Friends of Lake Monroe has produced a summary of the five key arguments against the Houston South logging project in the Hoosier National Forest to help you formulate your comments to the U.S. Forest Service. Comments are due by August 26.
The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) incorrectly claims in the Draft Environmental Assessment (EA) that there are no unresolved conflicts that warrant development and analysis of additional alternatives, in spite of public requests to consider new options. The proposed action remains virtually unchanged since the initial November 2018 scoping letter despite more than 500 comments > 90% of which expressed concerns or outright opposition from citizens, local business, and environmental organizations representing more than 10,000 people in the State of Indiana.
The USFS fails to recognize the important role it plays as the largest land manager in the Lake Monroe watershed, dismissing with minimal and flawed analysis, public concerns related to the potential impact of this project on the water quality of the sole municipal water source for more than 120,000 residents. This project may include clearcutting and/or other logging on several thousand acres of steep slopes draining into the South Fork of Salt Creek which flows into Lake Monroe. Citing agriculture as a significant sediment runoff problem (without evidence) does not relieve the USFS from its obligation to consider the proposed action’s contribution to non-point source pollution in the currently impaired Lake Monroe watershed and the impaired South Fork Salt Creek watershed.
The EA relies heavily on the 13-year-old Forest Management Plan which pre-dates vital information:
a) Harmful algae blooms have been the cause of recreational advisories for Lake Monroe for each year for the past nine years. IDEM lists timber harvesting among the common causes of non-point source pollution that feed blue-green algae blooms. Unlike many watersheds in Indiana, the Lake Monroe watershed is heavily forested, and nutrient loading cannot be solely attributed to agriculture.
b) Understanding of the impacts, timing, and importance of climate change has increased dramatically since the 2006 Forest Plan was developed and the most recent report from the International Panel on Climate Change states that we have 12 years to turn around net carbon release in the atmosphere. In this context, short-term releases from cutting and burning in this project cannot be acceptable.
c) Using a 2011 assessment to evaluate glyphosate safety does not consider recent findings that raise concerns about its safety and environmental impact. These and many other “unresolved conflicts” must be addressed.
With no or minimal analysis or scientific basis, the EA dismisses numerous short-term impacts as insignificant, including the following:
– loss of carbon-sequestering trees;
– impact on wildlife: migratory neo-tropical and ground-nesting birds and removal of roosts for endangered Indiana and other bats;
– impact on recreation and local economy to horse riders, hikers, primitive campers, businesses and others resulting from years of trail closures, including the highly valued Knobstone Trail;
– increased soil erosion and movement due to road construction; and
– impact of prescribed burning: on the release of greenhouse gasses, effects on human health and air quality, and the loss of vegetation and subsequent erosion and nutrient release.
The finding of no significant impact relies heavily on the successful implementation and effectiveness of best management practices (BMPs), which is not consistent with past HNF records or with the available personnel resources. The USFS has not evaluated the risk of major soil erosion due to the increasing frequency of extreme rainfall events.
Background Information on Houston South
– Indiana Environmental Reporter, August 15, 2019
Hoosiers, Groups Worry Forest Management Plan Will Adversely Affect Lake Monroe
– WFHB, November 27, 2018
Forest Service Proposed 4,000 Acre Logging in the Hoosier National Forest
– IFA Blog, October 18, 2018
Forests to Faucets: Logging in the Hoosier National Forest & the Lake Monroe Watershed
Submit your comments
For more information, see the Draft Environmental Assessment (EA), Responses to Scoping Comments, and Instructions for Commenting on the Draft EA are online.
Comments should be sent to Michelle Paduani, District Ranger, either by:
Subject Line: Houston South Vegetation Management and Restoration Project
U.S. Postal Service
Attention: Houston South Vegetation Management and Restoration Project
811 Constitution Ave.
Bedford, IN 47421
Comments are due by August 26, 2019.