Crown Hill North Woods: Saved Today, Preserved Tomorrow?

by Anne Laker, IFA Director of Communications 

It’s the outcome we have all been working for since last August. We are thrilled. On May 5, we learned that the amazing old growth forest at Crown Hill North Woods will not be razed for the VA’s columbaria project. The new site is just to the east — the obvious choice for the memorial all along. This choice honors veterans by preserving our natural heritage, and it allows the project to remain in Crown Hill, a national cemetery. We are grateful to [click here to thank them directly]:

  • Secretary David Shulkin and Ronald Walters of the Veterans Administration in Washington DC for hearing the concerns of Indianapolis citizens
  • Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett for speaking out in favor of the value of the forest to our community
  • Sen. Joe Donnelly and Representative André Carson for their leadership negotiating a solution behind the scenes
  • The Dr. Laura Hare Charitable Trust for offering the financial resources to enable a swap that would permanent protect the woods. 
  • The individual veterans who worked on this campaign throughout — educating their fellow veterans and making it known that a forest should not be destroyed in their name.

Hundreds marched to save the forest, 9/25/16. Photo by Daniel Axler.

IFA Director Jeff Stant in front of one the “saved” bur oaks. Photo by Anne Laker.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This positive outcome was also made possible by the hundreds of citizens — veterans, Crown Hill neighborhood residents, school kids — who picked up the phone, marched, picketed, wrote letters, and made signs — all speaking passionately about the good that forests do for our health, our air, and our quality of life. And how a forest like this can best honor our servicemen and women when left standing. Our message was heard!

We also thank the attorneys, biologists, and members of the media who sounded off about the Crown Hill North Woods.

The short-term preservation of Crown Hill Woods is also due to the collaboration of organizations including Mary Ellen Gadski of the Amos Butler Audubon Society, Lori Adelson of the Heartlands Sierra Club, Jesse Kharbanda of the Hoosier Environmental Council, John Gibson of Earth Charter Indiana, Clarke Kahlo and Angela Hermann of the the Alliance of Crown Hill Neighbors, Carleen Carter of the Crown Hill Neighborhood Association, and Zach Adamson of the Indianapolis City-County Council. 

The Crown Hill Woods Steering Committee is also to be thanked (they know who they are). This group met twice monthly, sacrificing a lot of personal time on behalf of the woods and plotting the course every step of the way, even when it seemed all was lost.

Now that the Woods are once again owned by Crown Hill Cemetery, the Indiana Forest Alliance and all our allies intend to work with Crown Hill and the Hare Trust to enable this forest to be permanently preserved. As we celebrate the announcement that it is out of immediate danger, the forest is not yet assuredly preserved for the future.

We will not rest until the forest is preserved for posterity. And IFA continues our work preserving public forests across this state. Join us!

New location of the veterans memorial: east of the North Woods. Photo by Anne Laker.

“Moving the Product Quicker?”: In Defense of Owen-Putnam State Forest

In March, the Spencer Evening World (the newspaper of record in Owen County) published a front page article in which the Owen-Putnam State Forest property manager was quoted extensively. “In our society, there is such a demand for the product that we have, we to move the product quicker,” he said. This Division of Forestry employee goes on to discuss at length how state forests operate essentially as timber farms.  The article is not available online, but can be read here: (page 1, page 2). Two frequent users of the forest (both IFA members) wrote letters to the editor in response, the first of them published April 29, the other awaiting publication.

Dear Editor:

I was quite unhappy to read the one-sided article on logging practices written in the Spencer Evening World on March 28, 2017.

It was blatantly pro-logging.  Although I do love our forest, I do not consider myself a “treehugger.”  I am fully aware that the responsible logging of trees is necessary, but many  of us believe that there are other ways to collect revenue so as to reduce the amount of timber that needs to be cut.  We have offered solutions, which to this point, have gone unanswered or ignored.

I am writing from the perspective of a trail rider, a hiker, and a mushroom hunter, but because of timbering, there are deep ruts along the trails which fill with water each time it rains.

Logging has left deep ruts in Owen Putnam State Forest

Large rocks are put on trails to transfer the logging equipment and are extremely dangerous not only to horse’s hooves, but also to runners.  Forest Resource specialist, Rob Duncan, is quoted as saying, “Once the harvest is done, they (logging companies) have to go back in and fill in any ruts, seed and straw areas that are prone to more erosion.” To my knowledge, this has not been done.  Also, when large areas are timbered, the canopy disappears.  This encourages the growth of invasive species such as multiflora roses and brambles, which in turn discourage hiking, mushrooming and riding.

I understand the need to raise money to pay for maintenance of our forests and parks.  What I am asking for is that the DNR compromise and work with alternative money-raising suggestions in order to make our land use the best it can be.

Joan Staubach
Poland, Indiana

Dear Editor,

I was stumped as to who really wrote “Timbering in Owen Putnam Underway” on 28 March, reporter Michael Stanley or Property Manager Bill Gallogly. It was an excellent account of the activities and oversight now required by the Division of Forestry.

Lacking however was any query about balance in the management of our only public lands which permit Hoosiers to roam and enjoy the bit of wild nature that is our heritage.

95% of Indiana’s forests are private property. Far less than 5% is available for hiking, camping off trail, mountain biking, hunting and more for 6.6 million Hoosiers.

Since the abolition of that infinitesimal mil tax in the Daniels Administration (so that the governor could crow about “cutting taxes”), the Division of Forestry began cutting personnel, programs, and 600% more trees per year. All to stay in business. The vast majority of personnel left in the DOF are foresters. This forest industry expertise is excellent in a private company, but as for stewardship of public lands, it would appear to be skewed to timber management. Property manager Gallogly’s statement “There is such a demand for the product we have to move the product quicker” is a statement I find remarkable for a very decent public employee like Bill Gallogly to be forced to make.

Is it really so necessary to sell timber to the Chinese that we can’t enjoy our own forests that the state legislature set aside for us 100 years ago?

Private landowners should be able to meet that demand and if DOF charged the fair market price for our state forest timber instead of losing money for us, perhaps we would not have to log so heavily. Under-utilized or unenforced income sources like camping fees, small annual or day hiker fees, and horse bridle and mountain bike tags exist. Or, if you don’t like paying fees, we should reinstate the miniscule mill tax which robustly supported a once-excellent Division of Forestry.

The scenery, the enjoyment, the family experience of nature to be found, that the DNR state forest brochures advertise, ought to be true.

The truth of usage would be as appealing as the DNR brochures that advertise our natural beauty, campgrounds and fishing.

Mary Bookwalter
Freedom, Indiana

The Ecoblitz: A Lichenologist’s View

By James Lendemer, Ph.D.

Lichens are a diverse and important fungi that occur on soil, rocks and trees worldwide, including throughout Indiana. Although they can survive in harsh conditions in the driest deserts and highest mountains, lichens are also often very sensitive to changes in the environment. Habitat loss, deforestation, and pollution have already greatly impacted many lichen species in the United States, such that it is now more important than ever to understand where individual species occur and how rare they are.

Dr. James Lendemer (right) in Yellowwood State Forest with IFA staff scientists Leslie Bishop & Rae Schnapp. (photo by Samantha Buran)

This spring I came from New York Botanical Garden to Indiana to study the lichens of the Indiana Forest Alliance’s Ecoblitz area in Morgan-Monroe and Yellowwood State Forests. I spent a week searching the ridges and ravines surrounding the East Fork of Honey Creek, and located more than one hundred species, including several that have never previously been found in the state. While some species were common in the Ecoblitz area, others were rare and found on only a single individual tree or at a single location. My inventory is one of the first to be carried out in the state during the last twenty years, and highlights another dimension of the unique native species found in Indiana’s forests.

 

A rare lichen species, collema subflaccidum, found in the BCA of Morgan-Monroe/Yellowwood State Forest. (photo by James Lendemer, Ph.D.)

 

A Check By a Branch of Government on Agency Misfeasance, Finally

By: Clarke Kahlo, Alliance of Crown Hill Neighbors

On March 10th, two of Indiana’s Congressional representatives wrote a letter to the VA which was highly critical of the VA’s failure to sufficiently consult the community as it willfully pushes its unnecessarily destructive cemetery plan toward construction. Congressman Carson and Senator Donnelly lambasted the agency, expressing their “profound disappointment” for its poor outreach which has cause great tumult in the community.

Clarke Kahlo at the March 16 Rally for the Crown Hill North Forest

It’s refreshing to see legislators who are willing to apply critical oversight on a bureaucracy run amok.  Too often, lawmakers merely defer to the executive branch, and the administrative agencies which it controls, even when the excesses or failures are egregious or even malfeasant.

And too often, the courts defer to agencies under the legal doctrine of presumption of administrative expertise. In their wide discretion, judges conveniently say that they are loathe to substitute their judgement for that of the officials who are presumed to be expert. Or unless an elusive “clear error” is found.

The Carson/Donnelly rebuke of the VA stands in stark contrast to the willful and irrational position of City-County Councilor Joe Simpson who has adamantly declined to support the community— even though the nearby neighborhoods have voiced their strong opposition to the VA plan.  When pressed for an explanation, Simpson defiantly declares only that “I’m a Veteran!” as if that is a pertinent or satisfactory explanation for his repudiation of the positions of several neighborhood organizations in his district and his support of a remarkably and unnecessarily destructive VA plan.

Many local veterans are strongly opposed to the VA’s plan and are actively engaged in the battle against it.  Some have recently participated in civil disobedience.  Simpson’s opposition based only upon his military service background reminds of Samuel Johnson’s 1775 observation that “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel”.  (Johnson was not indicting patriotism in general, only false patriotism). Perhaps, in the future, the true reason for Councilor Simpson’s blind obeisance to the VA and Crown Hill will become known.

The Carson/Donnelly letter only mentions failure of outreach and does not specifically cite the VA’s failure to consider site alternatives— although this glaring failure is likely implied in their exhortations about community involvement.

The Alliance of Crown Hill Neighbors appreciates the efforts of Congressman Carson and Senator Donnelly to right the VA’s wrongs.


Clarke Kahlo is an Indianapolis resident and green space advocate. Kahlo was an integral part of the Alliance of Crown Hill Neighbors, who formally formed in 2005 to protest the destruction of the Crown Hill North Woods when a developer attempted to fell them for retail an condominium space. The Alliance of Crown Hill Neighbors was eventually successful in 2007 when the Indianapolis Metropolitan Development Commission prevailed and denied the proper zoning allotments for said development. 

The head of the National Cemetery Administration has stated that he promises to give alternative sites for their veterans columbaria “a good hard look” in a statement dated March 22, 2017. Please contact the VA and urge them to do the right thing by relocating their project to a site that more appropriately honors our veterans. A site that does not destroy the very natural heritage which they, our veterans, have served to protect. 

David Shulkin, U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs

(202) 461-4800

david.shulkin@va.gov

The Crown Hill North Woods: An Ecological Jewel

By: Rebecca Dolan, Ph.D. 

 

Dr. Dolan during a tree/ floral inventory of the Crown Hill North Woods on Oct. 30, 2016.

A wonderful remnant of Eastern Deciduous forest has been secured on the grounds of Crown Hill Cemetery for 150 years. The woods on the northern edge of the cemetery, between Michigan Road and Clarendon, are a sanctuary for plants and wildlife that sustained our pioneers and were characteristic of early Marion County. Just as the inscriptions on the grave markers are a reminder of, and tribute to, our forbearers, the woods are a legacy of the past, linking generations. Woods of this size and quality are not found in many places in central Indiana.

These woods are special. Most of our parks with natural areas in Marion County are along rivers, creeks and streams, places like Holliday Park, Marott Park, and parts of Eagle Creek Park. The relatively steep topography of these sites prevented their being cleared for agriculture. The Crown Hill woods are close to White River, but far enough away to be out of the floodplain and flat. This terrain hosts flatwoods with shallow depressions called spring ponds that hold several inches of water in the spring. Because of the spring ponding, flatwoods were the last areas to be developed or farmed by settlers. Now these special places are some of the last truly natural areas in the central Indiana. The presence of spring ponds adds habitat diversity to the Crown Hill woods. At least 47 species of trees grow here. Impressively, the interior of the woods is largely free of invasive, non-native pest plants that are a scourge in many urban natural areas.

Forests like the woods at Crown Hill can be divided into three layers based on height above the ground. The upper layer, closest to the heavens, is the canopy. Just like with a canopy bed, this is the layer over your head. Very large and old trees hold their leaves up to the sun. Among the largest and oldest are burr oaks. Some in the woods measure over fifteen feet around and are likely several hundred years old. Although the woods at Crown Hill are isolated from other woods with burr oaks, the trees are able to communicate across the landscape via their pollen. The pollen of oaks travels on the wind and is able to cross fairly large spaces. Trees at Crown Hill preserve the gene pool of early Indiana and so connect the past with the present. Ashes, tulip poplars, sycamores, hickories, cottonwoods, silver and sugar maple also thrive at Crown Hill. At least two dozen trees are over three feet in diameter.

The canopy is home to tree nesting fox and gray squirrels. Raccoons and opossums hang out in its branches. Pileated woodpeckers, large birds up to two feet in length with calls sounding like Woody- -The-Woodpecker, fly through the tree-tops like parrots through the rainforest. Both woodpeckers and squirrels nest in hollow parts of mature, often dead, old trees in forest habitat. Squirrels also build leaf nests to protect their young and to keep warm in winter. Squirrels usually have two litters of three or four young, one in late winter or early spring and the other in early summer. Young squirrels nurse for around five weeks before venturing to find their own food. They continue to remain close to mom for five or so months, before breaking from the family group. Pileated woodpeckers need large tracks of mixed hardwoods.   Parents work together to excavate new nest holes each year, at an average height of 45 feet off the ground. They lay one brood of three or four eggs. No special nest material is brought in. Eggs are laid in the hole and incubated by both sexes.

The Crown Hill North Woods

The middle layer of the forest is a shrub-layer. In Indiana, we don’t have a large diversity of shrubs in our flatwood forests, but the plants that are here are important food for wildlife. Pawpaw and spicebush are plentiful. Both are host plants for large elaborate butterflies, zebra and spicebush swallowtails, that lay their eggs only on these bushes. Spicebush berries are high in fats and nutrients needed for migration of neotropical birds stopping over to rest on their semi-annual flights from North America to Central and South America. Redstarts, ovenbirds, wood thrushes, red-eyed vireos, and scarlet tanagers are just a few of the globally rare birds that stop in the Crown Hill Woods. The woods are large enough to support a population of deer that can often be seen feeding at dawn and dusk in the field outside the woods at 42nd and Clarendon. Only a small population can be sustained by the resources available here.

The layer of forest closest to the earth is the herb-layer: non-woody plants. The woods are alive in the spring with wildflowers and their pollinators. These spring ephemerals leaf out and bloom at the same time as our garden crocuses and tulips. They grow from underground bulbs that store energy between growing seasons. Flowering is done quickly, before the trees leaf out and while sunlight can still get to the forest floor. Familiar plants like trout lilies, May apple and Jack-in-the-pulpit abound. Almost forty species have been seen. One of the most striking in terms of numbers is spring-beauty, a diminutive early bloomer with light pink flowers lined with dark pink veins. The plant is also known as fairy spuds. Fore-lore has it the underground storage organs of these plants are edible and were eaten by Native Americans. The tubers are only the size of a little fingernail, hence the name. It would take quite a few plants to make a meal.

Many of these woodland spring wildflowers are pollinated by specialist insects that only visit a single species of plant. Decline, or worse yet, loss of these plants, results in
a cascading loss of biodiversity. Many have also co-evolved with animal dispersers that carry seeds away and help the species spread. Tiny fat bodies, a high quality food source for ants, are often produced by spring wildflowers, attached to seeds. The ants are attracted to the fat bodies like ant candy and carry the attached seeds back to their nests. Once there, the ants eat the fat bodies, but not the seeds. The seed are left in a nice, fertile place to germinate and grow.

The forest floor is also home to land-dwelling animals. When winter snowmelt and spring rains are caught in the clay soils of ephemeral ponds, salamanders and other amphibians lay their eggs. Salamanders lay clutches of 300-800 eggs attached to the undersides of leaves and sticks by gelatinous film. If the pond dries up too soon, the eggs will die. If all goes well, many hundred tadpoles from a clutch will complete metamorphosis to develop into land-dwelling adults.

Beneath the forest floor, roots of trees absorb rain and help keep soils porous. Forest blocks help retain rainwater on site, reducing flow into our overburdened combined sewer system. Mature trees filter harmful chemicals and particles from the air, remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as photosynthesis converts this gas into living plant material, and cool surrounding areas. All of the asphalt and concrete in built-up urban environments tends to trap the sun’s heat. Trees provide respite from this heat island effect. These are just some of the ecological services provided by the Crown Hill Woods that benefit all citizens of Indianapolis. This impressive wooded remnant of the past is serving our present and improving our future.


The preceding was the text of the chapter Oak Tree Communication and Fairy Spuds – The North Woods at Crown Hill Cemetery from a coffee table book titled Crown Hill: History, Spirit, Sanctuary

Dr. Rebecca Dolan earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and a PhD from the University of Georgia, both in Botany.  For almost 25 years Dr. Dolan has been the Director of the Friesner Herbarium of Butler University where she is building a digital collection of our 45,000 Indiana specimens.  Dolan has also done research on plant demography, taxonomy, conservation and restoration ecology in Carolina Bays in South Carolina, serpentine rock outcrops in California, Florida scrub and Midwestern prairies.  She recently has started exploring urban flora in Indianapolis and is a past-president of the Indiana Native Plant and Wildflower Society (INPAWS).  Dolan has authored 25 scientific papers and am a frequent contributor to the INPAWS Journal.

Dolan was part of the group of concerned Indianapolis citizens who fought to protect the Crown Hill North Woods from development in 2006, formally known as Alliance of Crown Hill Neighbors. The Crown Hill North Woods are, yet again, facing an imminent risk. They are slated to be cleared to build a veterans columbaria. A noble project, but in the wrong location. Please contact David Shulkin (U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs) and Glenn Powers (Deputy Undersecretary for Field Programs) and request that they heed Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett’s request and find a suitable alternative site that more appropriate honors our veterans, our children, and our natural heritage. 

 

David Shulkin: (202) 461-4800 | david.shulkin@va.gov

Glenn Powers: (202) 461-5723 | glenn.powers@va.gov

 

 

The Virgin Forest Project: Nature Meets Technology

Virgin forests are rare as bears in Indiana today. As IFA and our supporters strive to protect the old growth that remains on public lands, we are grateful for efforts of philanthropists, land trusts, and the Dept. of Natural Resources which preserve our oldest Hoosier forests for public enjoyment. Read on to learn about a film artist’s journey into these forests of surreal beauty (high-definition video exhibition on view in Indianapolis through March 25). And join IFA in advocating for trees to live their full, natural life spans.

by C. Thomas Lewis

In 2015, I received a Creative Renewal Fellowship from the Arts Council of Indianapolis. My proposal was to visit and film in the virgin forests of Indiana that are under state control. There are only three such forests: Wesselman Nature Preserve in Evansville, Donaldson’s Woods in Mitchell, and Meltzer Woods in Liberty, Indiana, near Shelbyville. [The fourth virgin forest in the state is Pioneer Mothers, but it is in Hoosier National Forest and cooperation was not forthcoming].

Wesselman Woods, spring 2016. Image by C. Thomas Lewis

Having moved to Indiana in 2009 from Idaho, I think I found myself less than inspired to head out of Indianapolis in search of nature. The mountains I was so accustomed to in Idaho, which lured me out of the city and into the wild, are obviously missing from the view of my fourth-floor window on the campus of IUPUI. My Creative Renewal proposal was designed to get me out of town, into the woods, and to help me discover the natural beauty Indiana has to offer.

My project involved visiting the three forests during each season of the year and shooting extended video footage. More precisely, I shot twelve six-minute motion-controlled shots on each visit. Shooting twelve shots in a single day entails the lugging of a lot of heavy gear in search of angles on the forest that reveal visually interesting perspectives. As hard as the former is, the latter is even harder. The challenge in finding vantage points in the forests that reveal aspects of a complex ecosystem involved training my vision to search for perspectives that were rich and layered and for details that are often overlooked. It also required me to not just focus on excellent specimens of big trees but to also consider the full life cycle of the trees and plants.

Well-composed perspectives can be hard to find when the forest is dense with green in the summer and just as hard to come by in the winter when so much is simply gone. But my sustained and intentional looking opened up the forests to me and gave me a more rewarding appreciation than I would have had from simply walking through. In the process, I truly fell in love with these remarkable forests and was able to discover stunning natural beauty in Indiana that will keep luring me back.

C. Thomas Lewis’ The Virgin Forest Project is on view at Herron School of Art + Design‘s Marsh Gallery (in Indianapolis) through Saturday, March 25.

Filmmaker and video artist C. Thomas Lewis

 

 

 

Indiana’s Forests: For The People

By: Jeff Stant, IFA Executive Director 

I am Jeff Stant, Executive Director of the Indiana Forest Alliance. I thank you for holding this Hearing Senator Glick and listening to our testimony, members of the Senate Natural Resources Committee.

The objective of Senate Bill 420, to set aside 10 percent of each state forest, will ensure that: 1) Future generations of Hoosiers will continue to be able to enjoy the majestic old forests that have returned to our state forests; 2) habitat needed by many declining native forest dependent species is maintained in our state; and 3) we will understand what our state forests are doing naturally and what impacts are due to silviculture versus natural forest disturbances or other impacts in state forests.

Jeff Stant, IFA Executive Director

One of the basic concerns voiced about SB 420 is whether it is prudent for the legislature to be telling the Division of Forestry’s trained foresters how to manage our state forests. We submit that SB 420 is not telling our foresters how to practice silviculture or stopping logging in our state forests at all. Rather, the legislature established our state forests originally for the public benefit of all and therefore has a legitimate role to play in establishing the objectives that state forests should serve. Indiana has changed dramatically since state forests were first established in 1903. As our population has grown by more than several times and open spaces have diminished, the demand for outdoor recreational opportunities has increased greatly. Just as it wrote in that enabling legislation that occasionally some thinnings and timbering from the state forests would be appropriate to produce wood for local markets, it is equally legitimate and needed today for the legislature to prescribe that some areas of the state forests be set aside from commercial logging to provide for public purposes such as wilderness camping, long-distance hiking, horseback riding and backpacking in wild nature that only the state forests provide among public lands managed by the DNR.

The attached handout shows that other eastern states have been setting aside large acreages of their state forests from logging in natural areas, wild areas, wilderness areas, ecological reference forests and control areas for many years. These set asides have been undertaken with the authority of the executive branch and through laws passed by legislatures. For example, Pennsylvania’s legislature enacted a law in 1996 (now 17 PA Code §27) that established the systems of Natural Areas and Wild Areas in its state forests and prescribed the management objectives for these areas. Maryland enacted a law that created Wildlands within its state forests in 1972. Ohio also enacted a law that year that established the Shawnee Wilderness Area in the Shawnee State Forest.

In fact, as of 2002, Indiana had set aside 40% of the state forests, some 60,000 acres, from logging, “because of special considerations including: unique natural conditions such as dedicated Nature Preserves (1,784 acres) and Old Forest Areas (5706 acres); severe topography; other environmentally sensitive areas and wildlife needs.(These words are from a Feb. 1, 2002 letter from DNR Director John Goss to IFA). In the 1990s the DOF established “Old Forest Areas” in Indiana’s state forests.   In a written Policy provided to IFA, the DOF states:

Old growth forest is a very limited habitat type in Indiana (approximately 1,500 acres) and state forests, because of their size and ownership stability, provide an opportunity to develop this habitat. Besides increasing the diversity of habitats on state forests, old forest areas will serve as control areas to compare long term undisturbed forest with disturbed forest. Another major function of old forest areas will be to provide an undisturbed area for forest interior dwelling species and to prevent the introduction of exotic species. These areas will also be important for nondestructive ecological research areas.

This Policy laid out the management guidelines that prohibited timber stand improvement and timber production, game management, and new roads in Old Forest Areas and regeneration openings within 100 feet of Old Forest Boundaries .   The Policy designated some 51 tracts, many of them adjacent, comprising 5,741 acres, as Old Forests Areas in seven state forests.  This written Policy developed by the DOF under State Forester Fisher, was discarded without any written findings, policy discussion or rationale by the DOF under State Forester Siefert that the DOF can provide to IFA.

Similarly, the DOF under State Forester Datna, established three “Back Country Areas” (BCAs) in Clark State Forest in 1976 (2,000 acres), in Jackson-Washington State Forest in 1979 (2,544 acres), and in Morgan-Monroe, and Yellowwood State Forests in 1981. A July 30, 1981 press statement stated:

Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Director James M. Ridenour today (July 30) designated a 2,700 acre area in Morgan-Monroe and Yellowwood state forests as “Back Country,” opening up these additional lands for Hoosiers and out-of-state visitors looking for a primitive type experience in Indiana . . . Ridenour stated: “The State designation of ‘Back Country’ is similar to the Federal Wilderness Area designation, but we think our program more nearly fits the needs of Hoosiers. . . We’re extremely pleased to provide this new area for persons who enjoy the rugged, primitive areas remaining in Indiana . . . Work is underway to establish several more Back Country areas to meet the recreational needs of even more Hoosiers.”

While timber management was allowed in BCAs, the statement said it was to be “compatible with all other uses permitted,” and an article in the December, 1981 – January, 1982 Issue of Outdoor Indiana Magazine explained: “Timber harvesting in the Backcountry Area will be restricted to single-tree selection of mature, damaged or diseased trees on sites having slopes of less than 45°. Where possible, logging equipment will use existing fire trails for logging operations.” Clearly, as reinforced in an IDNR brochure about the Morgan Monroe BCA, the official intent for the management of these areas was to, “offer an experience of visiting a forested area looking much the same as it may have appeared a century and a half ago.” Unfortunately, the plethora of harvest plans and timber sales carried out in these BCAs since is visibly damaging their primitive character and marginalizing their old forest habitat value, particularly in the Jackson-Washington BCA. This despite the fact that the DOF has committed in audits to obtain a sustainable forestry certification since at least 2014 to manage 10 percent of the state forests including these three BCA’s in “an older forest condition”.

The DOF also committed to establish “Old Growth areas and associated 300 foot buffer zone” from the 2014 audit but has yet to delineate the locations of any such “Old Growth areas.”   Meanwhile, the DOF is conducting timber sales in the previously- designated Old Forest Areas with three in the past year alone. Under its current Strategic Plan, the DOF’s cutting cycle will log through the entire state forest system, which includes all acreage outside of the current 4.5% designated as nature preserves or developed recreation areas, within 20 years which is actually less than 15 years from today, given that the DOF achieved its current cutting rate more than 5 years ago.

Simply put, we are asking the Legislature, to establish an overall policy that would make the DOF set aside a reasonable amount of our state forests to return to the “old growth” condition pursuant to what the DOF’s sustainable forestry certification has asked for the past 5 years in Section 6.3.a.1 which states

The forest owner or manager maintains, enhances, and/or restores under-represented successional stages in the FMU (Forest Management Unit) that would naturally occur on the types of sites found on the FMU.   Where old growth of different community types that would naturally occur on the forest are under-represented in the landscape relative to natural conditions, a portion of the forest is managed to enhance and/or restore old growth characteristics.

We are asking you to establish this policy by enacting SB 420, the Old Forest Bill, to conserve these old forests that have returned to our state forests today for everyone’s continued enjoyment rather than leaving the next six generations of Hoosiers only with our memory of what these forests were like.

Thank you.


 

The preceding was testimony given by Indiana Forest Alliance Executive Director Jeff Stant to the Indiana Senate Natural Resources Committee during the hearing for Senate Bill 420 on Monday, February 13, 2017.

Please contact your state senator and ask them to support Senate Bill 420. 

An Aversion to Nature’s Nouns

By: Marion T. Jackson, Ph.D. 

Today, most humans seem to avoid emotional involvement with the people, places, and things of our life support system. We have become separated, by our own decisions and actions, from the wild creatures, the untamed haunts, the objects of nature that nurtured us as a species through the millennia of human evolution. Now, like ions shot from the sun, we flit between the opposing polarities of acquiring money, then expending it for instant gratification. No longer physically nor emotionally attached to a place, nor attuned to nature’s rhythms, and nature’s inhabitants, we drift in the twilight zone of an economic netherworld.

Detachment from our support base obviates any responsibility for its care. Stewardship requires emotional commitment, requires that we love what we steward. Increasingly we exercise control over the material world, without knowing what we are controlling, accelerating the exploitation of nature, thereby decreasing true stewardship.

Inside of Indiana’s state forests

The more we control the natural world, the less we able to express or receive true feelings of stewardship concerning Nature. Control breeds insensitivity to that which is controlled. Insensitivity fosters further separation from wildness and increased alienation from our environmental setting, along with wider divergence among human relationships. Greater separation requires greater control because being less knowledgeable of wildness, and less attuned to it, the new unknown thereby becomes ever more frightening, requiring greater insensitivity, more profound unknowing, resulting in our need to control. The feedback is positive and accelerating, now approaching the speed of light.

By no longer listening to, nor loving the land, nature’s spirit is being banished from the Earth, hence from ourselves. If Earth’s spirit now exists at all, it floats in the plasma of universe, separated from life, beyond our grasp, especially when needed most. The abiding faith in the nature which gave us our strength and a measure of peace, once obtained Antaeus-like from the earth surrounding us, from its cycles and its seasons from the wild places in which we once lived and moved, from fellow creatures that journeyed with us on our living voyage now no longer fills our lives, our minds, or our vocabularies. Not knowing or understanding what we once had, and have now largely lost, nature’s nouns, as part of our speech, have necessarily been lost in proportion to our control of the wild places and wild things that produced the names, justified them, and perpetuated them. By destroying what remains of Indiana’s old forests, we will also destroy what was once Indiana.

Thoreau was right. In wildness is the preservation of the World.


Dr. Jackson has studied Indiana’s forest ecosystem for his entire academic career. He earned his degree in Plant Ecology at Purdue University in 1964 under Dr. A. A. Lindsey, one of the world’s leading forest ecologists. He joined the faculty of the Department of Life Sciences at Indiana State University that same year where he taught until his retirement in 2002. While there, he taught and worked with a number of undergraduate and graduate students and published a large number of papers, book chapters, and books, many in forest ecology. Some of his major contributions were as author and editor of The Natural Heritage of Indiana, published in association with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and the Indiana Academy of Science. He also published 101 Trees of Indiana, was associate editor of Habitats and Ecological Communities of Indiana: Pre-settlement to Present, and the Editor of the Proceedings of the Indiana Academy of Science for several years. While on sabbatical, Dr. Jackson served for a year as program ecologist for the Indiana Natural Heritage Protection Program with the Division of Nature Preserves, in the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and as Acting Director of The Nature Conservancy of Indiana in 1978/79, during the sabbatical of TNC’s first Indiana Director. 

Please contact your state senator and ask him to support Senate Bill 420

How Much Forest Do Other States Set Aside from Logging?

By: Rae Schnapp, Ph.D. 

Our neighboring states are protecting their old forest areas. Why can’t Indiana? Senate Bill 420 would set aside a small portion, 10%, of Indiana’s state forestland to be off limits to logging. Here’s an inside look as to how public forests are being managed outside of Indiana.

Pennsylvania: 

The Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry has designated 231,516 acres—just over 10% of PA’s 2.3 million acres of state forestas either “Natural Areas” or “Wild Areas.” Natural Areas are areas that have been “set aside to provide locations for scientific observation of natural systems, to protect examples of typical unique plant and animal communities, and to protect outstanding examples of natural interest and beauty.” Meanwhile, “management of wild areas will be aimed at preserving the wild or undeveloped character of the area” for the public to “see, use and enjoy for such activities as hiking, hunting, and fishing.” The Pennsylvania Legislature authorized the creation of these Natural Areas and Wild Areas and prescribed their management objective in 17 PA Code § 27 in 1996. An additional 22% of state forest acreage is in designated “Limited Resource” zones, where commercial logging is prohibited due to severe topography and other factors. Further, the Pennsylvania State Forest Resource Management Plan sets the goal to “maintain a minimum of 20% of state forestlands as potential or existing old-growth areas.” 

 

Wisconsin: 

Of the 436,153 acres of state forests managed by the Wisconsin DNR – Division of Forestry, 61,353 acres (14.1%) are excluded from commercial timber harvests through various designations. Among these designated areas are “ecological reference areas,” which, according to the Wisconsin DNR’s 2010 State Lands – Passive Management Report, “provide base line data that helps assess the long term impacts of active forest management.” This same report calls for a broader definition of forest sustainability than the basic “growth exceeds removals” equation, one that takes into account “biodiversity, wildlife, water quality, aesthetics…soil nutrients and stability, and other attributes of value.” This report concludes that, in a state where the proportion of timber supply from state forests is comparable to Indiana (4% in Wisconsin vs. 4-7% in Indiana), “the amount of land…currently excluded from harvest on State lands is insignificant when compared to the total product output. The value of having some lands protected for the ecological and social benefits is proportionally higher. Public lands bear the responsibility of providing these forest amenities more so than other ownerships.”

 

Maryland: 

In 1971, the Maryland Wildlands Act established a state system of legislatively designated areas “ to be preserved in their natural condition for present and future generations.” To date, 29 State Wildlands have been established on state land, totaling nearly 44,000 acres. Of the approximately 200,000 acres in Maryland’s state forest system, nearly 22,000 acres (11%) are currently designated as State Wildlands and off limits to timbering. An additional 9,106 acres of Wildlands have been proposed by MDNR in the state forests which would increase the acreage of Wildlands to 31,000 acres, or 15.5% of Maryland’s state forests.

 

Michigan: 

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has designated 116,397 acres of state forests off limits to logging as Ecological Reference Areas (ERAs) to “serve as models of ecological reference within the state,” as well as “recreation, research, and education.” An additional 6,503 acres have been legally designated as Natural Areas, which offer “unique opportunities for solitude or primitive and unconfined types of recreation,” thus providing “economic opportunities for local communities.”

 

Ohio:

In 1972, nearly 8,000 contiguous acres of the Shawnee State Forest were designated by the Legislature as a Wilderness Area. This area has been set aside by statute “to allow natural forest succession and natural forest disturbances to occur without human influence” and “to provide an area that has outstanding opportunities for solitude and primitive recreation,” among other goals.

 

Illinois: 

Illinois has 18,000 acres of state forest and does not conduct hardwood timber sales on state forest land. The state does sell timber from pine plantations.

 

Connecticut: 

11,168 acres (of 167,572 acres of state forest) are designated as Old Forest Management Sites.  ‘Old forest growth’ is an important ecological component of Connecticut’s state forests, selected to grow and evolve naturally to reach advanced stages of vegetative succession and develop with minimal or no human intervention. The goal is to establish or promote areas of advanced successional stages of forest growth comprising approximately ten (10) percent of Connecticut’s state forests.


View the preceding information with citations

Please contact your state senator and ask them to support Senate Bill 420.

A Smaller Portion of a Small Pie

By: Rae Schnapp, Ph.D.

My name is Rae Schnapp. I have a PhD from Purdue University. My thesis work was on plant cellular responses to environmental stresses. I am the Wabash Riverkeeper and Conservation Director at the Indiana Forest Alliance.

I would like to take a few minutes to explain why we are asking you to support Senate Bill 420.

Indiana has about 158,000 acres of state forest land. Up until 2002 DNR had set aside 5,700 acres of designated “Old Forest Area” to be protected from logging. We had a list compartment and tracts that were protected from logging so we knew exactly where they were. But then DNR changed their minds. They no longer recognize those Old Forest areas and some of those tracts have now been logged.

But, DNR has committed to set aside 10% of our State Forests in an “Older Forest Condition”. This is in their Strategic Plan and it is in the documents that they submit for Sustainable Forest Certification.  In these certification documents, DNR has represented that the Older Forest Areas will include Nature Preserves & Back Country areas. But one thing we know is that there is logging in our Back Country areas, so we don’t really know which areas are set aside from logging.

I prepared a graphic to provide a visual about why we are asking for 10% Old Forests. The first chart represents the entire land base of roughly 23 million acres in Indiana. Only about 20% of that is forested land, and about 3% of our forested land is devoted to our State Forest system. I’ve expanded that small sliver into larger pie showing the whole State Forest system and the small sliver that is current no logging zones, including Nature Preserves and the control units at the Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment. The graphic shows the slice of 10% that we are asking to be set aside from timber harvesting. The bottom line is that we are asking for a modest portion of a small sliver. The vast majority of Indiana’s timber comes from the private lands so we think that this request will have minimal impact on the timber industry.

Some native Indiana tree species can live for several hundred years. We ask you to support Senate Bill 420 so that the citizens of Indiana can have some certainty that a small portion of our State Forests will be set aside from logging in perpetuity so that future generations can enjoy older growth forests.


The preceding was testimony given by Dr. Rae Schnapp to the Indiana Senate Natural Resources Committee on Monday, February 13, 2017 during the hearing on Senate Bill 420.

 

Protecting the Unknown

By: Leslie Bishop, Ph.D. 

My name is Dr. Leslie Bishop and I am a retired Professor of Biology at Earlham College. I live in Brown County and my property is on the border of Yellowwood State Forest. The Old Forest Bill (Senate Bill 420) will ensure that 10% of Indiana’s state forests can mature into old forests. Old forests are rare in Indiana. Old-growth forests provided habitat that support rare biological diversity and unique assemblages of animals, plants, and fungi that are found nowhere else but in old-growth forests. 

Large unlogged areas of interior forests provide life boats for mobile species affected by logging practices. Older growth forests provide snags and large  standing dead trees that provide habitat for many mammals, birds, and insects. When big old trees die, they leave soil pits and tip up mounds, as well as rotting logs, which create unique habitats for many species including amphibians, mammals, spiders, and insects. The large gap that results when an old tree falls, allows for sunlight to reach the forest floor and create conditions suitable for seeds to sprout and early successional plants to thrive.

Our knowledge of biological diversity is in its infancy for our Indiana forests. We know a lot about vertebrate diversity. In fact over 120 species of mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians require our forests for feeding and successful reproduction. However, we know very little about the other 90% of all animal species such as insects, spiders, millipedes, and snails. All of these species play important roles in the ecosystem through food webs, decomposition, and healthy soil development. Last year the spider team, which I participated in at the Morgan-Monroe/ Yellowwood State Forest Ecoblitz sponsored by the Indiana Forest Alliance, discovered a new species. The spider team discovered an un-described species, never found before that is brand new to Science. We were so excited. Can you imagine, as biologists, finding a new species right here in Indiana? We usually think of this happening in a rainforest. But, it happened right here in Indiana.

In addition, in a recent published paper, we used data from multiple surveys and recorded on 72 spider species that had never before been reported in Indiana. Forty percent of those species were collected in Morgan-Monroe State Forest and rely on forest habitat. How many more will we discover if we continually survey these areas?

A hands off approach on 10% of forests will enable the development of this forest type and site conditions that were historically common, but now are rare in Indiana. Mature forest plots will provide opportunities for scientific study of natural processes of aging forests, including natural disturbances, biogeochemical cycles, soil development, and specific relationship with species. In addition, they provide a critical experimental control for assessing the consequences of active management that occurs in the larger areas of the managed forest.

In conclusion, old-growth forests that are older than 140 years are rare in Indiana. By preserving 10% (Senate Bill 420) of each state forest from logging, we are ensuring the future of this biologically rich habitat. Please support this bill.

 


The preceding testimony was presented by Dr. Leslie Bishop to the Indiana Senate Natural Resources Committee on Monday, February 13, 2017 during the hearing for Senate Bill 420. View the video of Dr. Bishop’s testimony. View the handout, including citations, of Dr. Bishop’s testimony

Dr. Leslie Bishop is a retired professor of biology from Earlham College in Indiana where she taught for over twenty years. Her courses included Invertebrate Zoology, Insect Biology, and Biological Diversity.  In addition, she enjoyed teaching her tropical field courses: Marine Biology in the Bahamas and St. John, USVI, and Tropical Ecology in Costa Rica and Galapagos. She included many undergraduates in her research both in Puerto Rico and Dominica. Since retirement, she has been fortunate to have new opportunities. Among them teaching Wildlife Ecology in Tanzania and teaching as a Fulbright Scholar in Dominica.  Her current interest is to raise awareness about the conservation of biodiversity, and to encourage people to learn about the natural world.

Please contact your state senator and ask them to support Senate Bill 420.

Protect Indiana’s Assets

By: Dr. David Simcox 

Good morning, I am Dr. David Simcox. I come here not as a scientist, but as a private citizen who recently joined the IFA Board of Directors because I believe that conservation should be the cornerstone for managing our State Forests.

If you were to accompany me on one of my many hikes along back woods trails in our State Forests, you could not help but marvel at this natural

“Trail Closed” on the Knobstone Trail due to logging activity.

setting. Imagine that we are winding along a narrow path perched on a ridge top surrounded by a stand of majestic chestnut oaks and then turning a corner and encountering a 10-15 acre clear cut. Huge piles of tree tops, massive ruts, erosion, old farm roads now piled with crushed gravel, invasive plant species thriving in the sunlight. And then worse yet, you realize this clear cut was not all that recent. We see this time and time again.

Now when you hike the great trails like the Tecumseh or the Knobstone, ones that Indiana should be proud to show case, you will likely see them horribly scarred. I know how it effects me, but I wonder how this impacts scores out-of-state visitors and their desire to return to Indiana to hike.

I also want to draw your attention to the Division of Forestry’s Strategic Plan. On page 5 the DNR acknowledges the need to preserve and conserve “…10% of the forest in or developing older forest conditions…” While their statement certainly has some wiggle room in it, one could see their overall intent is consistent with Senate Bill 420.

However, this commitment is prefaced with a key operative phrase “work toward.” I am just afraid that by the time the Division of Forestry reaches their stated 10% goal, they will have long since logged precious sections of our older forests.

Actually the question before you is very simple. You will see that Senate Bill 420 just asks you, the Lawmakers of Indiana, to hold the DNR’s feet to fire on their state 10% conservation goal. Senator Bassler’s bill (SB 420) simply provides the specificity and teeth to do that.

Thank you for this opportunity to testify and I encourage you to pass this important bill.


The preceding testimony was presented by Dr. David Simcox to the Indiana Senate Natural Resources Committee by on Monday, February 13, 2017 at the hearing for Senate Bill 420. 

Please contact your legislators and ask them to support Senate Bill 420.