A Teachable (Tree) Moment at an Indianapolis School

Last week, a staff member at Eastwood Middle School in Indianapolis alerted IFA about an a old, majestic bur oak tree in harm’s way — due to plans for new parking lot. “I would like the tree to be saved,” wrote school counselor Kelly Spiegel.

Kelly sent photos and we posted them on social media. Forests for Indy Project Director Jerome Delbridge went to inspect the tree. “This bur oak is 53.7” diameter, 80’ tall,” he reported. “I didn’t see any significant health or structural defects with the tree. The limbs spread nearly 100 feet wide. I would put the age of the tree at 225 to 250 years old, with the assumption it was a forest tree, pre-1900. What a treasure!”

Eastwood alumni remember this tree. They are contacting school officials to make a case for the tree. Other forest advocates are asking Schmidt & Associates (the project architect/engineers) to re-imagine the project to accommodate the tree.

Imagine the shade this tree provides.

IFA Board President Elizabeth Mahoney quickly issued a passionate e-mail to the superintendent of Washington Township Schools, Dr. Nikki Woodson:

“I am writing to you today to respectfully request that your School District and the Eastwood Middle School re-evaluate your decision to cut down the beautiful old oak tree for a parking lot. Indianapolis is so very low in ranking per capita of green space and trees. It is a shame and a horrible thing to destroy this beautiful part of Eastwood school’s natural history. Climate change is real. Big trees like this clean our air by removing particulates, sequesters CO2 and creates clean breathable oxygen for humans and animals alike, not to mention they are a food source and habitat for birds, squirrels bats and insects. Additionally, a tree of this size and maturity soaks up thousands and thousands of gallons of water annually and helps your school with water run off issues during our increasingly torrential rain falls, another side-effect of global warming.

This could and should be a teachable moment for your students. Just because this tree is located in an area where it’s most convenient to locate a parking lot does not mean that you should locate the parking lot there and that the tree must be cut down.

Your architectural planning committee could, in conjunction with an arborist, leave enough area around the tree to save the tree, create a beautiful landscape feature and still a have functional parking lot. So what if it eliminates a few parking spots!

Additionally, teaching students to always take the easiest, cheapest and least creative path is not ideal. There are always multiple ways to solve problems. Teaching exploration, creative process solutions and working a little harder to solve a problem is always the better path. I’m sure you would agree.

Please do not cut down this tree for a parking lot. It teaches your students that nature, our environment, is unimportant and that it is simply something to be dealt with and controlled as opposed to something important for our minds, bodies and spirits. We humans ARE nature. We are all part of the cycle and the impact we have on the planet today will be felt for generations to come.”

FOX 59 News came out to cover the tree’s fate. “I think there is always an alternative where we can co-habitat with the nature around us,” said Jerome Delbridge, an ISA certified arborist.

As of this writing, Eastwood school leaders say they are verifying “the type, age and health of the tree. In addition, site and civil conditions are being evaluated to determine possible alternative options that might allow construction to take place around the oak tree.”

Another point to make is that the Natural Resources section of the City of Indianapolis’ new THRIVE INDY plan calls for these actions:

  • Promoting tree planting and green infrastructure installation to help reduce the urban heat island effect, absorb water to mitigate flooding and filter some water pollutants
  • Fostering growth of urban forests to improve air quality and absorb carbon
  • Enhancing existing and creating more green spaces to provide recreational opportunities, health benefits and wildlife habitat 

What an opportunity to practice what we preach.

Jerome Delbridge added: “This space has been used for outdoor education in the past, celebrating this tree. We believe the tree should continue to be revered and preserved as it is likely the oldest living organism on campus. Much space on campus is given for sports fields. I believe ample space should also be dedicated to ecology and nature.”

Give the school superintendent an encouraging call at (317) 205-3332 and urge the right choice!

And if the idea of a threatened tree makes your blood boil or your heart break, you REALLY need to become a member of the Indiana Forest Alliance. JOIN HERE.

Senate Bill 610 Creates Accountability for Indiana State Forests

By Jeff Stant, IFA Executive Director

Senator John Ruckelshaus (R-Indianapolis), and co-author Sen. Eric Bassler (R-Washington), have introduced a watershed bill in this year’s legislative session: Senate Bill 610.  This bill establishes a state forest commission that will propose a 100-year plan for the management of Indiana state forests, with mandated public input.

TAKE ACTION:

Call your Indiana State Senator today at (800) 382-9467. Express your support for this bill and ask that they contact Senator Sue Glick, Chair of the Senate Natural Resources Committee, and ask that this bill have a hearing.

Why does IFA support SB 610? In our judgment, this bill is a significant improvement over the status quo. Currently, there is no legal requirement for the Indiana Division of Forestry to solicit input for any of its management decisions for the state forests. This bill corrects that.

Senate Bill 610 would bring balance to the management of Indiana state forests.

While the bill does not now require any specific amount of land to be set aside from logging in the state forests, SB 610’s requirement for an independent “state forest commission” is huge. The commission would produce (with robust public input) a plan for the management of the state forests for the next 100 years that is supposed to balance the management of these forests between logging and no logging. This requirement alone is a major repudiation of the current management of our state forests–which is committing 97% of the state forests to logging regardless of any public views on the subject. The commission would include lawmakers, foresters, conservationists, scientists, sporting enthusiasts, recreational users, and timber industry representatives.

READ ON for detail on the provisions IFA supports:

The bill (read the full text on the Indiana General Assembly website) would achieve these provisions, which we support wholeheartedly:

1) Establishes a state forest commission to study the state forests and to hold seven public meetings to gather testimony from citizens living around the state forests, the public, scientists and experts in forest management, and to produce a report by October 1, 2021. This input will be accounted for in a plan of the management that should occur in the state forests for the next 100 years, and the plan must be adopted via rulemaking by the National Resources Commission. The state has never required the Division of Forestry to gather public input before to produce a plan of this scope and duration.

2) Requires that forest advocates’ interests be represented on the commission.

3) Asks the commission to determine the options that “constitute a balanced strategy allowing stakeholders to share the state forest as a whole in a way that best satisfies the needs of all” and propose a plan that accomplishes this balance. To do this, the plan will divide all state forest lands between three priority uses: a) to manage the forests as recreational areas and habitat for game and non-game wildlife; b) to manage the forests for the production of high quality lumber; and c) to manage the forests to allow unmanaged natural succession for species native to the indigenous climate zone. This approach is modeled after forest law and regulations in Wisconsin.

4) Ensures that state forest land that is assigned a primary use of logging (“producing high quality lumber”) must have secondary uses of recreation and habitat protection. State forest land that is assigned a primary use of recreation must have secondary uses of logging and habitat protection. State forest land that is assigned a primary use of habitat protection allowing natural succession without logging will not have a secondary use of logging. Thus, the bill provides a statutory basis for advocating that even if state forest land is designated for logging, that the state must also manage that land for recreation and natural habitat protection. And furthermore, that if land is designated for natural succession, the state is not allowed to log it.

5) Guarantees that the Natural Resources Commission will have to rule-make to implement the plan and its assignment of lands to the three priority uses. This guarantee will lock in these uses; the DOF will not be able to waive them later with impunity as it can now.

6) The plan from the State Forest Commission must “embody the principles” that management of the state forests must make allowances for the effects of anticipated climate change on vegetation and include provisions for the maintenance of native wildlife and vegetation.

7) The report issued by the State Forest Commission “must set forth recommendations” for appropriate procedures for wildlife inventory on all state forest lands to be logged. Currently no inventories of wildlife are required or being done on state forest lands slated to be logged.

8) The report issued by the State Forest Commission “must set forth procedures for effective citizen oversight of the plan”.

9) The report “must set forth recommendations about reasonable time periods for implementation of the plan.”

10) The report must also “include a summary of the financial and environmental benefit of forest land for its ability to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.”

SB 610 won’t solve the problems in our state forests. However, the bill establishes a framework in law for solving the problems that requires a balanced management of the state forests and public input in management decisions. And it will result in management that can’t be waived later by the DOF regardless of public views as repeatedly occurs now.

Some are concerned that this bill does not have any mandated percentages of land set aside from logging. Also, some are also interpreting SB 610 to require state forests be logged, which some find unacceptable. However, this bill no more requires logging than what is required by IC 14-23-4, the statute that established the state forests. This law says that the state forests are to be managed for the benefit of all but adds that cutting and improvement thinning can occur in the state forests to market timber to local economies. For a century, this was construed fairly conservatively to allow for nearly half of the state forests to be set aside from logging.

Then a new state forester appointed in 2005 by the Daniels Administration. That forester decided to devote 97% of the state forests to logging. As long as there is no law that puts some limits on this extreme way of managing our forests, the current, extremely unbalanced management can continue.

We can and will keep trying to pass set aside legislation. However, the Ruckelshaus bill will address the core issue of the need for a balanced policy for managing our state forests. Forest advocates need to get behind SB 610.

Please take action:

These senators sit on the natural resources committee where this bill is assigned. Can you call the Indiana State Senate at (800) 382-9467 and urge them to hold a hearing.

Committee members are:

CHAIR, Sen. Susan Glick (R-LaGrange)
Sen. Jean Leising (R-Oldenburg)
Sen. Brian Buchanan (R-Lebanon)
Sen. Justin Busch (R-Fort Wayne)
Sen. Blake Doriot (R-Syracuse)
Sen. Chip Perfect (R-Lawrenceburg)
Sen. James Tomes (R-Wadesville)
Sen. Timothy Lanane (D-Anderson)
Sen. Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis)

Switchboard for the Indiana Senate: (800) 382-9467.

THANK YOU!

Read about other forest-related legislation in the 2019 Indiana General Assembly.

Banding Together for What Belongs to All of Us

by Dave Seastrom

In these times if we want to see something positive in the world, we have to create it ourselves. The most effective way to get something done is to band together with likeminded people, and work for a common goal.

The Indiana Forest Alliance exemplifies this ideal.

For several years we (IFA) fought the exploitation of our state forests, and in that time we’ve grown from a tiny group who showed up at timber sales to protest the sale of our legacy to the highest bidder, to an organization that is working hand in hand with legislators to forge laws that will protect our forests. We’ve also become a science-based preservation group that has conducted an extensive inventory of all living things in our forests, known as the Ecoblitz.

Banding together at the IFA Member Meeting, 11/4/17

The timber sale in the formerly preserved Yellowwood Back Country Area that took place one year ago has galvanized the movement and increased our membership tremendously. Dr. Leslie Bishop authored a letter to the Governor urging him to preserve a portion of our forests that was signed by 240 professors from universities all across Indiana. We also generated 5,070 contacts with Governor Holcomb that eventually led to a face to face meeting with him this past August.

These actions have changed the status of our organization, and where once we were routinely ignored, we are now asked to sit at the table and discuss our concerns.

Publicly owned land provides a rich opportunity to create large contiguous sections of undisturbed forest that can be allowed to mature into true old growth conditions that will act as a repository for the plants and animals that need this environment to thrive. We want to return the protected status of the Back Country Areas, and to establish large protected tracks with our 13 state forests, for plant and animal habitat, and multi-use recreation in a wilderness setting.

We also want to protect the integrity of our hiking trails by establishing a sufficient buffer that would leave the trails undisturbed by logging. We seek a mix in forest management that includes the interests of all stakeholders, and not just those of the timber industry, and we support the creation of new forests on marginal farm land that would provide a timber resource for the future.

There is much work to do, and we need your help.

It’s a privilege to work with so many dedicated volunteers, and we are most fortunate to have a talented, underpaid, and overworked staff. We are far more effective than our numbers and resources would indicate, but it all comes down needing your support to continue the work. Please consider a donation to the IFA. The forests we’re fighting to save belong to all of us.

Lake Monroe’s Watershed & Hoosier National Forest: Defining “Public Good”

By Sherry Mitchell-Bruker

Some say that Lake Monroe is fortunate because 82% of the watershed is forested and 43% of those forests are under state and federal management.

But what happens if both the state and the U.S. Forest Service aggressively harvest in the watershed? This is the issue we are now facing. Of the 24% of the watershed that is state forest (Morgan-Monroe and Yellowwood), logging projects are completed, planned or ongoing in both.

Until recently, the Forest Service had refrained from large logging projects within the watershed. That is now changing.

Timber harvesting in the Hoosier National Forest (H.N.F.) has increased from 3,868 cunits (100 cubic feet or C.C.F.) in 2011 to 7,444 cunits in 2014. In 2016 the 38-acre Buffalo Pike project was completed under a Categorical Exclusion, meaning no public review was required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Although the record of decision for Buffalo Pike stated that the project was not in the Lake Monroe watershed, in fact the entire project was in the South Fork Salt Creek basin, which is the most impaired section of the Lake Monroe watershed. Now the Forest Service is planning a 4,000-acre logging project called Houston South, which is also in the South Fork part of the Lake Monroe watershed. The Forest Service manages 42% of the land in the South Fork section of the watershed.

The proposed Houston South project includes 417 acres of clear-cut logging, 714 acres shelterwood harvest, 2,342 acres of hardwood thinning, 96 acres of pine thinning and 435 acres of hardwood selection. Most of the area is steeply sloped with highly erodible soils. The project is in the early planning stages and will most likely change as new information and analysis is provided. According to the 2006 management plan for the H.N.F., habitat in this area is best suited for wildlife that uses large hardwood trees and a mosaic of different-aged forest. The plan said restoring wetlands should be the highest priority to maintain and restore watershed health.

Friends of Lake Monroe is a local group dedicated to finding solutions to improve the water quality of Lake Monroe and its watershed, enhancing its value as a drinking-water, recreational, and ecological resource. We envision a regional community that appreciates, sustains, and enjoys the lake, including its larger surrounding ecosystems, to ensure drinkable, swimmable, and fishable waters.

We have worked with various environmental and governmental organizations, including the Forest Service, to obtain funding to develop a management plan for the watershed. We are working to reduce nutrient and sediments in the streams and the lake. We are asking all of the land managers and residents in the watershed to play their part. Harvesting timber on 4,000 acres risks an increase in soil erosion, which is moving in the opposite direction.

The watershed is large—more than 270,000 acres. The Forest Service manages 50,870 of those acres, or almost 20%. Not only are management decisions made by the Forest Service crucial to water quality in the lake and watershed; they are also the example that is set for the rest of those who live in the watershed. Small sediment and nutrient contributions throughout the watershed lead to large impacts on the lake. Each year harmful algae blooms appear on the lake, fueled by sediment and nutrients that come from the watershed and the lake itself.

In southern Indiana in the 1800s and early 1900s, homesteaders denuded areas with steep slopes by logging and failed agricultural efforts, then abandoned them. Waterways were choked with eroded soil. The national and state forests were established to restore these lands, abating the erosion that had left many bare or gullied hillsides. Over the years the mission of the Forest Service has expanded beyond soil and water protection to include outdoor recreation, range, timber, wildlife and fish, threatened and endangered species, and wilderness as resources to manage. As stewards of public lands, it is the responsibility of the Forest Service to manage these public lands for the public good. So, what does the public think? Polls conducted in various regions across the nation over the past 30 years clearly show that the overwhelming majority of the public opposes logging in national forests.

According to Michael Chaveas, H.N.F. supervisor, the forests of Indiana and the H.N.F. need more old forest and more young forest. During a meeting with H.N.F staff, we were told the forest of Houston South is currently 66% oak and hickory, 22% beech and maple, 4% non-native pine planted to prevent erosion, 2% elm, ash, and sycamore in bottomlands and 1% shortleaf pine and eastern red cedar. The Forest Service contends that it is necessary to intervene in the natural succession of these lands in order to provide more young forest, indicating that short-term disturbance is necessary to achieve long-term goals of maintaining oak and hickory dominated forests.

Shelterwood harvest would occur in three stages over a ten-year period. First the understory (dogwoods, redbuds, and others) would be removed entirely by prescribed burning, manual harvest, or herbicides. Next, half of the overstory (oaks, hickory, beech, maple) would be removed. Finally, the rest of the overstory would be removed. Some have called this slow-motion clearcutting. So, we need to remove an overstory that is two-thirds oak and hickory so that we can have more oak and hickory in the future? How about letting those oaks and hickories mature and provide much needed old forest while protecting the Lake Monroe watershed?

The Buffalo Pike cut, Hoosier National Forest. Photo by Jeff Stant, Sept. 2018

If the Buffalo Pike project area is indicative of the adjacent Houston South project, the endangered Indiana Bat and threatened northern long-eared bat may suffer long-term adverse effects as a result of timber operations. Birds like the Louisiana water thrush, and the Acadian flycatcher could thrive in these forests. Biological surveys of an older, unmanaged forest that is now part of the Morgan-Monroe State Forest showed that the mature forest hosted mink, coyote, red fox, bobcats, deer, flying squirrels, shrews, 48 bee species, 68 bird species (including nesting cerulean warblers) and 108 different lichen species.

While the species composition may differ at Houston South, it is likely to host a multitude of species that will thrive and evolve as time goes by. Is it really necessary to disrupt this thriving oak-hickory forest? Does the desire to actively manage the national forest outweigh our need to protect our lake and our drinking water?  We at Friends of Lake Monroe suggest that there are better alternatives.

As of now, the plan is open for public comment through Wednesday, December 26. Friends of Lake Monroe and others have asked that this period be extended due to the holidays and insufficient public notification and engagement to date. If you concur, contact H.N.F. District Ranger Michelle Paduani to politely request the extension:  michelle.paduani@usda.gov

TO COMMENT NOW: 

The Forest Service is taking public comment on the proposal from now until December 26. Written comments may be submitted by letter, email, or fax. The forest service asks anyone who leaves a comment to include their names, addresses, telephone, and email, if available. The Forest Service asks that you include “Houston South Vegetation Management and Restoration Project” in your comment as well.

Mail to:
Hoosier National Forest, ATTN: Houston South Vegetation Management and Restoration Project;
811 Constitution Ave.
Bedford, IN 47421

Fax:
(812) 279-3423
ATTN: Houston South Vegetation Management and Restoration Project

Email:
comments-eastern-hoosier@fs.fed.us
Electronic comments must be submitted in a format such as an email message, plain text (.txt), rich text (.rtf), Word (.doc or .docx) or Portable Document Format (.pdf) to comments-eastern-hoosier@fs.fed.us. Comments must have an identifiable name attached or verification of identity will be required. A scanned signature may serve as verification on electronic comments.

In Person:
They can be left with the Hoosier National Forest Office in Bedford, or by telephone at (812)-275-5987.

Dr. Sherry Mitchell-Bruker is a former watershed manager for the Lassen National Forest, Research Hydrologist for Everglades National Park and President of the Friends of Lake Monroe.

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

by Sandra Messner, IFA Development Director

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Dave Simcox

Many forests leads to faucets — watersheds and forests are naturally interconnected. That’s why south-central Indiana residents should be concerned about a plan to harvest timber in the Hoosier National Forest (HNF) in 2019. Nearby Lake Monroe which provides many benefits to the area is the sole source of drinking water for 120,000+ local residents. The section of the HNF being considered for logging is in the hills of the South Fork of Salt Creek, a major tributary in the 423-sq. mile Lake Monroe watershed.

HNF staff have been studying and collecting data on this project area, termed Houston South, for at least three years. ?They shared their management plans in draft form last month with stakeholders, and, they have agreed to make a presentation and answer questions about it at a meeting October 25.

The entire Houston South Project would encompass 10,533 acres north of State Road 58 and south of Maumee and Houston. Approximately 4,700 acres have been identified for various timber cutting strategies.

Houston South Lake Monroe

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

Many of the Houston South Project areas are steeply sloped, adding to the concern about these soils which are thin and possibly highly erodible. Any time there is a potential for erosion due to soil disturbance and resultant sediment flow into a lake, especially one that is a drinking water source, the benefits from activities such as timber removal need to be weighed against the risk to the greater public good.

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

Logging took place two years ago on approximately 60 acres nearby along Buffalo Pike which is an example of what could happen in the Houston South Project. See photos of Buffalo Pike here. More post-logging clean up of the site is promised.

You have the opportunity to learn more about this proposed plan for the HNF and get to involved. Michael Chaveas, the Supervisor of HNF, will be presenting the timber harvest plans and answering questions at a public meeting held by the Friends of Lake Monroe. The meeting will be at the Monroe County Public Library (303 E. Kirkwood Ave.) on Thursday, October 25 at 6:00 p.m. in the auditorium.

This event will also be live-streamed, so follow IFA and the Friends of Lake Monroe on Facebook to learn more.

* Special thanks to IFA & Wild Tecumseh Friends member Ann Deutch for her excellent work on the maps you see here.

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

Preserving Our Way Out of the Climate Crisis

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

Dear Governor Holcomb,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Jeff Stant, IFA Executive Director

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Crystal C.

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

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

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

Crystal & friend backpacking in Morgan-Monroe State Forest.

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Defense of the Endangered Species Act

By Anne Laker, IFA Staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–Laura Pence (no relation to Mike), Bloomington

Staff Changes at Indiana Forest Alliance

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

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

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

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

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