A Letter to Members of the City-County Council of Indianapolis re: Haverstick Woods

by Jeff Stant

Honorable Members of the City-County Council of Indianapolis, Marion County:

Indiana Forest Alliance (IFA) respectfully asks you to vote NO on the proposed revised Alexander at the Crossing development negotiated for the property known as Haverstick Woods because this one-sided proposed agreement will allow substantially more trees to be removed from this site than can be removed under the current Tree Preservation Plan required for this site.

IFA has reviewed the “Preliminary DP Plan 2016-ZON-020” for the proposed agreement negotiated between Keystone Realty Group and supporters of this development and compared this plan to the plan currently authorized in this 2006 zoning document, commonly known as the “Kite Development.”

In an email of April 6 from the Nora Alliance to Councillors, you were shown an outline of the 2005 approved D-P “Kite Project” for this site and informed that this Project “can proceed as zoned with no further public input process (only needing the required administrative permits)” — the implication being that the development in the outline you saw will be built as depicted unless you approve this agreement.  

You were not told, however, that the development plan required by ordinance for the Kite Project never reached the level of triggering an approval.  After obtaining the zoning for this Kite Project, its developer did not submit a development plan. Had they submitted this plan, it would have had to meet the Tree Preservation Plan that was approved with the zoning for the Kite Project.  This would likely have required modifications in the outline you were shown of the Kite Project to meet the requirements of this Tree Preservation Plan.  At the least the repeated assertion that the Kite Project is or was going to “clearcut” the site is completely unsubstantiated and remains to be seen given the requirements of the Tree Preservation Plan.

The current developer of the site, Keystone Realty Group, still has to meet the requirements of the Tree Preservation Plan approved with the Kite zoning should it choose to move forward with the Kite Project.  We understand from city planning staff that Keystone has submitted at least two proposed Tree Preservation/Mitigation Plans to the Department of Metropolitan Development which have both been rejected as incomplete and un-approvable.   We urge you to consult Keith Holdsworth or Kathleen Blackham, the city planners knowledgeable about the Haverstick development, to confirm the substance of the Tree Preservation Plan for the Kite Project as well as these rejections of Tree Preservation/Mitigation Plans submitted by Keystone.

The requirement in the current “Tree Preservation Plan” in the Kite Project that appears to be difficult for Keystone to meet is:

8. All non-invasive trees greater than 10 caliper inches in diameter, which are healthy and disease-free, as determined by an arborist shall be saved, or if removed shall be mitigated by the planting of trees at a ratio of one to one between the caliper inches of trees removed and the total caliper inches of trees replanted, either onsite or in the immediate vicinity, to compliment the greater community.” (page 6 in the Kite Plan, emphasis added)

Given that there appear to be no open areas in the immediate vicinity available to Keystone to plant as much as “1,375 trees” (attributed to Mr. Holdsworth in the email you received from Nora Alliance) to mitigate the replacement of trees exceeding 10 inches in diameter that Keystone wants to remove, this requirement in the Kite Tree Preservation Plan appears to be nearly impossible to meet without preserving a significant portion of the forest. This would appear to require a more substantial reduction in the foot print of this development than the fewer surface parking spaces and 2,000 square foot reduction in building size proposed in the agreement between Keystone and those supporting this development.

This explains why the proposed agreement has relaxed the requirement to replace trees onsite or in the immediate vicinity.  Specifically, on page 5, the proposed agreement states:

“Petitioner may satisfy its mitigation/replacement requirement under the Existing Tree Commitments by causing plantings to be made . . . (c) outside the boundaries of, but in the immediate vicinity of, the Subject Property; or within the boundaries of the Nora-Northside Community Council.”    (emphasis added)

Below is a map of the boundaries of the Nora Northside Community Council taken from this organization’s web site:

Allowing mitigation trees to be planted within the boundaries of the Nora Northside Community Council means they can be planted 3-4 miles from Haverstick Woods to mitigate the removal of the larger trees from this Woods.  Thus these words will gut the existing Tree Preservation Plan, the purpose of which is to protect the forest on this site.

The April 6 email from the Nora Alliance questions the tree mitigation requirements, stating “Whether the tree mitigation requirements could ultimately prevent the Kite Project development is a matter of opinion.”

We beg to differ.  Rather than opinion, the tree mitigation requirements for the Kite Project are a matter of law, a legal requirement that the developer must meet.  The referenced developer who cleared the southeast corner of 86th and Meridian in violation of tree preservation requirements at that site has paid fines for doing so.  If the Kite Tree Preservation Plan can be ignored, why has Keystone been trying to meet it?  Are we going to just let developers flout the law?  In that case, why should we trust the tree mitigation plan being proposed in this agreement?  

We are also concerned that the density of homes in the negotiated plan has been increased from 31 units in the Kite Project to as many as 64 units if the proposed density of 8 units per acre is accommodated in the 8 acres in the northern area which this plan allows.  This will afford less ability to conserve any of the contiguous forest across the northern area.

In essence, we agree with the Nora Alliance that “Negotiation is largely about compromise” but fail to see where the Developer significantly compromised from the position he took before the MDC last fall.  We certainly don’t agree that the outcome of these negotiations “incorporates the existing tree commitments from the approved Kite Project” or that “stringent tree mitigation is still required.”  In fact, the requirement in the Tree Preservation Plan to save the larger trees or mitigate their loss within the immediate vicinity that is attached to the 2005 rezoning of the Haverstick Woods property is the singular factor preventing high density development that will destroy this woods, and this proposed agreement gets rid of that requirement.      

We are left asking if this is how we are going to handle land-use issues? Are we going to allow affluent, politically connected developers who have been rebuffed by the experts in the city planning agency and can’t get their way at the Metropolitan Development Commission, to have these decisions overturned by the City Council?  The neighborhood and the local community have been strongly against this development all along.  The Nora Northside Community Council voted 8-3 against the development and then testified against it before the MDC last fall as did the Driftwood Hills Neighborhood Association with both applauding the MDC’s October 4 decision turning down the development.

Then Councillor Fanning approached the community in January (not the other way around as you’ve been told) informing them of her judgement of the need for the call down.  Leaders of the Driftwood Hills Neighborhood Association and IFA were summoned to a “summit meeting” called by Councillor Fanning on January 20 who demanded that we support the call down in that meeting, and later informed both groups that we would be excluded from these negotiations if we objected to the call down on March 12.

Rather than protecting the interests of the local community, we believe this negotiation has turned sound decision-making by city planners that has been protecting the interests of the local community and the objectives of the Marion County Comprehensive Plan for this site on its head and thwarted the democratic process that we all count on. 

We urge you to listen to the leadership of the Driftwood Hills Neighborhood Association — the people who live in the neighborhood around Haverstick Woods and north of 86th Street — and respect the decision-making of the Metropolitan Development Commission in this matter.  We urge you to protect the Tree Preservation Requirements that are in place for this site.  We urge you to vote NO on the proposed agreement for the revised Alexander at the Crossing development at this site.   Thank you.

Respectfully,

Jeff Stant, Executive Director, Indiana Forest Alliance

From Lichens to Flying Squirrels: Ecoblitz Results Reveal Complexity of an Older Indiana Forest

What do we know about the wildlife and quality of the ecosystem in a 900-acre, unmanaged Indiana forest? And why do we need to know? Because knowing what life exists in an older forest is important as we determine whether or not it ought to be logged.

IFA’s Ecoblitz is a comprehensive baseline inventory of forest life in a section of Yellowwood and Morgan-Monroe State Forests in Monroe and Brown counties,” said Jeff Stant, IFA executive director. “The Ecoblitz provides a more complete picture of the biological diversity in older, all-aged, hardwood forests. No such inventory has ever been done before on the state or national forest lands in Indiana.”

IFA staff and consulting scientists presented the preliminary results of the four-year Ecoblitz last month at the Indiana Academy of Science. Key results:

How are bats and other mammals faring in this older forest?

Seven species of bats were found in the Ecoblitz area.

Jeremy Sheets, senior wildlife biologist at Orbis Environmental, reported on mammals in the forest: 28 species were found (there are total of 59 mammal species native to Indiana). “We observed mink, coyote, red fox and bobcat, as well as white-tailed deer, flying squirrels and shrews,” he said. “Two species, the pygmy shrew and smoky shrew, are ‘species of special concern’ in Indiana.” The bat team documented seven species of bats, and in 2016 and 2017, Indiana bat maternity roosts were found. “Mature forests may not have many game species, but some species are found only in mature forests,” said Sheets.

How many, and what types, of bees and moths inhabit the forest?

A luna moth in the Ecoblitz area.

Lepidopterist Leroy Koehn, who’s collected moths at sites across the nation, remarked on the significant species richness in the forest. He collected moth species in the Ecoblitz forest between April 2017 and January 2018, documenting 1,300 different moth species, some never before seen.

Bee expert Rob Jean found 183 bee specimens representing 48 bee species, and all 5 major bee families in Indiana. “Bees are important forest pollinators and forests offer good nesting habitat,” said Jean. This summer’s Ecoblitz efforts may determine if the federally endangered rusty patched bumble bee might still exist in these forests where it was once reported prior to major decline.

What are the characteristics of this forest?

Leslie Bishop, Ph.D., Professor Emerita of Biology from Earlham College, and science advisor for Indiana Forest Alliance, presented the preliminary results of a forest characterization study.  The Ecoblitz area of Morgan-Monroe/Yellowwood State Forests has characteristics of a mature forest (such as composition, snags, and woody debris) comparable to several Indiana nature preserves. “It’s a textbook example of a mature forest, indicating progression toward secondary old growth,” Dr. Bishop reported. From tree core data, the average tree age is 114 years old, with the oldest tree (an American Beech) being 233 years old. In addition, an analysis of the herbaceous community shows that this forest retains the historic diversity of vascular plants characteristic of a mature deciduous forest of Indiana’s Highland Rim Natural Region.

Are cerulean warblers (a migratory bird) successfully reproducing in this forest?

Cerulean warbler parent and nestling. Photo by Angie Damm.

Yes. David Rupp of Indigo Birding Tours and the bird team sought this particular bird, which is on the state of Indiana’s endangered species list. “This species starts in Brazil and migrates up through Indiana,” said Rupp. “It prefers large, mature forest with high canopies.” Listening for their mating songs and spotting their nests in the forked limbs of tree tops, Rupp and team found 10 male territories in creek beds and floodplains, including two nests where baby birds successfully fledged. In the study overall, 68 bird species were identified.

How many lichens were found, and why are they important?

James Lendemer, Ph.D., serves on staff at the New York Botanical Gardens. IFA invited him to Indiana to conduct a lichen study last spring. Lichens are a symbiotic combination of algae and fungus that require very specialized conditions. In the Ecoblitz area, Lendemer collected 406 lichens and found 108 different species. “More than half were found fewer than three times, indicating great diversity,” he said. Lendemer’s work is a contribution to Indiana science because 59% of the species he cataloged had not been on record as existing in the state.

What can we conclude?

After four years, the Ecoblitz has catalogued 3,131 species (with more to come as a large batch of insects is catalogued and identified by faculty and students at Hanover College). This relatively undisturbed forest in the Back Country Area (BCA) of Morgan-Monroe State Forest has great species complexity and high species richness in the absence of intense forest management. One tract of Yellowwood has been logged, but other parts of the BCA remain intact for now, and IFA will continue the Ecoblitz in these unlogged areas.

We conclude: “This forest would be an invaluable resource as a set-aside reserve for understanding natural aging processes of forests,” said Dr. Leslie Bishop.

The Indiana Forest Alliance is grateful to the Indiana Academy of Science for providing a venue to present these findings, and to these funders for their multi-year support of the Ecoblitz: Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust, Efroymson Family Fund, the Amos Butler Audubon Society, and the Indiana Academy of Science.

Box Turtles: Looking for Love is Easier in Contiguous Forests

By Ann Deutch Hougham, IFA Member

When my husband and I moved back home to Indiana 16 years ago, we had a young Box Turtle visit our garden regularly. It was a mystery how that little turtle could get in and out of our fencing. We finally caught sight of him or her simply turning sideways and scooting through. Box Turtles are declining in numbers through most of their range so seeing a youngster made us especially cheerful.

In the large contiguous forest near our home, we’ve since seen more than 70 different individual Box Turtles, of which 6 were smaller than a full-grown adult. Clearly, the forest in this part of south central Indiana–not far from Morgan-Monroe State Forest–is vital for the future of Box Turtles because we see that some adults are successfully reproducing here.

Any full-size turtle we see could easily be older than we are; Box Turtles can live to be 100 years old. Box Turtle populations, like so many other wildlife, have diminished over recent years. The Eastern Box Turtle is recognized by the state of Indiana as a species of Special Concern, while several similar and related turtles such as the Ornate Box Turtle, Blanding’s Turtle and Spotted Turtle are listed as State Endangered species.  While Box Turtles can forage and nest in a wide variety of habitats, they hibernate in upland forests over winter, burrowing into the soil under leaf litter and woody debris.

Females take about 13 years to reach reproductive maturity.  Turtle eggs and hatchlings are so often eaten by predators that it can take decades for a single female to reproduce herself. A few years ago, a Box Turtle laid her eggs near my driveway. It was evening and my husband and I promised each other to erect a protective fence the next morning. To our dismay, a predator beat us to it. We suspected it was a raccoon who dug up her nest and ate the eggs but it could also have been a skunk or a fox.

Increased agriculture, housing and road development can cause a local extinction of Box Turtles that won’t be noticed for many decades because most likely, it’s the eggs, hatchlings and juveniles harmed by these threats. The adults live so long that it’s hard to notice when young turtles aren’t joining their ranks.

Like you, I want my great-great-grandkids to be able to enjoy seeing them just the way we do. A forest healthy enough to sustain Box Turtles will also be home to a diverse community. That forest will support such a variety of animals, plants and microbes with such complex interactions that the old phrase “web of life” only begins to describe them. And so, what is the impact of logging on Box Turtles?

Researchers on the Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment (HEE) in Morgan-Monroe and Yellowwood Forests and elsewhere found that logging doesn’t kill turtles within their brief two-year study periods, but it does cause some behavior and physiological changes. For example, after timber harvests the turtles moved more often but shorter distances each day. They often crossed logging roads. Turtles were found more often in the deep forest or on the edge of harvested areas than inside harvested areas.

 

Can we be sure that logging on a grand scale as now practiced, no matter how careful, will allow Box Turtles to survive over the next century?

Purdue recently published a forest management guide saying “Based on our current level of knowledge, it is impossible to predict all consequences, positive or negative, of timber harvesting” (MacNeil). Purdue suggested some Best Management Practices to minimize the problems science already recognizes. Don’t run over turtles, don’t drive in turtle nesting or hibernating areas except when the ground is frozen, leave woody debris on the ground, and don’t disturb temporary spring pond areas. Is this enough to assure turtles will survive in our logged forests? Scientists are not sure.

Here’s what we do know: forest size matters. The bigger the better. Box Turtles in the HEE (Morgan-Monroe and Yellowwood) live in a larger contiguous forest and have larger home ranges than any other studied turtles. Two of the 44 radio-tagged HEE turtles were more nomadic than most. How One of them covered about 464 acres in just one year. One nice warm day, this turtle ended up a football field length away from w

 

here it started. Most of the HEE’s radio-tagged turtles stayed much closer to home averaging a home range (home area) of 18½ acres (Currylow 2012 and Saunders 2013).

Turtle nomads are important members of the turtle community. All of the turtles this side of the Appalachians are related as one family according to their DNA (Kimble 2014). How were the family genes spread over such a vast territory? Throughout history some turtles must have been wanderers like the two found in the HEE, traveling far and finding new mating partners all along the way.

A genetic study of Box Turtles all over their range showed that there was historical migration connecting turtles all the way from Missouri to Tennessee. However, the same scientists found evidence that currently, would-be wanderers can’t traverse through the fragmented habitats throughout their range.

Even within their remaining habitat, crossing a road can easily be fatal for a Box Turtle. The same is true on logging roads. Turtles often hide in a little pile of leaves so a person driving a b

 

ig vehicle on a forest road can’t see them at all. Dividing their range with roads is a source of harm to the population as well as individual turtles. Because the few nomadic turtles cross extra roads, they are more exposed to being run over than stay-at-home turtles. In the past, Box Turtle populations operated at much larger geographic scales. (Kimble 2014).

The Precautionary Principle, or erring on the side of caution when any activity raises plausible or probable threats of harm, guides us to save as many of the few remaining large road-free forest areas as possible. It’s up to us to make sure as many turtle populations as possible have a large area where turtles can roam safely and mate with others who live far away.

The IFA’s proposal to set aside 10% of our State Forests as Wild Areas is a nod to the Precautionary Principle. Creating State Wild Areas would help protect Box Turtles and the community of life in the forest in ways we don’t yet understand.

 

REFERENCES

Currylow AF, MacGowan BJ, Williams RN (2012) Short-Term Forest Management Effects on a Long-Lived Ectotherm. PLoS ONE 7(7): e40473. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0040473

http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0040473

Currylow, Andrea F., et al. “Seasonal variations in plasma vitellogenin and sex steroids in male and female Eastern Box Turtles, Terrapene carolina carolina.” General and comparative endocrinology 180 (2013): 48-55.

(available on Google Scholar)

Kimble, Steven JA, O. E. Rhodes Jr, and Rod N. Williams. “Unexpectedly low rangewide population genetic structure of the imperiled eastern box turtle Terrapene c. carolina.” PloS one 9.3 (2014): e92274.

http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0092274

Lloyd, Terrell C., et al. “Modeling Hematologic and Biochemical Parameters with Spatiotemporal Analysis for the Free-Ranging Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina) in Illinois and Tennessee, a Potential Biosentinel.” EcoHealth 13.3 (2016): 467-479.

(not available on the open internet- use a university library)

MacNeil, Jami, Brian J. MacGowan, Andrea Currylow, and Rod N. Williams. “Forest Management for Reptiles and Amphibians.”

https://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/fnr/fnr-480-w.pdf

Saunders, Michael R.; Swihart, Robert K. 2013. Science in the hardwood ecosystem experiment: accomplishments and the road ahead. In: Swihart, Robert K.; Saunders, Michael R.; Kalb, Rebecca A.; Haulton, G. Scott; Michler, Charles H., eds. 2013. The Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment: a framework for studying responses to forest management. Gen. Tech. Rep. NRS-P-108. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station: 315-332.   

http://www.nrs.fs.fed.us/pubs/gtr/gtr-nrs-p-108papers/19saunders_swihart_hee_p108.pdf

https://secure.in.gov/dnr/naturepreserve/files/fw-Endangered_Species_List.pdf

http://www.mass.gov/eea/docs/dfg/nhesp/species-and-conservation/nhfacts/terrapene-carolina.pdf

Against DNR’s Proposed Bobcat Hunting/Trapping Season

[A version of this article appeared in the Brown County Democrat on 3/13/18].

by Leslie Bishop, PhD, Professor Emerita of Biology, Earlham College

From endangered to prize booty, the bobcats in Indiana continue to have a questionable future.

Populations of bobcats had plummeted in the state due to loss of habitat and over-harvest. In 1969, bobcats were protected as a State Endangered Species. In 2005, bobcats were removed from the State Endangered List and demoted to Species of Special Concern. This year their protection will come to a halt if DNR gets its way. The Indiana DNR is proposing the inclusion of bobcats for hunting and trapping.

This change in policy is not grounded in solid science. A population study has not been completed. In a survey of state wildlife management agencies (Roberts and Crimmins, 2010), the authors list Indiana as monitoring bobcats through public sightings and incidental harvest with an unknown population estimate. Since that study, DNR reports that additional information is being collected on vehicle collision mortality, Archer’s Index (a special program where bow hunters can report wildlife sightings), and sporadic trail camera use (Snapshot Indiana, Citizen Science Trail Cams).

All of these methods can be useful in describing the presence-absence and distribution of bobcats, yet none of them can predict population size (Caley, Hosack, and Barry, 2017). Use of trail cameras is becoming an increasingly useful tool in wildlife studies but can be used in population estimates only if there is consistent data collection over a given sampling period, a large sample size, and identification of individuals for mark-recapture data (Burton et al., 2015).

Vehicle collision mortality can be used in population estimate models if average speed, rate of traffic flow, and specific time periods are also known (e.g., Hobday and Minstrell, 2008).  In addition, information about topographic features and highway construction variables is essential when making inferences about roadkill data (Finder, Roseberry, and Woolf, 1999). In the case of southern Indiana, we need to see data that tracks the incidence of roadkill with the construction of I-69. Has roadkill increased due to a new interstate with increased traffic and higher speeds? Specific locations of bobcat road mortality through time must be analyzed for consistency. But to date, these data are missing.

A population estimate requires agency resources (staff time and financial support), and thus far these resources have not gone into bobcat research. In the 2015 Indiana State Wildlife Plan (SWAP) report, the bobcat database was flagged as in need of statistical population reconstruction. The technical experts participating in the Modeling Focus Group suggested a group of terrestrial species as candidates for landscape-level modeling, but bobcats were not chosen (SWAP 2015).

At this time, we do not have a population estimate of Indiana bobcats, and therefore cannot know what a viable population is or whether the population size is above or below that level. Without these data, it will be impossible to fully understand the effect of hunting/trapping on Indiana bobcat populations as well as to accurately determine the needed limit on annual bobcat harvest.

DNR also claims that a regulated season will cut down on poaching and illegal marketing of bobcat pelts. Without a number (or estimate) of poachings or illegal sales, it is impossible to infer that the cost of allowing the harvest of hundreds of bobcats would outweigh the benefit of stopping a handful of poachers. By opening a trapping season with a bag limit of one animal, it may become even easier to abuse the system and take more individuals. It may become harder to identify illegal marketing as well. The actual regulation and enforcement of limited trapping seasons with bag limits is difficult due to minimal staffing of conservation officers in the rugged terrain of southern Indiana. Ecological decision making should not be driven by lack of enforcement.

There is no good reason to manage bobcat populations through trapping in Indiana. DNR admits that there have been no reports of negative effects on humans or family pets. In fact, an increased bobcat population is beneficial since their main diet includes rodents and rabbits.

A few trappers will benefit from the sale of bobcat pelts. Bobcat pelts from the eastern US and Canada yielded between $81.00 – $85.00. But with the limit of one bobcat per trapper, the benefit is limited.

Most of us have never seen a bobcat in the wild. These solitary and secretive animals play an important ecological role as predator in our forests. Instead of managing them through hunting and trapping, let us celebrate their comeback.

Please tell DNR not to include bobcats in hunting/trapping season. You can send submit your comments to DNR by 5 p.m., Friday, March 23 here: : http://www.in.gov/nrc/2377.htm.

You can also attend a public hearing on in Anderson on March 22, 2018, 5:30 p.m. ET at the  Mounds State Park Pavilion.


Literature Cited

Burton, A.C., Neilson, E., Moreira, D., Ladle, A., Steenweg, R., Fisher, J.T., Bayne, E. and Boutin, S., 2015. Wildlife camera trapping: a review and recommendations for linking surveys to ecological processes. Journal of Applied Ecology, 52(3):675-685.

Caley, P., Hosack, G.R., Barry, S.C., 2017. Making inference from wildlife collision data: inferring predator absence from prey strikes. PeerJ 5:e3014. https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.3014

Finder, R.A., Roseberry, J.L. and Woolf, A., 1999. Site and landscape conditions at white-tailed deer/vehicle collision locations in Illinois. Landscape and Urban Planning, 44(2-3):77-85.

Hobday, A.J. , Minstrell, M.L., 2008. Distribution and abundance of roadkill on Tasmanian highways: human management options. Wildlife Research 35:712-726.

Roberts, N.M., Crimmins, S.M., 2010. Bobcat population status and management in North America: evidence of large-scale population increase. Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management 1(2):169–174.

Indiana State Wildlife Plan, 2015, available at http://www.in.gov/dnr/fishwild/files/SWAP/fw-SWAP_2015.pdf.

Rx for Haverstick Woods: Creative Problem-Solving

by Clarke Kahlo

There are almost no public parks in the entire 12-mile square area covered by Indianapolis’ Nora-Northside Community Council (NCC). Does this fact represent a lack of creative vision for common greenspace? You bet.

Nora has has rarely pushed for new parkland.  It has been content, over many years, to allow all open land to be privately developed.  The exception is Nora’s support for the Monon Trail following the City’s acquisition of the rail corridor from CSX Corp. in the late 1980s.  In the intervening years, private development of open land has proceeded apace, parcel-by-parcel, and open land has been converted to urban development.

From time to time, when residents have advocated for park use instead of private development for particular properties, the brusque retort from the NCC has been: “if you want it to be a park, then buy it.”

The Haverstick Woods property on East 86th Street is the most recent example of that myopic attitude.  Indy Parks, upon inspecting the property last year, indicated that it would be interested in acquiring the wooded land. However, because it has no budgeted funds for land acquisition, it said it would need to rely on the donation of the small urban forest.

It’s unfortunate that NCC’s otherwise strong community advocacy doesn’t include pushing for needed greenspace.  The controlling mindset seems to be the presumed primacy of private property development, instead of seeking creative solutions which strike a balance between return on investment and the community impact and welfare.

A mutually-acceptable development is possible on the Haverstick tract. It could be an exemplar of green infrastructure paired with appropriately-scaled building, as we seek to create a “more sustainable, resilient” City per its 2020 Bicentennial Vision.

The voice of the people was registered and resoundingly affirmed last October when the Metropolitan Development Commission denied the requested rezone.  Yet now the NCC has capitulated to the developer’s threat to develop the land with an inappropriate commercial use— which is widely considered to be an antiquated rezoning aberration from 2005.  Regardless, the community doesn’t need or deserve a legally-infirm Council call-down, which was apparently contrived to circumvent the MDC’s decision.

There is plenty of philanthropic wherewithal in Indianapolis and more of it could be used to purchase needed parkland. Our community leaders and elected officials should recognize the well-documented high public need for more greenspace and be willing to push for it.

A prime candidate for utilizing best site design practices, the Haverstick Woods especially lends itself to creative problem-solving.  But the process must free from the duress of a Council call-down.

Will Keystone Realty Work Towards a Win-Win Solution?

By Stacey Clark, Driftwood Hills resident 

The intersection at 86th St. and Haverstick Rd. is a forested parcel owned by Keystone Realty, a company that proposed to develop the property. The Metropolitan Development Commission (MDC) denied Keystone Realty’s proposal for Alexander at the Crossing, which was a request for a change from the previous commercial zoning for a big box retail building. Now, Indianapolis City-County Councillor Colleen Fanning is planning to call the proposal down at the March 12th full council meeting in an attempt to overturn the denial.  (Zoning Case #2016-ZON-020)

The decision to call down this case is the single greatest threat to respecting the wishes of the surrounding Driftwood Hills neighborhood, of 300 plus homes, and would undermine the whole process of zoning denial through the MDC.

Elizabeth Mahoney in the woods at 86th St. and Haverstick Road. (photo by Mary Bookwalter)

The Driftwood Hills neighborhood, with the support of Indiana Forest Alliance (IFA), is negotiating for a development that maintains the residential character of the neighborhood and preserves as much of this forest as possible as the Marion County Comprehensive Plan recommended when it designated this site as a critical area in 2005. The previous safety concerns of placing a large, commercial space on a small, residential street have not changed. The previous concerns with exacerbating traffic in a gridlocked, accident-prone intersection, have not changed. The need for an environmental buffer from sound pollution, water runoff absorbance, and protection from further commercialization on the north side of 86th St and west of Keystone, remains the same.

By attempting to call down the MDC decision, the City-County Council would be weakening the leverage of the surrounding community to negotiate with Keystone Realty for a mutually acceptable development. In the call down process, any negotiations that could be potentially reached between Nora and Keystone would not be legally enforceable. There is also a serious legal deficiency with Councillor Fanning’s attempt to call down this defeated ordinance, which will be addressed shortly by our legal counsel. Thus, Driftwood Hills is advocating for negotiations outside the call down process.

The Driftwood Hills Neighborhood and IFA are essentially asking for the same thing that the MDC did when they initially denied Keystone Realty a variance: come back to the table with a project that benefits the community. As the neighborhood immediately adjacent to the property, we respectfully make the following requests of the developer, Keystone Realty:

  1. Commit to a substantially lower impact residential development.
  2. Even better: keep the remaining 10 acres on the property as a park for the Indianapolis community to enjoy. Indianapolis ranks second to last in terms of park space available yet pubic parks provide numerous benefits for our health.
  3. Regardless of the plan chosen, please disclose your plans for the remaining 10 acres of the property. This has been a primary question from the community and other city planners all along.

We ask that Councillor Fanning urge Keystone Realty to negotiate with the Driftwood Hills Neighborhood for a compromise — not use the developer’s threat to clear-cut as an excuse to undo the MDC denial decision that gave the area a reprieve.

Save Haverstick Woods!

By: Stacey Clark, Driftwood Hills resident

What is the value of an urban forest left standing? Besides absorbing flood runoff, and buffering noise and heat, a woods where people can walk their dogs and let the kids play is a precious asset on the Northside of Indy.

That’s why the Driftwood Hills Neighborhood is against Keystone Realty’s proposed “Alexander at the Crossing” development at the northeast corner of 86th St. & Haverstick Road. The zoning required for said proposal was, thankfully, denied by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Development Commission (MDC) last October.

Stacey Clark pictured (second from left) at the Oct. 4, 2017 MDC hearing.

So why, in an unprecedented move, is Indianapolis City-County Councillor Colleen Fanning attempting to reverse the decision of the city’s governing land use body and have the woods bulldozed for yet another needless development?

As anyone who lives or drives through the intersection at 86th St. & Keystone Ave. knows, the traffic is a nightmare! This intersection was just listed as the number one intersection for seasonal accidents by the Indy Star.  How could anyone recommend further developing this area, exacerbating the existing traffic and safety concerns?

Indianapolis ranks terribly when it comes to greenspace available, 98/100Why would we want to see one of the last remaining green spaces on the Northside be cleared for more commercial development?

We need to let Councillor Fanning know that the community has spoken on this issue already. Our communities deserve better!

Please contact your Indianapolis City-County Councillor and urge them to vote “NO!” on Councillor Fanning’s proposal to reverse the decision of the MDC. Once you know who your City-County Councillor is, click here to get their contact information

The Driftwood Hills Neighborhood Association thanks you in advance.  

 

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This article was submitted as a letter to the editor to major Indianapolis publications. Click here to learn more about the issue.

Why Forest Advocates Should Have Hope

By Anne Laker, IFA Staff

Forest advocates are moving the meter at the Indiana General Assembly. How, you ask, since the Senate bill to set 30% of state forests from logging did not get a hearing? And an amendment to set aside 10% was defeated in the House.

Here’s why: the Indiana forest bill in the Senate had support from 10 Republicans, was authored by a Republican, and sponsored by two others. In the House, three Republicans spoke in favor of the amendment, and 13 voted for it. Not to mention that both pieces of legislation have the full support of Democrats.

Forest advocates lobby for Indiana forest bill.

IFA Director Jeff Stant, biologist Leslie Bishop, and economist Morton Marcus make the case in the statehouse halls to a representative for leaving some forest unlogged.

In both cases, the word is that Governor Holcomb put his thumb on the scale. If Rep. Sean Eberhart (R-Shelbyville), the only House Republican to speak against the amendment on the floor, said: “The Governor has authorized me to say that he does not support this policy.” Had this claim not been uttered, who knows how many more Republicans might have voted for it?

So it took backdoor intervention from the Governor to halt progress. This is a governor who has never made a public statement about his position on the logging of Yellowwood, or articulated his own vision for our state forests.

Last weekend, an IFA member saw Gov. Holcomb walking around Nashville. She boldly approached him about Yellowwood. He said he has just been up in a helicopter with DNR staff. The Governor showed the IFA member pictures taken with his phone (from a major distance). The Governor said there was no old growth forest. The forest advocate stated that she understood that it was farmland in the past, but that the forest has been growing since then. The Governor said there were no 100-year-old trees. He said they were clearing the canopy so smaller growth can get bigger.

If the Governor is data-driven, as he often claims, he will take interest in IFA’s study of the Yellowwood/Morgan Monroe backcountry. We found 105 trees older than 100 years in the area being logged now. To say the least, forest advocates must continue to educate and engage the Governor.

IFA Director Jeff Stant greets Gov. Holcomb just after his inauguration in January 2017.

So then, why are we hopeful? “When you look at the level of bipartisan support in both chambers,” said IFA Executive Director Jeff Stant, “you have to conclude that setting aside some of the state forests from logging is an idea that is gaining traction in the legislature.”

Why is it gaining traction? Two reasons.

  • Time and again you’ve responded to the Indiana Forest Alliance’s call to, well, call your lawmakers. Via e-mail, phone and at in-person town hall meetings, you’ve taken the time to contact your senator and representative. Our voices are more audible than ever. Sure, representatives such as Peggy Mayfield and Jim Lucas have state forests in their districts and say they support the DNR. But we’ll only step up our dialogue with lawmakers in this category.
  • The idea of preserving some of our state forests from logging is not a “red” or a “blue” issue. It’s simply a wise, balanced policy. It speaks to the value wild nature has for tourism and for personal enjoyment and solace. Managing a small portion of our forests to be as they were 170 years ago is an exciting goal, one that most Hoosiers from whatever party would undoubtedly support.

The Indiana Forest Alliance is not against all logging. We don’t think that the DNR’s 30 trained foresters are bad people doing things that are 100% bad. Their efforts clearly meet their goal of generating trees to be logged, by supporting more oak and hickory, etc.

We simply question the idea that the single, solitary goal of state forests should be to produce merchantable timber, at the expense of open trails or an aesthetic forest experience or scientific study in unlogged areas. These are the other goals we know to be of value, and there is room for more than one goal. These are the public’s forests, and the public should have a voice in their public purpose.

This is the message we will bring without relent to the Governor, lawmakers, the public, the media—with your help.

Rep. Matt Pierce introduced his amendment by saying that offering our kids the experience of an Indiana forest as it might have been 150 years ago is one good reason to set aside some land from logging.

Three Economic Reasons to Preserve Old Forests

by Morton J. Marcus, Director Emeritus,
Indiana Business Research Center
Kelley School of Business, Indiana University

It is exciting to find the Indiana General Assembly exploring new directions for state government. Among these is a rethinking of the role played by the State Forests in our economy.

Today, as in the past, the State Forests preserve the natural heritage of Indiana. Extensive acres of woodlands and wetlands provide opportunities for Hoosiers. Some of these opportunities are commercial, others recreational. Logging and hiking both can have impacts on the forests.

The balance between these uses was stable until the last decade when a dramatic increase in logging occurred and the acreage exempt from logging was reduced. Now is the time to ensure that substantial Old Growth acreage in each State Forest is protected from logging.

A set aside program to protect Old Growth areas of the State Forests does not substantially change opportunities for logging. Instead, it recognizes three significant economic trends:

  1. Other than homebuilding, the wood-using industries in Indiana are in long-term decline.

Furniture manufacturing, a major wood-using industry in our history is no longer a significant factor in our economy. Whereas, RCA, Kimball, and numerous others were major names internationally among wood-using firms, today they have moved in other directions. Now only a few successful niche producers remain. Isn’t it contrary to our conservative economic values to continue and even expand a subsidy to a declining industry?

  1. Modern employers know their employees place high value on recreation and natural environments.

Today, workers and their employers see opportunities for the reflection and experience offered by natural areas as a positive in site selection. Thus, reserving more of our State Forests as undisturbed Old Growth areas enhances Indiana’s desirability as a place to live and work, an obvious economic development opportunity.

  1. Appreciation of nature is a strong, accelerating force in America.

The ongoing urbanization of Indiana and the entire nation has created a demand for opportunities to experience nature. Travel and tourism to natural areas is expanding. Instead of traveling to New York and Los Angeles, Americans flock to our national parks. Instead of visiting just Paris and Rome, Americans increasingly visit Iceland and the fjords of Norway. Proper advertisement of our State Forests and other Hoosier attractions could improve Indiana’s standing as a tourist destination.

A Jewish “New Year of the Trees”

by Rabbi Brian Besser, Congregation Beth Shalom, Bloomington

What is the origin of Tu B’Shevat, the Jewish holiday devoted to connecting us to the earth?

Tu B’Shevat — celebrated this year on January 31 — is first mentioned fifteen hundred years ago in the Talmud, the great compendium of Jewish law, as the legal designation for when the agricultural cycle begins. Hence its nickname: “New Year of the Trees.” In the 20th century, pioneers returning to the Land of Israel began planting millions of trees annually on Tu B’Shevat, in order to reverse and heal centuries of desertification and degradation of the landscape.

But the ecological stakes are now global. In recent decades, Tu B’Shevat has developed into a platform for protesting the enormity of human destruction inflicted against God’s Creation, including massive deforestation, loss of habitat and biodiversity, extinction of species, and climate change.

The Jewish mandate to preserve the natural world is ancient. In the Book of Deuteronomy, God commands: “when you besiege a city to conquer it, you may not chop down trees to fashion siege works. For is a tree human, that it may withdraw from you?” The idea is that trees are defenseless against human assault; they need us to protect them. If, in the utmost exigency of warfare, the eradication of trees is prohibited, how much more so, during normal times of peace? The Rabbis derived from this Biblical verse a basic moral principle: the needless destruction of any natural resource is wrong.

Rabbi Brian Besser

What is the underlying theology of the Jewish conservation ethic? Is it to safeguard the environment for future generations? Or is it that other forms of life place upon us intrinsic demands, separate from their potential benefit to us? For me, the Biblical story of Noah proves decisive on this question. When God decides to inflict a massive Flood upon the world because of human corruption, God first instructs Noah to send into the ark all the creatures of the earth, two of each kind. From this passage, it is clear that all species have an innate right to survive, independent of humanity.

Another key verse appears earlier in the Torah: “God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden to till it and to tend it.” The common translation suggests a tension between working the land (“to till”) versus protecting it for later use (“to tend”). But the original Hebrew can just as easily be translated: to serve it and preserve it. In this reading, the dichotomy in our relationship to the land disappears. We are left with the unambiguous obligation to live harmoniously within the overall ecosystem, rather than exploit it.

Tu B’Shevat is not just about trees. It is a reminder of the tight bond between human beings and the natural world, which we have frayed in recent decades. (In Hebrew, the word for “human being,” adam, comes from the word for “earth,” adamah.) This is a universal conviction. Chief Seattle said: “the earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.

Chief Seattle’s warning echoes the following ancient Jewish story: “when God led Adam around the Garden of Eden, God said to him: Look at My works! See how beautiful they are, how excellent. See to it that you do not spoil My world—for if you do, there will be no one after you to repair it.”

Fine Today, Disastrous Tomorrow: The Wisdom of Balance

(a version of this letter was published in the Brown County Democrat, 1/16/18) 

By Linda Baden, Friends of Yellowwood

My husband Charlie Cole and I bought our place, an island of private land within Yellowwood State Forest, in the early 1980s. We were eager to begin the healing on an old homestead that had been subjected to the classic Brown County triad of the previous 150 years: over-farming, over-logging, and neglect. So, the first thing we did was to order seedlings from the Indiana Division of Forestry’s Nursery. For the area under the power line, we selected several “Shrub Seedlings for Wildlife Plantings,” reasoning that we could benefit wildlife and at the same time establish some shrubbery on this bald spot on the land.

An order form I saved from 1985 from the Division of Forestry Nursery (see image below) lists this selection of shrub seedlings.  It includes two plants—Autumn Olive and Amur Honeysuckle—that we now know are pernicious invasives of our native hardwood forests. A third shrub, lespedeza, is considered moderately invasive.

Autumn Olive

Thus, with the most earnest of intentions, and with the endorsement and best advice of the Division of Forestry, we infected our place with two shrubs that we’ve been battling ever since.

But we were not alone: the Division of Forestry itself planted one of these shrubs in Yellowwood State Forest, taking their own advice that Autumn Olive provides “wildlife food and cover; interplant with hardwoods to improve soil” (quoting from a 1987 Forestry Nursery order form).

You see, in the 1980s, IDNR Foresters knew that Autumn Olive alters nutrient cycling by adding nitrogen to the soil, but they didn’t yet realize that this encourages other invasions. Beyond this, the problem with Autumn Olive, according to the Indiana Nature Conservancy, is that it “out-competes and displaces native plants by creating a dense shade that hinders the growth of plants that need lots of sun. It can produce up to 200,000 seeds each year, and can spread over a variety of habitats as its nitrogen-fixing root nodules allows the plant to grow in even the most unfavorable soils. Not to mention that it reproduces quickly and with little effort at all.”

In the mid-1990s, the Division introduced Callery Pear as a “fast growing wildlife shrub; small pear provides food for birds in winter.” Fast-growing indeed! We now regard Callery Pear (also known as Bradford Pear) as a “Bad, Bad Plant with Pretty Flowers,” which is the title of a 2013 alert on the Monroe County Identify and Reduce Invasive Species website that describes the invasion of Callery Pears on 900 acres of forestland in Martin County.

Callery Pear

Truth is, we don’t always know what we don’t know—even if we are well-trained and well-intentioned scientists or foresters. The Division made its recommendations based on what they knew at the time. Unfortunately for our forests, we are continuing to pay the price for these good intentions.

Which brings me to my point: by relying so heavily on what they take as management gospel to the exclusion of any other approach, the Division is endangering the ability of our already embattled hardwood forests to withstand future threats, foreseen and unforeseen. We need to embrace those unknowns by balancing harvested with unharvested areas of the state forests, just in case what we think we know turns out to be not what we expected.

 

Gambling with our Natural Heritage

Gambling With Our Natural Heritage

by Dr. P. David Simcox, Mind the Gap: Protectors of the Low Gap State Wild Area

Let’s examine the issue of how our Governor Holcomb has disregarded concerns voiced by a multitude of citizens about the accelerated rate of logging in our State Forests. The Governor has chosen to rely upon his experts, Indiana DNR’s Division of Forestry, to decide the best policy to manage these Forests. In other words, he has exercised his responsibility to make policy by avoiding the issue.

Embedded in this policy is that Division of Forestry staff believes all woodlands need human intervention to survive. Human intervention in this case means logging. It turns out–as the Governor knows–that there is a body of evidence about larger ecological issues expressed by scientists who offer a opposing points of view.

The object of this discussion is not to debate the scientific arguments, but to point out that our Governor has chosen the riskiest approach to managing our resources for the future.

Science is Not Absolute

We have all seen reports of a new scientific study finding something you eat is bad for your health. Then a short time later another study says this same item is good for your health.  Take chocolate or coffee for example. What you are hearing is that science is not absolute. There will be new research to be considered. There are always differing opinions that need to be incorporated into the body of evidence to support a scientific course of action.

Managing Global R&D Programs

In my career as a manager of global technology platforms in agriculture, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology, having a strategy incorporating differing points of view and technology was prudent. Portfolios were created that blended conservative projects and those with higher risk and those with proven technology with more cutting edge science. In no case did we ever bet on one horse. We sought a balanced R&D portfolio that offered opportunities, but minimized the risk.

In reviews with scientists over the decades, I learned to appreciate the researchers who were open to varied explanations for their findings and then sought further investigation to select the right ones. Unfortunately, some scientists are there to sell you on their point of view, not to weigh the options.

Financial Portfolio

What would you do if your financial advisor says: “I found this great stock pick. Let’s take 97.5% of your retirement and invest it all there!” You would likely look for a new advisor. You would never want to take an irreversible or unrecoverable risk. You always seek a balanced investment portfolio spreading your risk and opportunity. It is all about risk management.

Opposing Points of View

IDNR’s current policy protects only 2.5% of our 158,000 acres of State Forests from logging. Even in the “old growth or older growth” sections of their Strategic Plan, they consider logging a management requirement.

Other midwestern states, through policy or science, set aside significant portions of their state forests for no logging. No logging policies range from 100% in Illinois to 25% in Pennsylvania. Why does Indiana’s DNR think that is not a prudent approach? Do they know better? I have been told by a senior IDNR manager that Pennsylvania is “just different” with the only explanation given that it is larger. This outright dismissal should set off alarm bells.

Our Governor has rejected the advice of 228 Indiana scientists who see the current IDNR policy as ignoring the larger ecological picture. These forest ecosystems are complex and intricate. Concerns about the lack of knowledge about the forest soil ecosystems were recently expressed by a Professor Emeritus of Forestry from Purdue University. So much has yet to be learned about the impact of logging on these ecosystems.

Our IDNR is involved in a Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment study. This 100-year project is underway to determine how to best manage the forests. The operative word here is “experiment.” IDNR must be acknowledging they do not have all the answers…why otherwise would you call this an experiment?

In the meantime, while gathering the data, IDNR is ignoring opposing science and concerns and will continue to log all but minor tracts in our State Forests. There are many terms one might use to describe their approach, but “extremist” is a fair descriptor.

Other Governors Have Done Their Job

Past Indiana Governors have understood that our State Forests are precious resources and should be conservatively managed. Until 2002 and then with the subsequent hiring of a pro-logging head forester in 2005, Governors from both sides of the aisle have set aside as much as 40% of our State Forests from logging. This is not a resource for which one should take large risks.

Governor Holcomb is Gambling with Our Future

So instead of developing a policy that balances pro-logging and ecological concerns, Governor Holcomb has decided to push in all his chips and make the big bet. That is what our Governor is doing. Gambling with your and your grandchildren’s future: our natural heritage and the species that depend upon us.

Call Governor Holcomb and tell him he should have not picked just one stock; what we need is a balance in managing our State Forests.