife response and the human health and safety issues directly related to working with oiled wildlife. Conservation organizations, natural resource management agencies and wildlife rescue and rehabilitation organizations are among those taking part.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IN