Comments from Jeff Stant, Executive Director
Waiting for the Court to Decide on Houston South
A Lawsuit by Monroe County, IFA, HEC and David Simcox challenging the massive logging and burning plan in the Hoosier National Forest (HNF) at Houston South has been fully briefed with both plaintiffs and the government seeking summary judgement in the Federal District Court of Southern Indiana. Plaintiffs allege the US Forest Service (USFS) failed to examine alternatives as required by the National Environmental Policy Act and ignored the devastating effects of White Nose Syndrome on the Indiana Bat in violation of the Endangered Species Act when deciding that some “take”, i.e., killing, of this endangered animal was okay in the project. Over 4,000 acres of national forest will be logged and 13,000 acres burned repeatedly in the watershed of Monroe Reservoir, Bloomington’s water supply, if the project moves forward. A decision by Judge Tanya Pratt could come as soon as August.
A Second Houston South at Buffalo Springs – the Nightmare May Continue
The same talk by the US Forest Service about “restoring forest health” and “helping wildlife” that led to the Houston South plan is emerging for another area that could encompass as much as 19,000 acres of the HNF. The “Buffalo Springs Area of Interest” lies in the Lost River and Patoka River watersheds south of Paoli, in Orange and Crawford Counties. Streams in much of the area drain into Patoka Reservoir, another major municipal water supply, or into sinkholes feeding the world famous Lost River, whose surface waters often flow through underground caverns supporting albino cave fish, crawfish and other pollution-sensitive, rare creatures. View USFS videos that explain why agency staff believes more logging and burning is needed at Buffalo South and provide your thoughts. Read IFA’s more extensive comments.
HNF’s Next Management Plan
Every 15 years, the National Forest Management Act requires the HNF to update its “Land and Resources Management Plan” which charts management objectives for every acre of the Forest. With the last update completed in 2006, the next one is due this year although the USFS has discretion over the exact timing of when the update will be completed. Public comment to protect forest dependent-wildlife, allow more old growth forests to return, and provide for hiking, back country camping and recreation in wild forest will be crucially important to maintaining if not expanding the current protection of at least half of the HNF from logging and roadbuilding. These areas include Nebo Ridge and at least 21 other areas in addition to the Charles Deam Wilderness, which is protected by an act of Congress. The HNF Management Plan is available online. Stay tuned for notices from IFA about comment opportunities.