IFA Webinar: Writing Public Comments in Response to State Logging Plans (DRMGs)

Have you ever wanted to respond to a DRMG but were unsure how? Do you know what a DRMG is? In an IFA webinar, learn how you can take action on behalf of Indiana’s State forests from the comfort of your home.

Join IFA’s Conservation Director, Rae Schnapp, Ph.D., at 7 pm, Thursday, May 21, for an informative Zoom webinar on how to respond to the state’s logging plans, known as Draft Resource Management Guides (DRMGs). You’ll get tips on how to write effective personalized objections to the state’s plans.

Why Join this Webinar?

IFA has observed an uptick in DRMGs in recent months. Comments on the state’s most recently announced logging plans are due by May 26 for seven tracts in Ferdinand, Pike, and Jackson-Washington State Forests.

IFA needs more Hoosiers who understand the commenting process and are willing to submit public comments to the Indiana Division of Forestry to build a record of dissent. This process allows Hoosiers to inform Governor Holcomb that current levels of logging in Indiana’s State Forests is unpopular and that some areas of Hoosier-owned state forests should be set aside for their ecological and recreational value.

To RSVP and receive a link for the webinar, please write Nick Joseph at IFA. Please include “Webinar” in the subject line.

Ask Governor to Veto Disastrous SB 229 Wetlands Bill

Call or Write Governor Holcomb

Frog at Blue Bluff Nature PreserveSB 229 is now on Governor Eric Holcomb’s desk–he received it yesterday. He has until March 25 to sign it. If he does not sign the bill, it becomes law the next day. 

It’s Your Turn

IFA staff are acutely aware of the complex situation we are experiencing as a country. And yet, the assaults on the ecological systems upon which we depend never end. Now, more than ever, we must act. We have an important opportunity to protect Indiana’s increasingly rare wetlands.

All that’s required is a quick phone call or email message to the governor.

Ask Governor Holcomb To VETO SB 229. The Indiana Department of Environmental Management has opposed this bill. Your call will only take a few minutes and will signal to the Governor and his staff that his constituents will never take a break from protecting our natural resources.

  • Call 317.232.4567, 8 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday
  • Write govholcomb@gov.in.gov
  • Please spread the word via Facebook, Twitter, e-blast, and/or an email message to friends and colleagues

SB 229 Background (in case you missed it)

IFA previously shared the following alert most of which was issued by Tim Maloney, Hoosier Environmental Council’s Senior Policy Director. We have included it in case you missed the previous message.

Prior to European settlement, wetlands covered about one-quarter of Indiana’s land area. Most of our wetlands were drained for agriculture or to build our cities and towns, leaving less than 15% of the original wetlands acreage.  Wetlands reduce flooding, purify rivers and lakes, and provide irreplaceable habitat for fish and wildlife, including ducks, herons and cranes, beaver, river otters, turtles, and frogs. Of Indiana’s 144 species of greatest conservation need, 86 occur in wetlands.

In 2003, the legislature recognized the value of preserving the remaining wetlands and adopted Indiana’s Isolated Wetlands Law.

SB 229 exempts those who *reconstruct* drains — open ditches or field tiles in rural, urban, or suburban Indiana — from obtaining a state wetlands permit. The legal definition of ‘drain reconstruction’ includes widening, deepening, or re-routing such drains; in other words, large-scale work that could destroy wetlands. Current law doesn’t prohibit reconstruction; it just requires projects to go through the permitting process to preserve as much wetland area as possible.

SB 229 is problematic because it:

  • opens a broad exemption that will hurt our remaining wetlands
  • contains a key provision which is undefined
  • creates regulatory confusion with federal wetlands
  • creates the need for more Army Corps of Engineers involvement

The bill was opposed by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, the state agency charged with implementing the isolated wetlands law.

According to Purdue scientists, Indiana now receives 6.5 inches more precipitation per year than it did when data were first recorded in the 1890s. Forested wetlands are the best absorbers of rainfall. Isolated forested wetlands are some of the rarest habitats left in Indiana. IDEM’s fining of the Hamilton County Surveyor for destroying an isolated forested wetland without a permit led to SB 229’s passage by the Legislature. SB 229 throws out sound public policy to control flooding and conserve our natural heritage. Governor Holcomb is THE decisionmaker who can stop this travesty, but he needs to hear from you NOW to do so. 

IFA appreciates Hoosier Environmental Council’s work to stop this legislation.

Respectfully,
Jeff Stant, Executive Director

Help Stop Disastrous Wetlands Bill

Frog at Blue Bluff Nature Preserve

Hoosier Environmental Council Asking for SB 229 Veto

IFA is sharing the following alert issued by Tim Maloney, Senior Policy Director, at the Hoosier Environmental Council.

SB 229 Background

Prior to European settlement, wetlands covered about one-quarter of Indiana’s land area. Most of our wetlands were drained for agriculture or to build our cities and towns, leaving less than 15% of the original wetlands acreage.  Wetlands reduce flooding, purify rivers and lakes, and provide irreplaceable habitat for fish and wildlife, including ducks, herons and cranes, beaver, river otters, turtles, and frogs. Of Indiana’s 144 species of greatest conservation need, 86 occur in wetlands.

In 2003, the legislature recognized the value of preserving the remaining wetlands and adopted Indiana’s Isolated Wetlands Law.

SB 229 exempts those who *reconstruct* drains — open ditches or field tiles in rural, urban, or suburban Indiana — from obtaining a state wetlands permit. The legal definition of ‘drain reconstruction’ includes widening, deepening, or re-routing such drains; in other words, large-scale work that could destroy wetlands. Current law doesn’t prohibit reconstruction; it just requires projects to go through the permitting process to preserve as much wetland area as possible.

SB 229 is problematic because it:

  • opens a broad exemption that will hurt our remaining wetlands,
  • contains a key provision which is undefined
  • creates regulatory confusion with federal wetlands
  • creates the need for more Army Corps of Engineers involvement

The bill was opposed by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, the state agency charged with implementing the isolated wetlands law.

According to Purdue scientists, Indiana now receives 6.5 inches more precipitation per year than it did when data were first recorded in the 1890s, so we need the flood protection benefits of our wetlands more than ever.

SB 229 is headed to Governor Eric Holcomb’s desk; the Governor could sign this bill very soon.

Act Now

  • Urge the Governor, via email (govholcomb@gov.in.gov), to veto SB 229.
  • Please spread the word via Facebook, Twitter, e-blast, and/or an email message to friends and colleagues.

Thank you!

Tim Maloney, Senior Policy Director
Hoosier Environmental Council

Fort Wayne Wild & Scenic Film Festival Postponed

Festival Postponed.

The Indiana Forest Alliance is committed to your health and safety. We recognize that the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) has raised concerns about attending a large event.

Out of an abundance of caution, and in consultation with our host partner Purdue University Fort Wayne (PUFW), we have made the decision to postpone the March 22, 2020, Wild & Scenic Film Festival in Fort Wayne. Know that we are working with PUFW to reschedule the Festival to take place later this year.

We encourage you to stay informed about the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak through the following sources:

We regret that circumstances have led to this decision and appreciate your understanding and support. Feel free to contact us at 317.602.3692 if you have any questions. Watch for upcoming Festival updates–we’ll contact you with the new event date as soon as know it!

Meanwhile, the rest of IFA’s work is moving forward. We’re in the midst of planning our Ecoblitz surveys! If you’re interested in opportunities to volunteer, contact IFA’s conservation director, Rae Schnapp.

IFA Board of Directors & IFA Staff

Wild & Scenic Film Festival: The Countdown to Bloomington Begins

Sunday, the Wild & Scenic Film Festival returns to Bloomington. If you have your tickets, that’s great! We can’t wait to see you!

If you don’t have your tickets, here are a few reasons why we think you should buy tickets to the Festival:

  • The weather forecast calls for rain. That means no snow or ice.
    You probably wouldn’t be outside hiking anyway.
  • Free parking. It’s Bloomington, you know what that means.
  • Tickets are selling fast. We wouldn’t want to see you standing in the rain. Buy your tickets online.
  • Good music. The Hammer and The Hatchet and Chris Wolf!
    Need we say more?

The Details

Bloomington Wild & Scenic Film Festival
Date: February 16, 2020, 6 pm to 8:30 pm, doors open at 5:30 pm

Location: Buskirk-Chumley Theater
114 E. Kirkwood Ave., Bloomington, IN 47408

Tickets: $25; $15 for students
Online ticket sales: bit.ly/WSFF-Bloomington

Wild & Scenic Film Festival: Why You Should Attend!

Why should you attend the Wild & Scenic Film Festival in Bloomington? Here are our top five reasons. What are yours?

  1. Watch 10 film shorts that reveal heroic tales of nature’s defenders and the healing power of forests, at home and across the country.
  2. Listen to live, local music by
  3. Win prizes through our new ticket raffle such as
    • An overnight stay at the Crown Plaza Hotel in downtown Indianapolis with four tickets to see Sleeping Beauty with the Indianapolis Ballet OR
    • A daypack and Nalgene bottle from REI for hiking. Hike Yellowood and then use your gift certificate for two for dinner at the Hob Knob in Brown County after your hike OR
    • An authentic autographed Pacers t-shirt with Pacers #7 Point Guard, Malcolm Brogdan’s autograph AND
    • much more!
  4. Support IFA’s mission and hang out with forest-friendly folks.
  5. Visit one of Bloomington’s unique restaurants before the festival!

And did we mention: Get Inspired!

Buy your tickets to the Bloomington Wild & Scenic Film Festival today!

4,375 Acres to be Logged and Burned in Hoosier National Forest

Burned turtle from prescribed burns in forest.

Your Calls and Letters Can Stop This Project

The U.S. Forest Service is moving forward with a plan to log 4,375 acres, repeatedly burn 13,500 acres, build 16.4 miles of logging roads, and apply herbicides on 1,970 acres all concentrated on ridges, slopes, and valleys in the Hoosier National Forest (HNF) that drain into Monroe Reservoir. We urgently need your help in contacting the officials listed below to stop this ill-advised project and compel the Forest Service to consider alternatives. 

Take Action Today

Contact each of the following officials and ask them to stop the current logging and burning plan in the Houston South Area. Share with them two or three specific reasons for wanting this project stopped. Please forward a copy of your correspondence to IFA so we can document contacts made. If you would be willing to write a letter to the editor of your local paper, please contact IFA. We urgently need your help in contacting the officials listed below to stop this ill-advised project and compel the Forest Service to consider alternatives. The USFS will make a final decision at the beginning of February.

Governor Eric Holcomb 
Office of the Governor
Indiana Statehouse
Indianapolis, IN 46204-2797
(317) 232-4567

Senator Mike Braun
374 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-4814

Senator Todd Young
185 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510
(202) 224-5623

Representative Trey Hollingsworth
1641 Longworth House Office Building
Washington DC 20515
(202) 225-5315

Robert Lueckel
(Acting Director)
Regional Forester
626 E. Wisconsin Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53202-4616
(414) 297-3765

Vicki Christiansen
Chief US Forest Service
USDA Forest Service
Sidney R. Yates Federal Building
201 14th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20024
(202) 205-1661

Indiana Forest Alliance
Action Alert: Houston South
2123 N. Meridian St.
Indianapolis, IN 46202

Our Concerns

This proposed “Houston South Vegetation Management and Restoration Project” risks increasing sediment runoff into the South Fork of Salt Creek which is already polluting Monroe Reservoir, the sole drinking water supply for 120,000 people in Monroe and surrounding counties, with too much sediment and nutrient input. It will cause repeated closures and reroutes of the Knobstone Trail as well as popular horseback riding trails. The project will kill or harm at least seven species of federally or state listed bats and other birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles that are state endangered or listed as “species of special concern” in Indiana.

Link to the plan details published by the U.S. Forest Service.

Impacts From Proposed Management Plan

Threaten Water Quality

Because Houston South is located in the Lake Monroe watershed, implementing the proposed management plan will compromise the drinking water supply for 120,000 people. Lake Monroe already suffers from excess nutrients, suspended sediment, and algae. Drinking water authorities spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to treat spikes in suspended solids (“turbidity”) to safely provide this water to the public. The project area contains many steep slopes with highly erodible soils, and the silt load from burning and logging will exacerbate these problems. Shallow bays are noticeably silting in and being clogged with invasive water plants. The Clean Water Act prohibits new pollutant loads when an impairment is present.

The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) says that Best Management Practices will prevent water pollution, but monitoring of other logging sites shows this is not true. In a Kentucky study, suspended sediments were 14 times higher during the first 17 months after cutting in a watershed where logging BMPs were used when compared to an uncut watershed (See source 1). A literature review indicates that in general, the effectiveness of BMPs for sediment ranges from 53 to 94% efficient during harvest and up to one year after harvesting (See source 2). Fishing on Lake Monroe will also likely suffer from increased sediment input.

Endanger Wildlife

In its present unlogged and unburned condition, the Houston South project area supports seven species of bats that are federally endangered or threatened, under consideration for this listing or state endangered or “species of special concern” (rare or range limited in Indiana, see source 3):

  • Gray bat (Myotis grisecens)
    Federally Endangered
  • Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis)
    Federally Endangered
  • Northern long-eared (Myotis septentrionalis)
    Federally Threatened, State Endangered
  • Little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus)
    State Endangered
  • Tricolored bat (Perimyotis subflavus)
    State Endangered, Federal Listing Under Review
  • Evening bat (Nycticeius humeralis)
    State Endangered
  • Eastern red bat (Lasiurus borealis)
    State Species of Special Concern

State counts indicate that White-Nose Syndrome, a disease that attacks cave-hibernating bats, has killed hundreds of thousands of Indiana bats and 90% or more of Northern long-eared, little brown, and tri-colored bats since it arrived in Indiana in 2009.

By burning and logging during the summer, the project will cut down, burn up, and engulf in smoke maternity roosting trees for these bats, killing the mothers and their “pups.” Other animals that will likely be burned up or adversely affected by the logging and road construction include the state endangered Timber Rattlesnake and Cerulean Warbler and Species of Special Concern that live or nest on or near the forest floor such as Eastern Box Turtle, Smoky, and Pygmy Shrew, Rough Green Snake, Worm Eating Warbler, Black and White Warbler, and Hooded Warbler.

Compromise Forest Health and Increase Invasive Species

The USFS claims that this timber harvest is required to regenerate early successional oak and hickory forests. However, the age class distribution table for the HNF indicates that about 10% of the HNF is in the 0-25 year age class, while less than 5% is in the > 100-year-old classes. Findings from the 2018 Purdue Climate Change study indicate that climate conditions will be more favorable for oak in the coming decades, suggesting that oak saplings will thrive without the intervention of logging, burning, and pesticide applications.

Jeopardize Outdoor Recreation

Outdoor recreation is one of the fastest-growing components of Indiana’s tourism industry, generating some $15.7 billion in annual consumer spending and creating 143,000 jobs in Indiana, according to the Outdoor Industry Association. This project will consume a significant part of the most popular horseback riding area in the HNF and force repeated closures of other horseback riding trails. The project will force closures or reroutes of the Knobstone Trail, the state’s longest and most famous backpacking trail, as well as the Fork Ridge and other hiking trails.

Volunteers helped construct and maintain many of these trails, but the volunteer pool is likely to dry up if trails are destroyed or repeatedly closed due to logging and burning. Several miles of the project are directly adjacent to the southern border of the Charles Deam Wilderness. This logging project will diminish the recreational experiences within the largest concentration of national and state forest public lands and the only federal wilderness area in the lower midwest (Indiana, Ohio, and Illinois) where wild land for such experiences is extremely limited.

Exacerbate Climate Change 

The USFS is required to consider the cumulative impacts of their actions, including the release of greenhouse gases. While admitting the project will contribute to carbon emissions, the Forest Service has not considered done this. Since the latest 2006 Forest Plan, global climate change projections have become much more dire. The Houston South proposal does not even reference the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report published in 2018 that emphasizes the importance of reducing carbon emissions and increasing carbon sequestration (see IPCC reports). USFS claims the project will contribute only small amounts of carbon through logging and burning activities. Furthermore, the agency has not considered alternatives that contribute less or have a positive impact on carbon sequestration.  

Examine Alternatives

The USFS is required to consider alternatives to the proposed action at Houston South. The USFS has not demonstrated that they considered the impacts on municipal water supplies. Some 63,000 acres of the HNF have the same management prescription (“Management Area 2.8) under the HNF Management Plan as Houston South but lie within watersheds that are not used for drinking water. Many groups have asked the USFS to consider harvesting and burning in those areas instead. However, other than taking “no action,” the USFS has not considered any alternatives to this drastic plan.

Share this message!

Thank you for your forest advocacy! Together we are working to protect Indiana’s priceless remaining wild nature.

Jeff Stant, Executive Director &
Rae Schnapp, Conservation Director

Photo: Eastern box turtle injured by fire. Inage courtesy of Joanna Gibson, Environmental Scientist.  

Five Ways to Preserve Nature While Hiking

Hiking trips can be a great way to escape the busyness of everyday life. Whether you hike alone or with a loved one, the peace and serenity of the great outdoors can be exceptionally therapeutic. As we hike, however, we must keep the Earth in mind and make efforts to protect natural resources. Here are five tips for preserving nature while hiking:

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

  • Bring a reusable water bottle. When setting out for a hike, you should always bring water with you to avoid dehydration—especially if you are hiking in high temperatures. However, instead of bringing plastic water bottles with you, try to bring a reusable water bottle of your own. Plastic water bottles already consume our planet’s oceans and landfills, so don’t be part of the problem! 
  • Stay on the trail. As you hike, make sure you stick to the trails that have been set aside for people to walk on. If you stray from the trail, this can have harmful consequences for nature and wildlife. Trails are put into place for a reason: you will not damage any natural resources by walking on them. However, once you step off of it, you will likely tread over plants and destroy them. This not only takes away from the beauty around you but also destroys a potential source of food for wild animals.
  • Do NOT take from the environment. Many people like to collect tokens from their trips as memories. Please refrain from taking any piece of nature home with you. This includes rocks, shells, feathers, sticks, flowers, and any other object that belongs to the Earth. You don’t want to take away something that makes nature beautiful, so leave it in its place for other hikers to enjoy.
  • Do NOT litter. If you pack food for your hiking trip, make sure to pick up after yourself. If you bring a dog with you, be sure to clean up any pet waste. When you pack food for your trip, try to keep animals and the environment in mind. Consider packing food in reusable containers, rather than plastic or paper bags. If left behind, not only can this waste be consumed by animals and harm them, but it also can ruin the beauty of the natural scenery.
  • Be careful with fire. If you choose to make a fire during your hike, make sure to take caution. It can be fun to take a break and enjoy S’mores, but a fire can quickly spread and grow. In severe cases, this can lead to a full-blown forest fire. If your campsite is in a location that is dry and hot, do not attempt to start a fire unless you find a fire pit available to you.

If you choose to go on a hike, make sure you are kind to the environment. Keep these tips in mind as you explore, and share them with friends so we can all protect our planet together! 

This article was provided by www.personalinjury-law.com, an organization dedicated to providing the public with information about personal injury and safety information. Nothing in this article should be construed as legal advice, and it is intended for informational use only.

Ruffed Grouse: IFA Statement on the Petition to List the Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus) as a State Endangered Species

Statement of Jeff Stant, Executive Director, Indiana Forest Alliance Regarding Item 16 on the Agenda of the Indiana Natural Resources Commission Concerning the Petition to List the Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus) as a State Endangered Species

I appreciate this opportunity to express concerns of the Indiana Forest Alliance (IFA) about this proposed listing. IFA agrees that populations of the ruffed grouse have dropped significantly in Indiana over the past 2 to 3 decades. However, we are concerned that remedies discussed in the proposed listing of pursuing more even-aged silviculture, i.e. clearcutting of public lands in the southcentral portion of the state, are wholly unjustified and will cause substantially more harm to multiple interior forest-dependent species that are endangered, declining, species of special concern or range limited to the only heavily-forested area in the state. We are also concerned about the adverse impacts of such logging on water supplies, and the aesthetic value and use of these public lands for wilderness recreation not possible elsewhere in Indiana.

We wish to make the following additional points. First, while ruffed grouse do prefer a mix of forest habitats and stand ages including early successional habitat, it is an indisputable fact that ruffed grouse have long survived in unmanaged wild forests without help from foresters or game managers. The breeding range of this bird extends from central Alaska through thousands of square miles of unmanaged boreal and northern hardwood forest wilderness across Canada to the northern United States and south along higher elevations in the Appalachian Mountains to northern Georgia. One can find ruffed grouse in unmanaged old-growth forests in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Minnesota and Porcupine Mountains State Park in Michigan. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Frozen Head State Park, and Roan Mountain harbor breeding populations of ruffed grouse at the southern end of its range. These areas comprise nearly 1.8 million acres of mature, northern hardwood and coniferous forests. Much of it is in the old-growth condition, and none of it has undergone silvicultural practices for a great deal of time.

What else do these areas have in common as far as ruffed grouse are concerned? Lots of native aspen and native white pine. Aspen buds are a primary food for ruffed grouse. Several decades ago ruffed grouse flourished in parts of southern Indiana where there was enough wild forest with aspen and planted white pines, no longer native to most of Indiana, but indicative of the northern hardwood forest that this species has evolved in for thousands of years. There was no clearcutting going on in the large 60 to 90-year old stands of forest in the Maumee Grouse Study Area set up in the Hoosier National Forest in the 1970s and 80s, yet a viable population of grouse survived there.

Second, an increase in the creation of early successional habitat from logging appears to have had little positive effect on ruffed grouse numbers. Since 2003, logging has increased 300 to 400 percent from prior logging levels in state forests. One of the most common silvicultural applications in this logging has been group tree selection with openings of up to 9 acres in size. Clearcutting has also continued in the Hoosier National Forest from the 1980s to today. Clearcutting and group tree selection have been wide-spread on private lands in southern Indiana also during this period. Yet ruffed grouse numbers have plummeted in these very areas during this period.

Some 165,000 acres of State Fish & Wildlife Areas and 100,000 acres of state reservoir lands have many acres of early successional habitat. Yet ruffed grouse introductions in Winamac, Jasper-Pulaski and Pigeon River Fish and Wildlife Areas in the 1990s were unsuccessful.

We understand that ruffed grouse populations are subject to cyclical declines, but we don’t know why ruffed grouse numbers have been declining so sharply in Indiana. We do know that the large preponderance of Indiana is in the mixed hardwoods forest zone, not the northern hardwoods that historic range maps indicate the ruffed grouse was at the edge of its range in our state. Moreover, as climate change continues unabated, species indicative of the northern hardwoods such as aspen and white pine will likely continue to retreat north and steadily become less existent in the state.

If those within the IDNR supporting this listing want to objectively examine the facts and discern the causes leading to the decline of the ruffed grouse in Indiana and proceed in a manner that respects Indiana’s mixed hardwood forest ecosystem and the natural means of succession that occur in this system, then we can support this listing. Perhaps that examination will reinforce the demand for more public land acquisition which could, for example, expand the size of the 11,000 acres Pigeon Fish and Wildlife Area sufficiently to accommodate a reintroduced population of ruffed grouse.

However, natural succession has been turning over Indiana’s forest primarily by one or two big trees falling at a time for many centuries. Ruffed grouse have existed in the early successional habitat created in that system. Furthermore, the DOF’s Continuous Forest Inventory demonstrates that Indiana’s public forests are still relatively young, under 100 years old, with less than 500 acres of our 158,300 acres of state forests having returned to the old-growth condition of 150 to 300 years in age. That is far less old-growth forest than existed for a very long time while the ruffed grouse was “endemic” to our state. The answer for declining populations of ruffed grouse is not to do more clearcutting in the only area of our state that supports viable populations of many forest-dependent animals and plants that were arguably more common than the ruffed grouse was in pre-settlement Indiana but are indisputably more endanger of extinction from their entire range today than the ruffed grouse is. Those include the cerulean warbler (Setophaga cerulea), northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis), and little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus).

We ask that public hearings and a comment period be provided for any further consideration of this petition. Thank you.

Houston South Logging Project–Your Comments Needed by August 26 (Monday)

Friends of Lake Monroe has produced a summary of the five key arguments against the Houston South logging project in the Hoosier National Forest to help you formulate your comments to the U.S. Forest Service. Comments are due by August 26.

  1. The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) incorrectly claims in the Draft Environmental Assessment (EA) that there are no unresolved conflicts that warrant development and analysis of additional alternatives, in spite of public requests to consider new options. The proposed action remains virtually unchanged since the initial November 2018 scoping letter despite more than 500 comments > 90% of which expressed concerns or outright opposition from citizens, local business, and environmental organizations representing more than 10,000 people in the State of Indiana.
  2. The USFS fails to recognize the important role it plays as the largest land manager in the Lake Monroe watershed, dismissing with minimal and flawed analysis, public concerns related to the potential impact of this project on the water quality of the sole municipal water source for more than 120,000 residents. This project may include clearcutting and/or other logging on several thousand acres of steep slopes draining into the South Fork of Salt Creek which flows into Lake Monroe. Citing agriculture as a significant sediment runoff problem (without evidence) does not relieve the USFS from its obligation to consider the proposed action’s contribution to non-point source pollution in the currently impaired Lake Monroe watershed and the impaired South Fork Salt Creek watershed.
  3. The EA relies heavily on the 13-year-old Forest Management Plan which pre-dates vital information:
    a) Harmful algae blooms have been the cause of recreational advisories for Lake Monroe for each year for the past nine years. IDEM lists timber harvesting among the common causes of non-point source pollution that feed blue-green algae blooms. Unlike many watersheds in Indiana, the Lake Monroe watershed is heavily forested, and nutrient loading cannot be solely attributed to agriculture.
    b) Understanding of the impacts, timing, and importance of climate change has increased dramatically since the 2006 Forest Plan was developed and the most recent report from the International Panel on Climate Change states that we have 12 years to turn around net carbon release in the atmosphere. In this context, short-term releases from cutting and burning in this project cannot be acceptable.
    c) Using a 2011 assessment to evaluate glyphosate safety does not consider recent findings that raise concerns about its safety and environmental impact. These and many other “unresolved conflicts” must be addressed.
  4. With no or minimal analysis or scientific basis, the EA dismisses numerous short-term impacts as insignificant, including the following:
  • loss of carbon-sequestering trees;
  • impact on wildlife: migratory neo-tropical and ground-nesting birds and removal of roosts for endangered Indiana and other bats;
  • impact on recreation and local economy to horse riders, hikers, primitive campers, businesses and others resulting from years of trail closures, including the highly valued Knobstone Trail;
  • increased soil erosion and movement due to road construction; and
  • impact of prescribed burning: on the release of greenhouse gasses, effects on human health and air quality, and the loss of vegetation and subsequent erosion and nutrient release.
  1. The finding of no significant impact relies heavily on successful implementation and effectiveness of best management practices (BMPs), which is not consistent with past HNF records or with the available personnel resources. The USFS has not evaluated the risk of major soil erosion due to the increasing frequency of extreme rainfall events.

Background Information on Houston South

Submit your comments

For more information, see the Draft Environmental Assessment (EA), Responses to Scoping Comments, and Instructions for Commenting on the Draft EA at https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=55119

Comments should be sent to Michelle Paduani, District Ranger, either by:

  • Email
    Subject Line: Houston South Vegetation Management and Restoration Project
    comments-eastern-hoosier@fs.fed.us or
  • U.S. Postal Service
    Attention: Houston South Vegetation Management and Restoration Project
    811 Constitution Ave.
    Bedford, IN 47421

Comments are due by August 26, 2019.

Friends of Lake Monroe

NEPA: IFA Endorses Transparency, Accountability, Public Participation, and Science-Based Decision Making in Forest Policy

The U.S. Forest Service has proposed policy changes that eliminate public involvement and environmental review for most national forest decisions, including logging projects, road construction, and even pipelines.

This proposal falls under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). If passed, it removes longstanding requirements for public notification, input, and analysis of environmental impacts when approving projects such as logging (clear cuts up to 4,200 acres), road building (five miles), pipeline construction (four miles), closing recreational trails, and other activities under a “Categorical Exclusion” from NEPA Review on the 193 million acres of national forest lands across the country.

How Does This Proposal Affect Hoosiers?

Forest Canopy.This proposal denies Hoosiers the opportunity to comment on national forest management decisions. 

Hoosier National Forest (HNF) falls under these federal policies. Fifty thousand acres of HNF drain directly into the Monroe and Patoka Reservoirs. This proposal, if passed, would leave 280,000 Hoosiers who get their drinking water from these sources without a voice. Furthermore, this proposal undermines NEPA’s bedrock principles of government transparency, accountability, public participation, and science-based decision making. Will you act now?

The deadline to file comments with the U.S. Forest Service on NEPA Procedures (36 CFR 220) is August 26, 2019.

Dive deeper into the implications of the proposal

Take Action

Please tell the U.S. Forest Service why you want a say on public land decisions.

Submit comments through http://www.ourforestsourvoice.org by August 26. This action takes about five minutes.

OR comment directly to the U.S. Forest Service

Letters written in your own words are most effective. If they perceive that your letter is a form letter, it may be thrown out.

Visit https://www.fs.fed.us/emc/nepa/revisions/index.shtml#howtocomment

How to Comment on the Proposed Rule

Contact Indiana Officials

Contact Indiana Senator Mike BraunHe serves on the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry which oversees the U.S. Forest Service. He will be key during the next few years as the set-asides in HNF come up for review. He needs to start hearing from his constituents on forest issues.
When completing Sen. Braun’s contact form, select the topic, “Environment.”

Please share this message widely.

Thank you for your participation in the public comment period and your forest advocacy and support! Together we can work to protect Indiana’s priceless remaining wild nature.

IFA Staff

Say “NO” to the DNR and “YES” to State Parks!

Hoosiers call for Salamonie River & Frances Slocum State Forests to be changed to State Parks!

In April, more than 890 Hoosiers submitted a petition to convert Salamonie and Frances Slocum State Forests into state parks.

Trees slated for logging.Unfortunately, the DNR has recommended that the petition be rejected, in part so that logging can begin.

That said, the Indiana Natural Resources Commission (INRC) needs to hear from you. PLEASE SHOW UP TUESDAY and let them know you support the petition to allow these forests to be managed as State Parks.

This may be our last chance to protect these forests from proposed logging!

When: July 16, from 10 am to 12 pm
(Arrive early to get a seat!)

Where: Fort Harrison State Park, Garrison
6002 N. Post Rd.; Indianapolis

It’s not too late to make your voice heard!

Comment on IDNR’s 2020 Forest Action Plan

Tulip Tree

Indiana’s State Tree, the Tulip Poplar. Photo: The New York Botanical Garden CC BY-NC 2.0 https://www.flickr.com/photos/ugardener/9109354929/in/photolist-7Pk1Mu-5v5Pa1-eSXPRB

You have an opportunity to influence forest management! The Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Division of Forestry is preparing its new 10-year strategic action plan for all of Indiana’s forests, known as the 2020 Forest Action Plan. IDNR staff want to hear from groups and organizations as well as individuals on forest management issues in Indiana. The plan is required by the IDNR to receive funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and addresses private and public forests.

We’ve created an overview on how to submit your comments. We’ve also included a number of useful resources.

Be sure to take this opportunity to make your voice heard! Comments are due by June 30, 2019.

Support the Ecoblitz Through Don’t Endanger Me Campaign

Every day, the Indiana Forest Alliance campaigns to protect forests through policy and grassroots outreach. But did you know we conduct yearlong surveys in forests for mammals, reptiles, amphibians, crustaceans, spiders, insects, butterflies, pollinators, plants, mosses, fungi, and lichens known as the Ecoblitz?

What has the IFA found? Tremendous biological diversity–including 24 rare, threatened, and endangered species–all within one small tract of Yellowwood State Forest. We know many other animals like the ones featured here are losing their forest habitat. Tragically, our state is making decisions to deforest their homes without even knowing who lives there. With your help, IFA plans to expand the Ecoblitz to three new sites during the next five years, providing new information vital to conserving valuable forest habitat. Your support for the #dontendangerme campaign will make this possible. Volunteer for our phone campaign and follow our progress your social media of choice: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Or find us with #dontendangerme.

By supporting projects like the Ecoblitz, we can expand to three more sites, employ more experts, and offer hands-on experiences for more volunteers and future scientists. 

Thank you for helping the IFA do the urgent work to preserve the forests we all cherish. 

 

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.