Thankful for Forests: How a Gift to IFA Means Even More

by Sandra Messner, IFA Development Director

Writes an IFA friend named Sally: “My grandparents were the most influential people when it comes to inspiring my love of the forests. I spent many days in “Papa’s Woods.” I remember it was he who showed me my first trillium and my first bald eagle. My grandmother took me on picnics by the brook, and out to find ‘forest-foraged feasts’ of milkweed, cow slips, and wild asparagus. They took their five daughters on many hikes there, my mom included. My grandparents have been incredible examples to everyone in my family when it comes to reverence for the forests…establishing a nature preserve near their home, and just recently giving up canoe camping at the age of 82!”

Anyone who loves forests probably remembers when, and why, the love began. It’s fun to sit and think for a minute about our earliest experiences in the woods. The feeling of adventure, the miracle of so many kinds of life, and the people we shared the adventure with.

These experiences [hikes and wildlife sightings and picnics and campouts] are in our blood,” says IFA Executive Director Jeff Stant. And as we recall our own histories of our love for forests, we start to feel grateful. Not only for the forests themselves, but for what they mean in our lives.

“Thankful for Forests” is the theme of IFA’s year-end giving campaign. You’re invited to:

–tell us the story of why you love forests, and how you came to love them (click here to write your story)

make a donation to IFA in the name of the person who exposed you to the pleasures of the forest — be it backpacking, hunting, hiking, foraging or just daydreaming. Include their name in the “comments” field and we’ll publish it in our printed newsletter, Forest Defender. A recurring gift — even just $5 a month — is a great way to help.

Another story, from IFA member Josh: “I’ve been hiking Scarce O’ Fat Trail in Yellowwood State Forest for 25 years, and wanted to give something back so others can experience its wonder and natural beauty.”

When you give to IFA, your money goes to work mobilizing groups around the state to protect their local public forests, engaging scientists to study forest wildlife such as the state endangered hellbender salamander, and inspiring people with events like the Wild & Scenic Film Festival (set for February 17). 

It’s the time of year to say so: all of us at the Indiana Forest Alliance are grateful for our enthusiastic members, vigilant activists, committed volunteers and generous sponsors and grantors.

It goes without saying that we’re also grateful for the forests themselves. The history they hold, their bounty and resilience, their majesty.

The Indiana Forest Alliance will keep our watch over them, with your support. Thank you!

Forests to Faucets: Logging in the Hoosier National Forest & the Lake Monroe Watershed

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 Lake Monroe

Houston South lies in a Management Area which allows for commercial logging according to the most recent (2006) HNF forest management plan available here.

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.

This image of the Fork Ridge Trail, south of Buffalo Pike is an example of how Houston South currently looks. Photo by Dave Simcox.

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. See photos of Buffalo Pike here. 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 6:00 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.

A very nice hiking loop just north of Buffalo Pike, on a recent autumn day.

Preserving Our Way Out of the Climate Crisis

People — including citizens outside of Indiana — are watching how Indiana treats its state forests. An astute Ohio resident took the time to write to Indiana’s governor, and shared her letter with IFA. Her message reinforces the fact that we in Indiana need to remain vigilant and vocal in stating our desires for our taxpayer-owned forests. Her ideas also show that we have significant untapped potential among our Indiana forests left standing.

Dear Governor Holcomb,

As an Ohio resident, I am writing on behalf of the mature forests located throughout Indiana’s State Forests. Our family has had the pleasure of visiting many of these forests during our vacations. Several years ago, our family had to relocate for my husband’s job. We moved from our wooded property in Southeast Ohio to the cornfields of Iowa. We missed the forested ecosystem of Ohio and Indiana very much. On our way home we often stopped by Salamonie River State Forest. Those trees, trails, and waterfalls were a welcome sight.

Dry waterfall at Salamonie River State Forest. Photo by Jeff Stant.

We were saddened to learn that logging may be harvesting many of the mature trees in Indiana’s State Forests. This is especially true of Salamonie River State Forest. The trees that are being culled as “inferior” species are indeed very valuable trees for an ecosystem. The American Beech is habitat for many bird species and the hornbeams are second only to our dying ash for their strength and hardness.

My doctorate work on non-timber forest products allowed me to see the value in an intact ecosystem. I can tell you that once logging takes place, no matter how careful the process might be, the forest is never the same. To believe that we can cut out certain tree species and the native hardwoods will magically reappear is naive.

Invasive species and climate change will prevent the return to forests structures of yesterday. We need to protect these forests for the valuable intact ecosystems that they provide.

In 2008, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated that U.S. forests absorb 792 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. This is equivalent to 11% of all the greenhouse gas emissions from industrial sources. However, in a time when we should be planting trees and conserving existing mature forests, this country is logging at an unprecedented rate.

According to the World Resource Institute, less than 1% of large contiguous virgin forests with all species intact still exist in the lower 48 states. Additionally, our forests are extremely fragmented and suffer from droughts and invasive species.

We need to recognize that forests are more than timber and to incorporate them into our climate change planning. Over two thirds of our fresh water supply filters through forest ecosystems. Forests act as a natural flood control. Forests provide habitat for species and help preserve biodiversity. Millions of people flock to national and state parks and forests every year for recreation, hunting, and inspiration.

Although 99% of our virgin forests are gone, we still have forested areas that could be used to sequester carbon dioxide emissions. Studies are showing that mature trees and their ecosystems can store and absorb more carbon than a young forest. Several countries are using this principle to save mature trees and encourage planting of new trees. Using trees to counteract atmospheric carbon also provides an economic benefit. This is achieved via a new program called carbon offsetting.

According to the World Resource Institute, a forest carbon offset is a metric ton of carbon dioxide emissions which is avoided or newly sequestered and is purchased by greenhouse gas emitters as a cost-control mechanism to compensate for emissions occurring elsewhere.

So basically what happens is a company will pay a forest landowner to not log his or her trees, but keep them growing. The growing trees will theoretically be absorbing the carbon dioxide that the company has emitted. It is a win-win situation as the forest remains intact and is able to provide all the services like flood control, and the company is able to offset some of its carbon pollution.

This program is similar to cap and trade in that carbon credits are traded via a carbon market but unlike cap and trade, forest owners, not companies are given the credits. The United States has just recently begun exploring this idea and several new programs are underway. There are four programs that are currently working with southern forest owners in the U.S. to design and leverage carbon credits systems. They are: The Gold Standard, Verified Carbon Standard, Climate Action Reserve, and American Carbon Registry.

In 2014, the city of Astoria, Oregon was faced with a budget crisis. One of its options to raise revenues was to aggressively timber old growth hemlock in the Bear Creek Watershed. However, the city decided to enter into an agreement partnering with a non-profit organization, the Climate Trust.

The 3,423 acre watershed would be used to offset greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fueled power plants in the state. The program will sequester carbon dioxide in growing trees for forty years. The first year will earn the city $358,750 in carbon credits. Following years will add $130,000 annually to the budget for the next nine years. By the end of the agreement timeframe, the city will have gained $2 million in revenues after fees.

Hopefully, these carbon credit programs will start to become viable options in Indiana as well as other states especially since there has been a 400% increase in commercial logging in public forests in Indiana since 2002.

Instead of cutting down more forests, we could be preserving and planting our way out of the climate crisis we now find ourselves in. We need to be innovative and smart because once a tree is cut, it will take decades to re-grow the potential carbon sink it once was.

Additionally, for many people who do not have access to forests, these areas are a place to escape into a world of beauty and tranquility. They are a place to observe the natural world. They are a place to take children and teach science concepts. They are a place to find peace.

I urge you to find another way to make revenue and to allow the old trees to do what they do best, grow and inspire us.

Sincerely, Randi Pokladnik, Ph.D. (Environmental Studies) | Uhrichsville, Ohio

What’s Wrong with the Plan to Log Salamonie River State Forest

by Jeff Stant, IFA Executive Director

In fall 2014, the Division of Forestry published a logging plan for Salamonie River State Forest near Wabash, Indiana. They are now getting around to marking the trees and are apparently preparing for a timber sale.

Why is IFA particularly concerned about plans to log this forest? At least five reasons:

1)? The Division of Forestry is planning to log 260,000 board feet out of 847,000 estimated board feet in the tract to be logged (Compartment 1, Tract 3, 121 acres).? This is 31% of the stand and doesn’t count an untold amount of additional trees that the DOF is planning to take in a timber stand improvement (TSI) after the cut that it considers to be inferior species or “cull” trees such as American beech and various hornbeams and maples.

2) It plans to eliminate the sycamores and a native species that is not very common, Kentucky Coffeetree, entirely from the forest.

Trees marked to be cut in Salamonie River State Forest. Photo by Mary Bookwalter.

3)?While DOF says a major purpose of the logging is to remove pine to allow native hardwoods to regenerate, the fact is only 29% of the wood harvested will be pine, so?most of the trees logged will be the majestic hardwoods.? Furthermore, the pine stands are receding with hardwoods already regenerating in them.? Removing a lot of the pine and adjoining hardwoods all at once will change the character of the forest to make it much more sunny inviting in a lot of invasives and creating a virtual thicket that will be hard for hikers, horseback riders, and hunters to walk through.

4) The DOF is planning to remove invasive nonnative plants such as bush honeysuckle, autumn olive, and multi-flora rose in the timber stand improvement.? However, these and other?invasive species have been exploding across the state forests?because the DOF?s logging is opening up the canopy to more sunlight and tearing up the forest floor, the two physical factors that give these aggressive invasive plants the advantage over native plants.? Furthermore the DOF does not have the resources to go back into the forest regularly enough to control these hardy invasive plants which bounce right back from cutting.

5)?It is hard to find forests as large?as the 1,000 acre block of forest provided by Salamonie State Forest for many miles across much of central and northern Indiana ? particularly a forest that large that the public can enjoy as wild nature.? And the Salamonie?s forested bluffs, ravines, limestone canyons, waterfalls and creeks flowing into the Salamonie River are a beautiful gem of wild nature ? of state park caliber ? worth preserving in their natural condition.

While Salamonie River State Forest is a smaller state forests than those in the southern half of the state, where most of our state forests are, in some ways it is more significant, because the deep woods habitat that they provide is much more rare in northern Indiana.

IFA?s primary focus is on the management of our state forests because, while they are only 3% of Indiana?s forests, the state forests still provide some of the largest blocks of intact forest in the state and are the only state-owned public lands managed by the Department of Natural Resources where wilderness recreation, i.e., primitive camping, backpacking, long distance hiking, orienteering, foraging, etc, is possible.

We must speak out?because the DNR has increased the amount of logging in these forests by 400% over the past 13 years ? 3 to 4 times more logging than was ever done in these forests for the 102 years that they existed prior to 2005.? At the current authorized rate of 14 million board feet being logged per year, the DNR will have logged through all tracts of the state forests within another 12-13 years.

This amount of logging is destroying the natural wilderness character of our state forests, the forests we all own together as Hoosier taxpayers.

Contact IFA Outreach Coordinator Nick Joseph?to learn about how you can participate in organizing meetings and new advocacy efforts for our two northern Indiana state forests, Salamonie State Forest and Frances Slocomb State Forest. And or,?become a member of the Indiana Forest Alliance today: join the network of forest advocates.

“I owe it to these forests…I know they are what saved me.”

By Crystal C.

My love for nature started when I was 4. My dad took me camping and fishing several times a year. He would tell me to close my eyes, listen, and slow down. I would roll my eyes and say ?whatever.? I love thinking back to all those happy moments. Now as a mother, I try to make sure I pass down to my kids what my dad taught me about nature and how important it is. Of course they roll their eyes at me (fair enough), but I know they are listening.

My deep connection with the forest started when I went through a divorce. Life as I knew it changed and I wasn’t taking it well. I became sad beyond belief. I was told I would feel better if I took medication and it did make it better, but I was numb like a zombie. One day I took a walk and sat under some trees and just breathed. I slowed down (like my dad always said) and closed my eyes and just listened. Big deal, right? For me it was, because being under those trees and hearing those beautiful sounds was euphoric.

Now I go a couple times a week and walk in one of the state forests, Yellowwood or Morgan-Monroe. I?ll hike somewhere and sit under some trees and meditate, thinking of how far I?ve come since that first time 10 years ago. I have not been on medication for 10 years and I owe it to these forests and all the trees. I know they are what saved me.

Crystal & friend backpacking in Morgan-Monroe State Forest.

I work as an Emergency Medical Technician on an ambulance, so as you can imagine it can get crazy. I deal with death and violence and heartbreak almost everyday. What do you do with all that? You surely can?t carry it with you. In this crazy chaotic world, I have a sanctuary in these trees where none of those things exist, even if it’s for only 30 minutes.

Have you ever heard of ?earthing?? You take your shoes off and stand on dirt or grass to let the energy of the earth heal you. I have been practicing this for a long time. It is actually scientifically proven that this works, so why aren?t we taught to practice it? Sitting under the trees and listening, I can feel the healing energy.

It’s hard to put into words how I feel when I?m in the forest. One of my favorite forest memories was a time when I watched the sunset and listened to the owls. The moon was full so it lit the outline of trees and the fireflies looked like glitter everywhere. The wind was blowing and you could hear the leaves rustling. It was like a nature concert and it was a magical moment. It made me sad to think that one day those trees would be gone, and if the trees are gone the animals will leave as well.

I?ve noticed trees are being cut down at a high rate of speed in the forest I go to most often, Morgan-Monroe. I walked a fire trail that I used to frequent but hadn?t visited in two months due to weather and I had to look around because I thought I wasn’t in the right place. The trail was barely visible due to recent logging. The logs were laying everywhere, wood shavings covered the ground, and there were huge ruts from the heavy equipment.

I cried as it really hit me that they left my sanctuary looking like a war zone. I went to Yellowwood State Forest and found the same destruction. I sent e-mails and a letter to the Governor but only received a generic response. So many people care about and need these trees. Why would the government not care about that?

I think starting a youth group for kids who are having mental health issues would be a great idea, so that they can be taught the healing effects of nature. We can use the forest as a teaching resource. It?s important to keep fighting for the trees. They need us and we need them.

In Defense of the Endangered Species Act

By Anne Laker, IFA Staff

Since 1969, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) has acted as a our national safety net for fish, plants and wildlife on the brink of extinction. It’s arguably the most effective environmental law in U.S. history. The full recovery of the bald eagle is perhaps the ESA’s greatest success story.

But now, in the U.S. House, a barrage of nine bills have been introduced to weaken the law, and one bill draft has been released in the Senate. Furthermore, Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke has also just released a series of regulatory rollbacks to the ESA. Such proposed changes would effectively neuter the? Act, undermining science, and making it difficult to protect essential habitat for imperiled species — such as our very own Indiana bat and other Indiana-dwelling mammals, birds and mollusks listed here.

One proposed change is that the responsibility — or abdication of the responsibility — for identifying and protecting high-risk species be put in the hands of the states.? The Univ. of California did a study called “Conservation Limited: Assessing the Limitations of State Laws and Resources for Endangered Species Protection.” Here are the key takeaways:

1. Few state ESA laws protect all endangered species within their state.

Only 18 states (36%) provide protection to all animal and plant species. 32 states (64%) cover fewer species than are covered by the federal ESA. Seventeen?states (34%) fail to protect plant species. Two?states (4%), West Virginia and Wyoming, have no state legislation protecting species.

Of the 17 states (34%) that fail to protect plant species, all have federally listed endangered or threatened plant species believed to or known to occur within the state.

2. Few state ESA laws require consultation with expert state agencies. 38 states (76%) do not require intra-state agency consultation with the state?s expert wildlife agencies for state-level projects.

3. Most state ESA laws allow less citizen involvement than the federal ESA.? 30 states (60%) do not allow citizens to petition to initiate the process for the listing and delisting of a species. Only 14 states (28%) allow citizens to petition to initiate the process to list or delist a species.

4. Few state ESA laws protect against harm to important habitat or harm to species located on private lands.? Only 5 states (10%) consider the modification of habitat for a threatened or endangered species to be a form of prohibited take.? Only 16 states (32%) impose restrictions on private land use for the protection of species. Yet, nearly 80% of endangered species have relied on private land for all or some of their habitat.

5. Virtually no states require plans to recover species for eventual delisting. Only 2 states (4%) provide agencies with full recovery planning authority to help recover both endangered animals and plants.

Take the Indiana bat, for example. In 2016, the Division of Forestry admitted that its timber sales in Indiana state forests might inadvertently kill the endangered Indiana Bat, so they requested an ?Incidental Take? Permit. The Endangered Species Act allows this incidental take in exchange for conservation measures, based on an approved Environmental Impact Statement and Habitat Conservation Plan. This provides an opportunity to minimize and mitigate incidental take by monitoring to determine more precisely where Indiana Bat colonies are roosting and foraging so that timber harvest in those areas can be avoided.

Without the ESA, the Division of Forestry could log without regard for the well-being of the bat.

Call or write Senators Todd Young and Joe Donnelly. Ask them to oppose any proposals that weaken the Endangered Species Act. Do it for Indiana’s native animals.

 

“The Gradual Destruction of Indiana’s Longest Footpath”: A Knobstone Trail Hiker Speaks Out

When the Indiana Division of Forestry announces a plan to log a state forest, we the people get 30 days to comment. New plans to log Jackson-Washington State Forest include re-routing the Knobstone Trail — raising the ire of hikers! Why would our own state government disregard the value of our greatest eco-tourist asset, enjoyed by so many? It’s imperative that we comment to the Division of Forestry, as hiker Laura Pence has, below.?Will you speak out in your own voice? Here’s how. The deadline is midnight, Monday, August 6.

“I’m a Knobstone Trail thru-hiker with a great passion for Hoosier forests, and I have some concerns/questions about the plan to harvest timber in the Jackson-Washington State Forest.

In April, I backpacked the entire Knobstone (a.k.a. the “KT”) with friends and we’re planning to go back again in the fall.

Laura and her friend Nicholas on the KT, spring 2018.

This spring there were already multiple areas that appeared devastated by logging and a large swath of damage from a tornado in 2012. Tangles of briers and weeds, not new trees, filled in the areas I hiked through. All of these areas will take many decades to recover. What does the DNR do to restore the ecosystem and encourage the proper types of plants to grow in these damaged areas?

Tornado damage is a natural disturbance; the artificial disturbance of logging is not needed. Photo by Todd Stewart.

It saddens me to think of the forest in the Jackson-Washington State Forest?leg of the KT being logged before much healing has had a chance to happen in the woods along the trail. Not only does the harvest leave ugly scars on the landscape, it is very difficult to navigate in areas without trees.? We nearly got lost in the spring because there was nothing to paint a blaze on for half a mile in one of the heavily logged areas.

Is it really even economically necessary to harvest timber in the Jackson-Washington Forest right now? How is the value of that wood determined? My understanding from the Indiana Forest Alliance is that the state is selling?timber even when market prices are low, and the prices fetched — no matter what the quality of the wood — are lower than the lowest quality private timber prices 95% of the time.

I understand the value of timber as a natural resource for the state, but I also worry about the impact on our environment, erosion in such a hilly area, and the gradual destruction of Indiana’s longest footpath, the Knobstone Trail.

I love this area and want to protect it for my son, a budding trail runner and backpacker.

Laura’s son Gavin’s very first backpacking trip in the Deam Wilderness, 2013. Photo by Laura Pence.

We only just lost access to one our favorite trail in Yellowwood State Forest due to timber harvest. It seems so much is being taken. Will our children have the same opportunity to escape to wooded wilderness areas that we do?

I hope the DNR is fulfilling the role as long-time conservators and guardians of our beautiful state.”

–Laura Pence (no relation to Mike), Bloomington

Staff Changes at Indiana Forest Alliance

There are two new faces and in the IFA office and two transitions, as well.

In January, we welcomed Nick Joseph?(upper left) as a community organizer and phone canvasser. Don?t be surprised to get a call from Nick, inviting you to call your legislator or to renew your IFA membership. Nick came to Indiana from Pittsburgh last November bringing his experience as a water rights activist to assist with Yellowwood advocacy. Nick says: ?After staffing the Yellowwood resistance camp, I wanted to do more to help save Indiana’s beautiful wilderness.?

Lora Bowman (upper right)?joined the IFA staff in April as Bookkeeper/Office Manager. ?As an avid hiker, protecting Indiana?s native forests for future generations means a great deal to me,? says Lora. Her diverse experience includes accounting, client care, and team support, having worked for Meals on Wheels and Dillman Law Group.

In a staff reorganization, Sandra Messner (lower left)?is now serving as Development Director.?Sandy–familiar to IFA members as director of outreach for the last 2 and a half years–says: “I’m so excited to connect with current and new IFA donors to encourage their enthusiasm for Indiana’s forests and help leave a legacy for forest preservation in Indiana.” Reach out to Sandy to discuss a contribution to or sponsorship of?Indiana Forest Alliance.?

Paul Bryan left IFA in June after nearly three years raising funds for the forest cause and activating IFA members. IFA Executive Director Jeff Stant had worked with Paul in various capacities since the 1980?s and had this to say about Paul’s career: ?From saving wilderness in the Hoosier National Forest, to preserving the wild bends and wetlands of the North Branch of the Elkhart River, to establishing the non-game wildlife checkoff program in our state tax returns, Paul has been a powerful warrior for our cause for nearly two generations. ?He also raised substantive levels of support as IFA?s development director, was an anchor in the Crown Hill fight, reaching out effectively to neighbors of this woods, and organized opposition to the logging in Jackson-Washington State Forest. His shoes will be hard to fill.?

Authentic Public Input on Public Forest Planning

Last month, Wisconsin-based forester and forest ecologist Fred Clark visited Indiana to dialogue with legislators, DNR leadership, and IFA staff, at the invitation of Executive Director Jeff Stant. Fred brought a unique viewpoint. His 35-year career as a natural resources professional includes leading the Forest Steward?s Guild, a national organization dedicated to sustainable forest management. Fred also served three terms as a state representative in Wisconsin?s state legislature, sitting on governor-appointed forestry committees. And he runs Clark Forestry, Inc.?managing public and private forestland throughout Wisconsin, and offering timber management, custom logging, and reforestation services.

IFA is not categorically opposed to foresters or forest management. We simply believe that taxpayers should have a voice in how public forests are managed. And we?re inspired by Wisconsin?s public input process, described by Fred below. Let?s work with DNR to enact this in Indiana!

by Fred Clark

I enjoyed spending a few days last week learning about the Indiana Forest Alliance and about management of state forest lands in Indiana.? Along with Jeff Stant and IFA Conservation Director Rae Schnapp, we?ve met with legislators and with staff from the Division of Forestry. ?I certainly learned a lot!

As a forester, ecologist, and former legislator in Wisconsin, I?ve tried to offer another perspective on Indiana forest issues.? We expect our public forests to produce a variety of benefits for citizens, and forest managers must play a critical role in satisfying multiple uses while keeping forests healthy and resilient. As the impacts of climate change and invasive species increasingly affect our forests, that work becomes even more important and more challenging.

Fred Clark spoke at IFA’s 2016 Toast to the Trees event. Photo by Anne Laker.

There is a role for active forest management, including timber harvesting, on public forest lands.? Active forest management can include a wide range of activities and intensity, ranging from areas subject to clearcutting, to areas where no management occurs (passive management). It?s critically important, however, to work hard to balance timber management and other values by protecting sensitive and unique areas, and employing a range of management intensity in other areas.? Good forestry fits the activities to unique aspects of each site, instead of forcing the same activity on every acre.

In Wisconsin, management on our state forests is driven by comprehensive master plans that are developed for each forest following an extensive process of public input and collaboration with other resource experts.? The resulting plans create land use priorities for each forest and provide a picture of the goals and activities that will occur over time. While stakeholders may not get everything they wanted in a good master plan, most will support an outcome that results from a truly inclusive process. ?We have not had many controversies over forest management in Wisconsin for a long time, and I think our commitment to collaborative planning is part of the reason why.

Forest advocates have skeptical dialogue with DNR staff at a timber sale protest at Owen-Putnam State Forest in June, 2018. At present, Indiana’s DNR appears not to seriously consider public comment on individual forest tract logging plans — whereas Wisconsin has an extensive public comment process. Photo by Mary Bookwalter.

Our public forests are essential assets for recreation, wildlife, clean water, cool and clean air, carbon storage, and forest products. These benefits may not occur on every acre, but they can all occur on well-managed public forest lands. ?While there may be areas of specific disagreement, I believe that the staff of the Indiana DNR Division of Forestry work hard to balance many competing interests and maintain healthy, productive state forests.

As the Indiana Forest Alliance calls attention to the importance of protecting Indiana?s highest quality forests, there is much room for working together to achieve goals that we should all share to protect forests for future generations.

A Call to Action: Owen-Putnam State Forest

On June 11, IFA intern Anna Hopkins took her camera to Owen-Putnam State Forest to survey two soon-to-be-logged forest tracts with members of?Owen-Putnam Friends of the Forest (photos here). Nearly 2,000 trees, or 485,000 board feet of timber, will be sold at auction on Wednesday morning at 9 a.m., June 20, 2018. This is more than were sold at Yellowwood cut, and from a smaller acreage area. The Friends are peaceably assembling June 20 to take a stand for more conservative, more balanced approach to logging in this and all state forests. CONTACT them to learn more and take part.?

by Anna Hopkins

Standing in the middle of the Owen-Putnam State Forest, you feel you have walked into a fairy tale. The sun streams through the towering forest canopy, washing the saplings and plants below in golden haze. The earthy breeze carries the sound of rushing waters and bird call. This gem of an Indiana state forest could almost be mistaken for paradise. Almost.

Upon closer inspection you can see that many of the most majestic trees have been marked with yellow spray paint, either single dots or thin rings all the way around the trunks. These doomed trees are next to seeps, along the road, on the inclines above Fish Creek, or directly next to historic heritage sites, the remnants of historic cabins. We even saw a marked tree right behind a wooden sign that read ?NO MOTOR VEHICLES BEYOND THIS POINT.? Logging trucks will be the exception.

 

This ash tree appears to be resisting the ash borer, but it still marked to be cut.

It?s alarming to me to consider the amount of damage that could result from this logging plan. We saw two ash trees marked for cutting that appeared to show no signs of emerald ash borer infestation. How are we supposed to stop the ash borer if we are cutting trees that seem to be evading the insect or could even be resistant to it?

Many of the other trees that were marked had only the ?problem? of competing with the more monetarily valuable trees around them. From what I observed, the DNR believes it is better to create an optimal environment for a single oak by cutting down the surrounding trees rather than to let natural disturbances occur, thereby nurturing a diverse crop of hardwoods. Just one look across Fish Creek where logging in past years has taken place proves this point–we could count on one hand the number of trees besides oaks that were left growing.

If the sheer amount of trees being cut isn?t enough to alarm you (?an estimated 285,922 board feet of timber? in Compartment 5 Tract 6 and ?199,204 board feet of timber? in Compartment 8 Tract 7 according to DNR’s advertisement in the local paper), then consider the ripple effects of the logging. We hiked the path that the skidders will use to haul out the trees and noticed it was full of saplings, native plants (the Cardinal flower, the Paw Paw tree, and the Christmas fern) and also extremely close to creeks and seeps. All these plants and saplings will be wiped out and the creeks will be burdened with increased silt and erosion.

Once the skidders exit the deeper parts of the tract, they will emerge onto a gravel road where the timber will be loaded onto trucks. Emerging onto these gravel paths from the depths of the forest was breathtaking. Flanked on both sides by towering trees illuminated in the hazy afternoon light, it felt like I was walking into a computer screensaver. I imagine the place will be unrecognizable after trucks loaded with 80,000 pounds of timber create deep ruts on the path, disturbing the surrounding trees with their oversized load.

Just one visit to Owen-Putnam State Forest was enough to make me incredibly angry at the claim that cutting these trees will create a healthier forest. Will it lead to a quick profit? Yes, despite the timber selling for less than it does on private land. Will it lead to a more profitable forest in the future? Maybe.

Will it lead to a better environment for Indiana forest-goers and the flora and fauna that already inhabit this deep forest? Absolutely not.

Standing dead trees are part of an already-healthy forest ecosystem. Photo by Anna Hopkins, taken June 11, 2018 in Owen-Putnam State Forest.

The Farm Bill Is Back. Let’s Thank Sen. Donnelly For Keeping Logging Out of It.

Remember how the U.S. House of Representatives tried to stuff the Farm Bill with attacks on the Endangered Species Act, the Roadless Rule, and other existing laws that conserve our shared natural resources such as our own Hoosier National Forest?

Well, now the Senate Agricultural Committee is reviewing the Farm Bill’s Forestry?Title — which is supposed to be about conservation. Now is the time to thank Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly in advance for helping to craft a bipartisan bill that will “keep the bill clean” and resist any amendments that?cater to special interests — such as the logging industry.

The Wilderness Society is a national organization keeping watch on these issues. They shared the current draft of the Farm Bill, and issued this request to all forest advocates:

CONTACT Senator Joe Donnelly. He sits on the Senate Ag Committee:?(317) 231-7108 /?info@joeforindiana.com.

If you say one thing: I support the Senate?s effort to produce a bipartisan farm bill by including a federal forestry title focused on conservation, collaboration, and other bipartisan policies, not on reckless environmental rollbacks intended to promote logging on our national forests above all else.

If you say two things: Senators should reject any amendments to the farm bill that eliminate environmental review of national forest management projects, cut out public participation, force arbitration on forest management projects, or attack conservation and species protections, such as the Roadless Rule, Endangered Species Act, or National Environmental Policy Act.

Unless we ask the Senate Agricultural Committee to “keep the Farm Bill clean,” the Hoosier National Forest (pictured) could be opened up to rampant logging.

More Talking Points:

  • The House and Senate farm bills offer wildly different visions for the future of our National Forests.
  • The Senate farm bill renews important Forest Service programs, such as the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP) and promotes the public?s use of our national forests.
  • The Senate bill preserves the Roadless Rule, which protects water, wildlife, and popular recreation destinations on our national forests from harmful logging and road building.
  • The Senate bill expands the National Wilderness Preservation System by designating more than 25,000 acres of public lands in Tennessee and Virginia as wilderness.
  • The Senate Farm bill allows the Forest Service to get to work with the public in protecting the clean water, soil, wildlife habitat, recreational, and natural values of our national forests.
  • In contrast, the House bill includes fringe, partisan attacks on environmental protections, public input on projects, and endangered species while prioritizing logging over clean water, recreation, and wildlife.
  • For years the Congressional debate over forest management has been framed by the need to address hazardous fuels and wildfire. The recently enacted fire funding fix is an opportunity for the Forest Service to use their existing tools to work with the public and address the needs of our national forests.
  • Congress should stop trying to legislate logging projects and allow the Forest Service to use the many tools it has at its disposal to keep our communities safe from wildfire and protect the priceless values that our national forests provide.
  • Keep public lands in public hands! All Americans deserve a chance to have a say in how national forest lands are managed, not just the timber industry.

What’t the timing of this legislation??We expect the bill to move to the Senate floor shortly after markup and prior to the July 4 recess.

We will succeed or fail in defending our forests from attacks via the Farm Bill based on whether we can persuade the Democrats on the Senate Ag Committee to resist suspect amendments. Let’s give Donnelly the support he needs!

Our friends at the Hoosier Environmental Council could use extra help spreading the word about this issue. Can you help? If so, please contact HEC’s Wilderness Protection Campaign Coordinator, Marianne Holland, at?mholland@hecweb.org?or (317) 981-3210.

A Future for our Neighborhood Forests

By Jerome Delbridge, IFA Urban Forest Preservation Director

Jerome Delbridge, Urban Forest Preservation Director, presents Forests For Indy at the Launch Event May 21

Monday May 21, under an old chinquapin oak, forest advocates gathered to learn about Indiana Forest Alliance?s newest program, Forests for Indy. As described in this front page IndyStar article, Forests for Indy is an initiative to identify the most valuable forests in Indianapolis and create a comprehensive plan for protection of each of them — so Indianapolis can be guaranteed a forested future.

Urban forests are immensely valuable for conservation of our natural heritage and they have the power to improve the health of neighbors who live near them. These forests clean the air, cool the surrounding neighborhood, offer places to play and reduce life?s stress. They provide a refuge for migrating birds and a place in a city for nature to thrive.

Forests for Indy was born out of the successful struggle to save Crown Hill North Woods. We discovered other forests in Indianapolis worthy of protection, including Haverstick Woods on the northeast side. To maintain forested areas in our city for future generations, we must actively seek to protect this land from development.

The first phase of the program is to identify valuable forests that are not currently protected. Combining datasets and high-resolution imagery as well as neighborhood input, we will be mapping forests throughout Marion County. These forests will be prioritized based on their size, quality and benefits both ecologically and to the neighbors who live nearby.

Next, a comprehensive conservation plan will be written for each of the the top forests identified. A unique strategy for protection will be laid out as well as policy recommendations that will support a city that supports healthy and resilient forests.

Take a walk in a forest near you and take a moment to be immersed in the vibrancy of life all around you. Invite a neighbor or friend to join you and be aware of the complexity of the forest from the forest floor to the canopy. These places are sacred and?need protected for future residents.

Take a stand for our neighborhood forests?and make a contribution: the more resources we have, the more forests we can save. Give by July 1?via our GoFundMe campaign to match an initial donation from the Dr. Laura Hare Charitable Trust. The more funding, the more forests we can protect.