Save Morgan-Monroe & Yellowwood State Forests Back Country Area

Tell DoF and Governor Holcomb to Save the Backcountry Area of Morgan-Monroe & Yellowwood State Forests

Indiana Forest Alliance needs your help to convince the Indiana Division of Forestry (DoF) and Governor Eric Holcomb to designate the Backcountry Area (BCA) of Morgan-Monroe and Yellowwood State Forests as a High Conservation Value Forest (HCVF), safe from logging where old growth conditions can return.

Five years ago, IFA nominated approximately 2,380 acres of forest within the BCA of Morgan-Monroe and Yellowwood State Forests as an HCVF 2, a classification which would allow this forest to return to the “secondary old growth condition,” a condition which is exceedingly rare in Indiana and currently makes up less than a third of one percent of state forests.

An HCVF designation is part of DoF’s State Forest certification for the classification of sustainable forests provided by the Forest Stewardship Council. Once a forest is designated as an HCVF, the DoF is required to manage it in a manner to maintain or enhance a forest’s biological, ecological, or culturally significant attributes. Dendrochronologists working for IFA have found the average age of dominant trees cored in the BCA to be 115 years old with some trees exceeding 200 years in age. To manage the BCA as an HCVF 2, DOF will basically have to leave it alone and maintain its natural condition as the forest reaches the secondary old growth condition, when the average age of dominant trees reaches 150 years or more and no human disturbances have occurred for at least 80 years.    

An HCVF designation is the only way to ensure this section of forest will ever return to the old growth condition.

(The Main Branch of Honey Creek in the Yellowwood/Morgan Monroe Back Country Area. Aerial photographs indicate there has been no logging in the watershed of this Creek for decades before the BCA was created in 1981. Photo by Karen Smith)

Last month, the DoF’s HCVF Committee recommended that the DoF reject IFA’s HCVF proposal.

We profoundly disagree with the committee’s recommendation, but it is not the end of the matter. DoF State Forester John Seifert and ultimately Governor Eric Holcomb have the final say on any HCVF decision. 

The Morgan-Monroe and Yellowwood State Forests BCA is one of the last areas over 2,000 acres in the state forests that can be set aside to return to the old growth condition. This is due to the excessive logging that DoF has undertaken in our state forests over the last two decades.

On top of this, the DoF recently lifted the moratorium on logging in Yellowwood and Morgan Monroe State Forests which was implemented in 2018. Most of Yellowwood and Morgan Monroe State Forests were logged before this moratorium – except for the BCA. This means the BCA is in imminent danger of being logged next, and never returning to old growth condition.

The only way to stop the DoF from logging this pristine forest is to designate it as an HCVF2. 

The DoF HCVF Committee argues in their rejection recommendation letter that the BCA of Morgan-Monroe and Yellowwood State Forests is not of “regional significance” because this region has Brown County State Park and the Charles  Deam Wilderness as other large protected forests. However, these two preserves occupy less than a fifth of the state and federal forests in Indiana’s only predominantly forested area, the Brown County hills natural region and less than 6% of all the forests concentrated in this region. Commercial logging operations are allowed in the remaining 80% of the state and federal lands in these hills. Setting aside the BCA would provide one area of old growth forest exceeding 2,000 acres for the entire northern half of the Brown County Hills and the only area of protected old growth forest exceeding 1,000 acres in the entire 160,000 acre state forest system.

Two Floristic Quality Assessments performed in the BCA by top botanists in the state found the vascular plant community there was of higher quality than most of the state’s nature preserves and unsurpassed by any nature preserve in southern Indiana. Among the 420 plant species found in the BCA by botanists in an IFA survey, their assessments of the BCA identified many native plants that survive only in undisturbed deep forest and few nonnative invasive plants compared to other natural areas of the state.

Nationally recognized sedge expert, Dr. Paul Rothrock summarized the plant community as follows: ‘‘The forest community in the Ecoblitz area of Morgan-Monroe State Forest is one of superlatives. It is a biological hotspot that deserves only the most sophisticated management protocols and the highest conservation priority.” These words mirrored those of Dr. Don Ruch, then President of the Indiana Academy of Science who, based on an earlier floristic quality assessment of the plant team’s data, stated, “These matrices indicate that the Morgan Monroe Back Country Area possesses sufficient conservatism and species richness to be of paramount importance from a regional perspective.”  

(Large yellow lady’s slipper (Cypripedium pubescens) is one of 15 vascular plants found in the BCA that are rare, threatened, endangered or on the state’s “watch list”. IFA staff photo)

The DOF’ asserts that there’s nothing significant about the BCA. Yet nowhere else in the entire state forest system have 36 rare, threatened and endangered animal and insect species, dozens of state listed plants, and hundreds of spiders, insects, fungi and lichen never identified in Indiana before or in some cases identified anywhere else, been found. Additionally, in many instances, the 41 scientists from 13 colleges and universities that conducted these surveys found healthy, reproducing populations of these species in the BCA.      

The Morgan-Monroe and Yellowwood State Forests BCA is the most important part of the entire State Forest system we can protect. We have the opportunity to do just that, but if the DoF does not designate it as an HCVF now, it will soon be logged and never return to the old growth condition.

Under the HCVF review process, the State Forester has up to 60 days from the date of the Committee recommendation to make a final decision. No decision has been made to date.  So we need a massive outpouring of support from the broader conservation community to persuade John Seifert and Governor Eric Holcomb to accept the HCVF2 proposal and set aside this 2,380 acre area as the only large refuge of rich, diverse, older forest habitat in our state forest system.

Please act now! A decision could be made any day now up to July 8, 2024. We must make our collective voices heard!

Read more about why the BCA should become a High Conservation Value Forest  by clicking here. Feel free to incorporate any and all of these points, in your own comments to DoF and the governor.

Please send your comments and/or letters of recommendation to accept IFA’s HCVF proposal to:

John Seifert

State Forester

Phone: 317-232-4116



Governor Eric Holcomb

State House Room 206 Indianapolis, IN 46204-2797

Phone: 317-232-4567

Fax: 317-232-3443

Contact Page: 


Please copy your message to your State Senator and Representative.


Click here to find contact information for your state legislators. 


We thank you for your help.

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