By Dave Simcox
Many forests leads to faucets — watersheds and forests are naturally interconnected. That’s why south-central Indiana residents should be concerned about a plan to harvest timber in the Hoosier National Forest (HNF) in 2019. Nearby Lake Monroe which provides many benefits to the area is the sole source of drinking water for 120,000+ local residents. The section of the HNF being considered for logging is in the hills of the South Fork of Salt Creek, a major tributary in the 423-sq. mile Lake Monroe watershed.
HNF staff have been studying and collecting data on this project area, termed Houston South, for at least three years. They shared their management plans in draft form last month with stakeholders, and, they have agreed to make a presentation and answer questions about it at a meeting October 25.
The entire Houston South Project would encompass 10,533 acres north of State Road 58 and south of Maumee and Houston. Approximately 4,700 acres have been identified for various timber cutting strategies.
Houston South lies in a Management Area which allows for commercial logging according to the most recent (2006) HNF forest management plan.
Many of the Houston South Project areas are steeply sloped, adding to the concern about these soils which are thin and possibly highly erodible. Any time there is a potential for erosion due to soil disturbance and resultant sediment flow into a lake, especially one that is a drinking water source, the benefits from activities such as timber removal need to be weighed against the risk to the greater public good.
Logging took place two years ago on approximately 60 acres nearby along Buffalo Pike which is an example of what could happen in the Houston South Project. More post-logging clean up of the site is promised.
You have the opportunity to learn more about this proposed plan for the HNF and get to involved. Michael Chaveas, the Supervisor of HNF, will be presenting the timber harvest plans and answering questions at a public meeting held by the Friends of Lake Monroe. The meeting will be at the Monroe County Public Library (303 E. Kirkwood Ave.) on Thursday, October 25 at 6 p.m. in the auditorium.
This event will also be live-streamed, so follow IFA and the Friends of Lake Monroe on Facebook to learn more.
* Special thanks to IFA & Wild Tecumseh Friends member Ann Deutch for her excellent work on the maps you see here.