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.

IFA Gains Ground in the Indiana State House But We Must Keep at It!

An amendment to SB 363 calling for the set aside of 10% of state forests failed to pass the State House of Representatives in March by a vote of 42 yays to 52 nays. Despite continued opposition by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), seven more representatives supported the 10% set-aside than in 2018!

Indiana's state forests.

All House Democrats supported the 10% amendment except Rep. Goodin (Austin) who abstained from voting. The 12 Republicans who supported the 10% set-aside amendment include Abbott (Rome City), Baird (Greencastle), Borders (Jasonville), Cook (Cicero), May (Bedford), Negele (Attica), Nisly (Goshen), Pressel (Rolling Prairie), Saunders (Lewisville), Schaibley (Carmel), Wolkins (Warsaw), and Young (Franklin).

 

Follow up with your representative and let him or her know how you feel about their vote. 

Thank those who voted in favor of the amendment. Representatives Borders, Schaibley, Boy (Michigan City), Hamilton, and Pierce all deserve appreciation for speaking in favor of the Set Aside Amendment. Hamilton and Pierce deserve a special thank you for their work and leadership in offering these amendments.

Ask those who voted against the amendment (or abstained) to explain their action or lack of action. Respectfully let them know that you will hold them responsible for making the IDNR set aside at least 10 percent of our state forest to return to the old growth condition.

This vote shows legislators support for restoration of old growth forests in the state forests is growing in the State House. You helped make that happen.

If you’re not already an IFA member, consider joining today. Your membership makes our work possible.

Contact Your Legislators to Protect Indiana’s state forests!

By Jeff Stant, IFA Executive Director

Updated March 22, 2019

Virtually every week, the Indiana Forest Alliance hears from concerned Hoosiers about proposed logging in their favorite areas of Indiana’s state forests. Added to this are rampant cutting of private forests, and even County-owned forests like the famed Bean Blossom overlook in Brown County enjoyed by generations of Hoosiers. The overlook was “accidentally” clear cut by a timber buyer who was given the green light by Brown County officials with little instruction to limit logging on the site. (See the news coverage of the cut.) On the heels of this cut, the time is now to take action.

Please Ask Your State Representative To Support Amendments to Protect Indiana’s State Forests!

On Monday March 25, two amendments attached to SB 363 are being considered on the floor of the Indiana House of Representatives. These amendments would:

  • Set-aside 10 percent of each state forest where no logging would be allowed in tracts of at least 500 acres where possible; and
  • Establish a commission consisting of 10 members (nine of them with voting powers) representing the general public, Democrats and Republicans, preservation groups, recreation groups, foresters, loggers, the timber industry, and the IDNR. This Commission will hold at least seven public hearings to solicit public input and develop a plan by 2021 to balance the allocation of state forest acres between logging and non-logging uses as specified in SB 610. The plan would have to be adopted into regulation by the IDNR.

The Indiana Forest Alliance strongly supports both of these amendments. The set-aside amendment would require a minimum amount of state forest land, 16,000 acres or 10%, to be set aside. More than three times the 3% now set aside, these blocks would be large enough to provide viable habitat for forest animals and wilderness recreation.

The commission amendment would finally give the public a meaningful opportunity to comment on how our state forests, which belong to all of us, should be managed. AND it would require that this management balance logging with non-logging uses. These will be requirements IN LAW, instead of merely guidelines.

Indiana's state forests.

TAKE ACTION

Contact your legislator NOW.

Find your legislator name and contact information.

Tell them you want them to support amendments to:

  1. Create a 10% set-aside in Indiana’s state forests where no logging would be allowed; and
  2. Establish an independent commission to solicit public input on a plan to balance the uses of our state forests to serve the needs of Hoosiers best.

Also, tell your representatives why Indiana’s state forests are so important to you—personalize your message.

Year after year, legislators make decisions in favor of the timber industry without hearing the pleas of Hoosiers who continue to be concerned about the destruction of our limited public forests. Would you tell your representative what is happening to Indiana’s precious few wild places that you care about?

Please ask your State Representative to support these amendments.

Thank you!

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!