by Jeff Stant, IFA Executive Director
Happy Holidays Indiana Forest Alliance Supporter!
As 2014 concludes, we write to ask for your help — to contact your legislator as soon as possible to support wild areas legislation in the 2015 General Assembly. Indiana Forest Alliance has mapped 13 State Wild Areas (SWA) in the state forests that total 36,820 acres. They comprise some of the largest, most contiguous and rugged forest tracts left in the state forests. We are proposing that these areas be set aside from logging and road building to remain forever wild for public enjoyment as they grow back to their all-aged, old growth conditions.
The Low Gap, Spurgeon Hollow, and Leota SWAs will protect the three Back Country Areas established 30 years ago to promote wilderness recreation. The Scarce O’Fat, Mossop Ridge, and Miller Ridge State Recreation Areas in Brown County will protect significant parts of the largest wild forest left in the lower Midwest. In Jackson-Washington State Forest, Orchard Ridge SWA will keep the most vertical, stunning drops in Indiana from being logged. The Knobstone SWA will protect nearly 6,000 acres at the southern end of Clark State Forest where the bobcat, native pine and several other rare and endangered species exist amidst old forest set aside by the previous state forester. The Hellbender SWA would protect steep bluffs, overhanging cliffs, and rocky streams flowing into the Blue River in the Harrison-Crawford State Forest, where the state’s only population of the Eastern Hellbender, the largest salamander in the United States, survives. Learn more about these State Wild Areas.
INDIANA WILDLIFE NEEDS THESE WILD AREAS! Our state parks and nature preserves make up less than a half of one percent of Indiana, simply not enough acreage to ensure that beleaguered forest songbirds, amphibians, bats, and hundreds of other native creatures will survive in our state. They need these wild forests left in their maturing, unlogged conditions to have a fighting chance.
WE NEED THESE WILD AREAS! Census data indicates more than 2 million people live within 20 miles of the state forests, and 14.5 million people live within 100 miles of them. Establishing these wild areas will conserve something increasingly rare and very precious here that we can?t construct or build, a legacy that shaped our forefathers and mothers, wild nature. Experiencing wild nature is part of who we are and basic to our quality of life. According to the State’s latest Outdoor Recreation Plan, increased attention deficit disorders, obesity and depression in our children are linked to their lack of connection to nature. We must not leave them a world so devoid of wild nature that they will have to drive hundreds of miles out of state to find it.
THESE WILD AREAS WILL NOT HURT THE TIMBER INDUSTRY! Indiana’s timber industry gets 5 to 7% of its wood from the state forests. Setting aside less than one fourth, 23.6%, of our state forests will have a negligible effect on this industry’s health. In fact, before 2005, some 40 % of our state forests, or 60,000 acres, were set aside from logging under various management designations which included old forests and Back Country Areas that have since been eliminated or relaxed to allow more logging.
SAVING WILDERNESS MAKES MORE CENTS THAN LOGGING IT ALL! State officials assert that multiple use means ALL of our state forests must be logged, something the law does not require. These State Wild Areas will leave more than three-fourths of state forest acreage open to logging but protect much of the majestic forests traversed by our three longest hiking trails, the Knobstone, Tecumseh and Adventure Trails. Just as wilderness areas are part of the multiple use management in national forests, multiple use of our state forests should leave major tracts alone to be enjoyed by Hoosiers as sanctuaries of wild nature. US Forest Service budget data demonstrates that recreation supports nearly five times as many jobs in communities surrounding our national forests as does logging.
The reasons for establishing these State Wild Areas are compelling, but YOUR OPINION IS WHAT MATTERS MOST! So please, take a little time over the Holidays or before January 5 when the General Assembly convenes to tell your state senator and representative to support State Wild Areas legislation. If you live in Representative Matt Pierce’s district or Senator Mark Stoops’ district, thank them for drafting this legislation. Most importantly, if you live in another legislator’s district that includes state forests, PLEASE ASK THEM TO INTRODUCE OR COSPONSOR THIS LEGISLATION. These key legislators include Senators Steele, Houchin, Smith, and Bray and Representatives Koch, Mayfield, Baird, Heaton, Davisson, Goodin, Rhoads, and Arnold. Find out how to contact your legislator.
For a future where wild forests remain,