Each spring visitors flock to the Muscatatuck wildlife refuge in Indiana. Even under scudding clouds, a shallow lake shimmers. It brims with aquatic plants and is lined with reeds and willows. At least 33 types of dragonfly jostle for space. Four-toed salamanders, muskrats and beavers call it home. Box turtles brave roads to reach it. Even the odd human pops by.
Farmers gave up on this marginal land in the last century, defeated by frequent floods. In the 1960s the area won national protection. An earthen berm was built to keep the lake in place. The restored wetland was a rare success. Tramping around its muddy edge, Adam Ward of Indiana University says that nine-tenths of the state’s wetlands have been filled in, farmed or built over. In some other midwestern states the loss is almost total.