“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 DirectorSandy–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) 231-7108info@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.

What You Can Do to Fight a Major New Attack on the Hoosier National Forest

by Jeff Stant, IFA Executive Director

Logging areas of ten square miles in our national forests at will, lifting protections on endangered species, weakening foundational environmental laws, and removing local control and public input: these are just some of the poison pills that have been slipped into the annual Farm Bill, H.R. 2. This key bill is under consideration now in the U.S. House of Representatives, and it is a full-frontal assault on your national forests, including our own Hoosier National Forest.

No later than Wednesday, May 16, PLEASE contact your congressional representative to ask for opposition to this bill with these forest provisions (find your representative’s name and contact info here).

Here’s what you can say:

“I write as your constituent to ask you to OPPOSE the federal forest management provisions in the Forestry Title (Title VIII) of the House Farm Bill (H.R. 2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018). These provisions are the most significant attack on our national forests in years.

Please oppose the Farm Bill as long as it includes attacks on America’s national forests. Here are nine reasons why I ask you to oppose these provisions:

  • The provisions remove bedrock environmental protections.

The legislation is full of provisions that undermine important environmental laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Endangered Species Act (ESA). This bill consistently gives the logging industry priority over all other forest stakeholders. It would cause irreparable harm to our federal forests and the millions of Americans who depend on them for clean drinking water, subsistence, recreation, and economic benefit, and the wildlife that call them home.

  • The provisions give a free pass for logging in the Hoosier National Forest.

The provisions increase the size of the “categorical exemptions” under NEPA by 24 times to allow logging up to 6,000-acres — almost 10 square miles for each single project — without public review or comment, consideration of alternatives or disclosure of potential harms. With these proposed exemptions, loggers would be able to clear 6,000 acres for a host of new reasons, such as creating early successional habitat, thinning forests, or insect and disease reduction.

  • The provisions weaken the U.S. Forest Service’s obligation to protect endangered wildlife.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service currently provides valuable expertise to the US Forest Service in management decisions that effect crucially important forest habitat for the Indiana Bat, Northern Long-eared Bat and other federal listed species in the HNF.  The bill would eliminate the requirement for the US Forest Service to consult with the USFWS in these decisions.

Creek near Birdseye Trail, Hoosier National Forest

  • The provisions regarding wildfire management are not appropriate for the Hoosier National Forest.

Exempting logging projects from public input under the National Environmental Policy Act to prevent forest fires is not needed or appropriate for the Hoosier National Forest.  This will harm the interests of citizens and communities who have long participated constructively in forest management decisions. Indiana’s wet and more humid climate means that only 12-24 fires occur per year in the HNF but they are small, usually 20 acres or less, usually caused by people, burn on the ground and are easily extinguished if they don’t burn out naturally. Lightning-caused fires are rare and are almost always extinguished by accompanying rain.

  • The provisions on logging in national forests will impact the drinking water of southern Indiana communities.

At least 50,000 acres of the Hoosier National Forest drain directly into Indiana’s two largest public water supply reservoirs, Monroe Reservoir and Patoka Reservoirs (source: HNF Land and Resource Management Plan). Monroe Reservoir provides drinking water to at least 100,000 Hoosiers (source: Vic Kelson, City of Bloomington Utilities via IFA board VP Dave Simcox). Patoka Reservoir provides drinking water to an estimated 130,000 Hoosiers (source: Jerry Allstott, Superintendent, Patoka Reservoir Water Treatment Plant).  Thus US Forest Service decisions about salvage logging and timber harvests on these HNF lands can impact the drinking water of Bloomington, Orleans, Paoli, Ferdinand, Huntingburg and many other communities.  The input that federal laws provide to these communities in such decisions should not be restricted by broad categorical exclusions from those laws under any pretext.

  • The provisions take away local control in Indiana.

The Hoosier National Forest is smaller and more scattered than most other national forests.  As a result, the HNF shares approximately 1,400 miles of boundaries with surrounding property owners, making public input opportunities in management activities such as road building, timber harvests and salvage logging important to many local residents.

  • The provisions further reduce areas where recreation in wild nature is possible in Indiana.

Approximately half of the Hoosier National Forest’s 204,000 acres are set aside in the Charles Deam Wilderness or management prescriptions that preclude most timber harvest but usually allow salvage logging (source: Hoosier National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan).   These are the only lands in Indiana that provide wilderness recreation opportunities such as backpacking, primitive camping, off trail orienteering, foraging and hunting in forests that are not being logged or managed for activities that degrade their natural character.  Hoosiers’ opportunities for input on decisions that affect these lands such as road building and salvage logging should not be restricted by broad categorical exclusions under any pretext.

  • The provisions roll back a good faith agreement already made in the recent federal omnibus bill.

In order to fund the huge cost of fighting of western wildfires, an agreement was negotiated  that increased categorical exclusions for logging projects from 250 acres to 3,000 acres to reduce “fuels” ignitable material such as wood. The provisions in the Farm Bill throw out this compromise, reached after weeks of negotiation, in another giveaway to the timber industry.

  • These provisions create problems for the Farm Bill.

The harmful federal forest proposals in this legislation solve no problem; they only add controversy to the Farm Bill.

As you can see, these national forest provisions remove local control, undermine existing laws, and allow Indiana’s only public lands protected for wilderness recreation to be destroyed.”

To all forest advocates: please ask your U.S. Representative to point out how damaging these provisions are to our public forests in any public statements or remarks they make explaining their opposition to the Farm Bill.

Again, you can find your representative’s contact info by clicking here. Thank you!

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

by Jeff Stant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Respectfully,

Jeff Stant, Executive Director, Indiana Forest Alliance

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

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

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

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

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

Seven species of bats were found in the Ecoblitz area.

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

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

A luna moth in the Ecoblitz area.

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

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

What are the characteristics of this forest?

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

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

Cerulean warbler parent and nestling. Photo by Angie Damm.

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

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

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

What can we conclude?

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

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

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

Box Turtles: Looking for Love is Easier in Contiguous Forests

By Ann Deutch Hougham, IFA Member

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

REFERENCES

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

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

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

(available on Google Scholar)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Against DNR’s Proposed Bobcat Hunting/Trapping Season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Literature Cited

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rx for Haverstick Woods: Creative Problem-Solving

by Clarke Kahlo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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