Gambling with our Natural Heritage

Gambling With Our Natural Heritage

by Dr. P. David Simcox, Mind the Gap: Protectors of the Low Gap State Wild Area

Let’s examine the issue of how our Governor Holcomb has disregarded concerns voiced by a multitude of citizens about the accelerated rate of logging in our State Forests. The Governor has chosen to rely upon his experts, Indiana DNR’s Division of Forestry, to decide the best policy to manage these Forests. In other words, he has exercised his responsibility to make policy by avoiding the issue.

Embedded in this policy is that Division of Forestry staff believes all woodlands need human intervention to survive. Human intervention in this case means logging. It turns out–as the Governor knows–that there is a body of evidence about larger ecological issues expressed by scientists who offer a opposing points of view.

The object of this discussion is not to debate the scientific arguments, but to point out that our Governor has chosen the riskiest approach to managing our resources for the future.

Science is Not Absolute

We have all seen reports of a new scientific study finding something you eat is bad for your health. Then a short time later another study says this same item is good for your health.  Take chocolate or coffee for example. What you are hearing is that science is not absolute. There will be new research to be considered. There are always differing opinions that need to be incorporated into the body of evidence to support a scientific course of action.

Managing Global R&D Programs

In my career as a manager of global technology platforms in agriculture, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology, having a strategy incorporating differing points of view and technology was prudent. Portfolios were created that blended conservative projects and those with higher risk and those with proven technology with more cutting edge science. In no case did we ever bet on one horse. We sought a balanced R&D portfolio that offered opportunities, but minimized the risk.

In reviews with scientists over the decades, I learned to appreciate the researchers who were open to varied explanations for their findings and then sought further investigation to select the right ones. Unfortunately, some scientists are there to sell you on their point of view, not to weigh the options.

Financial Portfolio

What would you do if your financial advisor says: “I found this great stock pick. Let’s take 97.5% of your retirement and invest it all there!” You would likely look for a new advisor. You would never want to take an irreversible or unrecoverable risk. You always seek a balanced investment portfolio spreading your risk and opportunity. It is all about risk management.

Opposing Points of View

IDNR’s current policy protects only 2.5% of our 158,000 acres of State Forests from logging. Even in the “old growth or older growth” sections of their Strategic Plan, they consider logging a management requirement.

Other midwestern states, through policy or science, set aside significant portions of their state forests for no logging. No logging policies range from 100% in Illinois to 25% in Pennsylvania. Why does Indiana’s DNR think that is not a prudent approach? Do they know better? I have been told by a senior IDNR manager that Pennsylvania is “just different” with the only explanation given that it is larger. This outright dismissal should set off alarm bells.

Our Governor has rejected the advice of 228 Indiana scientists who see the current IDNR policy as ignoring the larger ecological picture. These forest ecosystems are complex and intricate. Concerns about the lack of knowledge about the forest soil ecosystems were recently expressed by a Professor Emeritus of Forestry from Purdue University. So much has yet to be learned about the impact of logging on these ecosystems.

Our IDNR is involved in a Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment study. This 100-year project is underway to determine how to best manage the forests. The operative word here is “experiment.” IDNR must be acknowledging they do not have all the answers…why otherwise would you call this an experiment?

In the meantime, while gathering the data, IDNR is ignoring opposing science and concerns and will continue to log all but minor tracts in our State Forests. There are many terms one might use to describe their approach, but “extremist” is a fair descriptor.

Other Governors Have Done Their Job

Past Indiana Governors have understood that our State Forests are precious resources and should be conservatively managed. Until 2002 and then with the subsequent hiring of a pro-logging head forester in 2005, Governors from both sides of the aisle have set aside as much as 40% of our State Forests from logging. This is not a resource for which one should take large risks.

Governor Holcomb is Gambling with Our Future

So instead of developing a policy that balances pro-logging and ecological concerns, Governor Holcomb has decided to push in all his chips and make the big bet. That is what our Governor is doing. Gambling with your and your grandchildren’s future: our natural heritage and the species that depend upon us.

Call Governor Holcomb and tell him he should have not picked just one stock; what we need is a balance in managing our State Forests.

DNR Plays Defense as Public Pressure Mounts on Gov. Holcomb

After hundreds of contacts to the Governor’s office, more than 60 stories and letters to the editor in media outlets across the state, a $150,000 offer to preserve the forest, a letter signed by 228 scientists stating the ecological case for leaving some forests to develop naturally, and increasing numbers of Republican legislators speaking out against the current aggressive logging, the Indiana Dept. of Natural Resources has had to explain itself. They’ve produced a video series, editorials in the media, a URL called “yellowwoodtruth.com” and e-blast sent today.

IFA and our members welcome the opportunity to engage with these messages. Here’s a rebuttal of the material on the Division of Forestry’s website. Rebuttals of their videos are to come.

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has transformed nearly 160,000 acres of once neglected and abandoned farm and forest land into the healthy and diverse forests that exist in Indiana today, including the Yellowwood State Forest’s backcountry.  It is true that the DNR restored agricultural land to forests starting in the early 1900s. Wouldn’t they want to leave some of these same forests to develop into the kind of forest you might have seen in Indiana in the early 1800s?

Forest practice and research shows that periodic timber removal assists in maintaining the overall health of the forest, including managing for endangered species, soil and water protection, sustainable timber, and recreational activities. Learn more about timber harvesting in Indiana State Forests.  How is forest health defined? A “healthy” forest produces merchantable timber such as oak, in the shortest possible time, according to DNR foresters. And, there is much visual documentation of timber removal that decidedly has not enhanced recreational activities: 

The periodic strategic removal of trees in managed harvests opens the forest floor to sunlight, allowing new trees  to develop. Logging by single-tree selection, which targets mostly stressed, diseased and declining trees, is part of managing for these conditions in the backcountry area. DNR should recognize research that indicates certain percentages of each subspecies of ash are resistant to the ash borer.  DNR’s plan to log all ash trees, whether they’re resistant or not, will hasten the demise of this species.

DNR’s Division of Forestry is currently leading an effort to harvest select trees from the 299 acres of the Yellowwood State Forest’s backcountry. Single-tree selection will be used, as it has been used in the previous 13 harvests of the now Morgan-Monroe/Yellowwood State Forest backcountry area. Using single-tree selection now, and 20 years from now, and another 20 years from now, meaning the forest — which could have be considered an old-growth forest roughly 30 years from now — will never get the chance to become old. And to get its certification from the Forest Stewardship Council, the state promised to leave some state forest in “old growth condition.” They won’t say where they are doing that.

Five to seven trees per acre may be removed during this thinning. The DNR’s forestry division determines the trees to be removed dependent on each tree’s health and impact to the overall forest area. A portion of the 1,700 marked trees are clustered together. Lots of bystander trees will die in the process of removing these 1,700. Gravel roads will run through the forest.

Studies conducted by independent researchers working on State Forests show that species of conservation concern, such as the timber rattlesnake, hooded warbler, worm-eating warbler and Indiana bat can benefit from conditions created by periodic thinning of the areas like the backcountry’s current closed canopy. These species have also been documented reproducing in closed canopy forests. They adapt as needed to logged areas. But these animals don’t need logging to survive or thrive.

The people who run the Division of Forestry are indeed scientists in the field of forestry. But Indiana’s forests do not belong to them to treat as a private landowner would treat his or her land. These are the taxpayers’ forests. And, you, the public, should have a voice in how they are managed. Time to call Governor Holcomb again, who could be a hero if he were to call off this logging plan. 317-232-4567.

Brown County Artist to Gov. Holcomb: “Preserve the closed canopy forest”

A painting of Yellowwood State Forest by artist Charlene Marsh work hangs in the office of Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch. Marsh’s award-winning work is part of the long tradition of Hoosier painters capturing the vibrant natural beauty of the one and only Brown County. Like T.C. Steele and William Forsyth before her, Marsh pays close attention to the seasons of the forest and captures them on canvas in an impressionistic style, out in the open air. Here’s her powerful letter to Governor Eric Holcomb:

Dear Gov. Holcomb,

I am writing today to implore you to take a hard look at the logging practices in our state forests and end the wholesale cutting of our trees, especially in the back country areas.

As an artist and a life long Republican (who voted for you!), my property borders Yellowwood State Forest in Brown County so I have an intimate relationship with the forest and vested interest in what happens to our forest.

I met your lovely wife, Janet, at a reception this past spring for the artists exhibiting in the State House and discovered we are both Muncie Burris grads, both majored in Fine Arts in college, and are both horsewomen.  What a pleasure meeting another Republican, Burris alumna, horsewoman, and artist all rolled in one!

(left): Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch with the Charlene Marsh painting that hangs in her office through May 2018: “Ice Cold Reflections, January 21, 2016,” an oil painting done on location in Yellowwood State Forest. (right): Marsh with Indiana First Lady Janet Holcomb.

 

 

I hike every day, rain or shine or snow or ice, in the forest and have built a career painting the forest “en plein air” in all four seasons.  I travel all over the USA to exhibit and sell these paintings, serving as an ambassador for our state and for our forests.

I still remember when I was at a show in Minneapolis, the Uptown Art Fair, when a gentleman stopped in front of my booth studying the paintings.  He commented, “These are from Brown County, aren’t they?”  I was amazed and asked: “You could tell just from the paintings?”  He said, “Yes, the area is very distinctive.”

In that moment I realized what a unique, special resource we have in Indiana with our deciduous, broad leaf forest, spectacular autumn (and spring, summer, winter) colors, deep, undisturbed forest canopy, rolling hills, and meandering creeks.   As a state, we need to recognize that tracts of undisturbed, old growth, forest is a very rare commodity that must be protected and preserved, not chopped, cut, destroyed, and sold to the lowest bidder.

One of the most exciting memories I have in the forest was one day, March 17, 2015, when I was hiking along the creek behind my property, I spotted a cougar moving up a hill with his rounded ears, muscular body, and long, rope-like tail.  I have lived out here since 1987 and have seen coyotes, deer, raccoons, a beaver (that was pretty amazing seeing him in this intermittent creek), opossums, rattlesnakes, copperheads (bit by one on Friday the 13th in 2007!) but spotting that cougar was a memorable highlight.

Beyond dollars and cents and business concerns of the management of the forest, we must take into account the spiritual benefits of nature and the ability for people to get out into nature to recharge, reset, regroup, reground, and reconnect with our souls and with God.   We need our forests to provide that resource for the people of Indiana.  Cutting the forest is like cutting the soul out of the heart of the people.

I strongly urge you to take steps to stop the wanton cutting of our forests.  Please take a stand to recognize not only the economic benefits, but the beauty and spiritual benefits inherent in an undisturbed, standing forest.   We have in Indiana an incredible resource that can be lost so quickly and so thoughtlessly.  And once gone, it is gone for the next several generations.  We must think in terms of a hundred years, not ten or, worse, one.

Thank you so much for your consideration for preserving one of our greatest natural resources, our closed canopy forest.

Warm regards,

Charlene Marsh

cc: State Senator Eric Koch;  Indiana Forest Alliance

See more of Charlene’s work at www.CharleneMarsh.com.

“Turquoise Creek, October 24, 2016,” 16” x 12” plein air oil painting done on location in Yellowwood State Forest, by Charlene Marsh.

Next Steps After the Moral Victory at Yellowwood

The sun was not even up when forest advocates started to gather at the Yellowwood State Forest Office. More than two hundred showed up to protest the most ironic timber sale of all time: a low-ball timber bidder won the right to kill 1,733 trees in the Yellowwood Back Country Area for just $108,000, less than $70 per tree. Add to that: just before the sale, a philanthropist (president of Castlewood, a furniture products company in Tell City, Indiana), offered $150,000 to preserve the forest – making the state’s sell-off of our public forests even more egregious. And our request to cancel this logging even more reasonable.

“The debate about our state forests is about politics,” said IFA Executive Director Jeff Stant in a statement to the media. “It’s about quality of life in Indiana, the conservation of our heritage, and public input in a democracy. We must insist that some of our state forests remain forever wild, for our emotional well-being and the survival of many declining forest-dependent species.

We need to continue to hold politicians accountable, especially Governor Holcomb, who refused to intervene despite our thousands of contacts to his office.

The timber sale protest was front page news in the IndyStar, and was covered by WTHR and WRTV. A story by the Associated Press reached as far as the Seattle Times. View images and video of the protest here.

WHAT’S NEXT?

The company that won the bid to log – Hamilton Logging – has until Thanksgiving to sign the contract with the Department of Natural Resources. Between now and then, you can:

  1. Write your local paper: participate in a huge new letter-to-the-editor effort. Speak from the heart! Or look for talking points from IFA next week.
  2. Keep the contacts coming! 317-232-4567 or GovHolcomb@gov.in.govask him to accept the $150,000 offer — and to meet with a group of the 228 scientists who signed the letter asking to set aside areas like the Yellowwood back County Area.
  3. Sign up to canvass starting next week in Brown, Marion and surrounding counties: contact IFA Outreach Director sandra@indianaforestalliance.org to sign up.
  4. Make a contribution to IFA of any amount and get a yard sign (more being printed as we speak)
  5. Join the encampment on private property at the end of Possum Trot Road next to the forest to be logged.
  6. Look for invitations to other strategic protests
  7. Make sure you are signed up for IFA’s e-blast to get the latest calls-to-action via e-mail.

Meanwhile, IFA is facilitating communications between state legislators, scientists, donors, and the Governor. And we are continuing to promote the philanthropist’s $150,000 offer. And encouraging the State and Hamilton Logging to cancel the contract to log this forest.

Those who believe that public forests are for logging alone accuse the Indiana Forest Alliance and our members of being “emotional.” Make no mistake: we are passionate about Indiana’s wilderness. And there is rock-hard science to support our views. All that stands in the way is politics. But this is a not a “red” or “blue” issue. We all need plentiful, healthy, old-growth forests – so rare in Indiana today. So we will speak out in our democracy as long as there are forests to fight for. Thank you for joining this effort!

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

228 Scientists to Gov. Holcomb: “Conserve major portions of our state forests”

In a letter delivered to Gov. Holcomb today, scientists from 16 academic institutions statewide outlined an array of objections to proposed logging of older growth forest tracts in Indiana’s state forests. The 228 scientists are urging Gov. Holcomb to set aside areas from timber harvest and reduce the rate of logging in state forests. [The letter and full list of signers and their affiliations is here].


The letter was authored by Leslie Bishop, Ph.D., Professor Emerita of Biology at Earlham College. She spent six months gathering signatures. She explained:

“As a biologist and Brown County resident, I have been deeply concerned about the increase in logging of our state forests, exemplified by the Division of Forestry’s intention to log 299 acres in the Yellowwood/Morgan-Monroe backcountry area.

“As an educator and researcher in the fields of invertebrate zoology, entomology, biological diversity, and wildlife ecology – and an Indiana voter – I felt compelled to bring my scientific understanding of forest biodiversity to bear on the current policy of managing 95% of Indiana’s state forests for timber production.”

See more photos and videos of the letter’s delivery.

Dr. Bishop delivers the letter to Rebecca Holwerda of the Governor’s staff.

The media covered the delivery of the letter.

 

“Dear Division of Forestry…”

Did you contact Governor Holcomb to express your opposition to the logging at Yellowwood, only to receive a letter back from … the head of the Indiana Division of Forestry?

We disagree heartily with many assertions in the letter. Below, IFA Executive Director Jeff Stant addresses every point in this six-page rebuttal. Here’s Seifert’s letter, with highlights of Stant’s rebuttal inserted in blue. If you’ve got the time, write back to the Governor with these counterpoints in mind!

++++

Fall, 2017

Dear Hoosier Citizen:

Thank you for your interest in the proposed resource management plan for a portion of the Yellowwood State Forest’s Back Country Area (BCA).

The DNR Division of Forestry has managed state forest lands for more than 100 years, during which time once abused and abandoned land has been restored to nearly 160,000 acres of diverse and healthy forests.

This includes the 2,900-acre Yellowwood State Forest Back Country Area. When the state acquired this land in the 1950s, it was a combination of cutover woodland, fruit orchards, farm fields and young growth. The husbandry practices of the Department of Natural Resources Forestry division restored this area, and in 1981, it received backcountry designation. At that time, the state announced timber management would continue under harvesting guidelines limited to the use of single-tree selection.

This is a mischaracterization of the condition of much of the land that was acquired to become state forest and part of this Back Country Area. At least 75% of this area was closed canopy forest according to aerial photographs taken in 1939 (below).  It was by no means “cutover woodland, fruit orchards,” etc.

1939 aerial photo of Yellowwood/Morgan-Monroe, with IFA’s Ecoblitz area outlined, showing a great deal of closed canopy forest.

Single-tree selection, along with best management practices for erosion control, will be used for this harvest, just as it has been utilized for the previous 13 Morgan Monroe Back Country Area harvests, including 2011 and 2013. This means that 5 to 7 trees per acre may be removed. Single-tree selection guidelines ensure the vast majority of trees, including some big trees, will be untouched and less stressed from current overcrowding.

The assertion that only 5 to 7 trees is not borne out by the trees that have just been marked to be logged in the timber sale. In some areas there are fewer than 5 to 7 trees marked to be cut, but in other areas, most notably on the flat ridge top in the center of Tract 3 where the forest canopy is more than 80 feet off the ground, a rarity anywhere in the state forests today–the trees marked to be cut are concentrated in groups of 20 to 40 per acre. Here, removing this many marked trees will substantively change the undisturbed character of the forest, replacing its deep green shade with much more sunlight and making it drier and hotter. 

The removal will focus on disease, insect, overcrowding and the overall health of individual trees and the entire forest. The long-term goal is to maintain a process that regenerates new seedlings by allowing sunlight to reach the forest floor.

Salvage cutting will remove as many ash trees, dead or alive, that can be reached, as well as dead or declining tulip poplars, black oaks, and scarlet oaks, to enlarge many openings that already exist (as explained in the DOF’s harvest plans). Many trees will be marred by skidders dragging logs from far corners across the forest to the main trails that will become gravel roads.  Many pristine areas of forest floor will be scraped bare as well, providing fertile grounds for nonnative invasive plants such as Japanese Stiltgrass to grow quickly aided by more sun light from the increase in canopy openings.  

The BCA guidelines restrict any timber to: “single tree selection of mature, damaged or diseased trees. Yet hundreds of healthy smaller trees, 8-20 inches in diameter that are far from being mature, are marked to be cut.

Forests thin themselves naturally. Thus the objective “to improve overall health and regeneration and leave trees less stressed from overcrowding” violates the primary objective of the BCA guidelines to manage this forest as a “primitive rugged” “natural woodland ecosystem” where “wilderness seekers” will be “visiting a forested area looking much the same as it may have appeared a century and a half ago” (as stated in the 1981 BCA designation publicity). Rather than truncating the forests’ natural processes, the guidelines require that timbering be compatible with this condition and let visitors see it.

The DNR, with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and independent researchers have conducted research and studies about the impacts of the harvest to wildlife. Rare and endangered species like the timber rattlesnake, hooded warbler, worm-eating warbler, black-and-white warbler, and Indiana bat would benefit from conditions created by periodic thinning that includes small openings and sunny canopy gaps of the area’s current closed canopy.

The DoF has done no recent examination of the plants and animals that inhabit these forests. They have disregarded substantive site-specific information about rare animals and plants in these tracts that has been submitted by top scientists via the IFA’s Ecoblitz. A simple check of the Indiana Natural Heritage Data Base for the existence of rare, threatened or endangered species on these tracts is inadequate because the vast majority of state forest tracts have never been examined for RTE species. This database is a collection of locations where RTE species have been reported, and cannot be relied upon to decide what species of wildlife are inhabiting a tract of state forest that may be logged.

A long-term research project in Morgan-Monroe and Yellowwood forests – the Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment (HEE) – has produced these findings:

The number and species diversity of Neotropical breeding birds are significantly greater in harvested treatments relative to unharvested controls due to increased habitat diversification provided by the creation of young forest habitat.

Birds that use mature forest for nesting frequently use regenerating forest openings to forage, including many species of conservation concern associated with mature forest interiors, including the cerulean warbler, worm-eating warbler, and hooded warbler. Other mature forest nesting species have also been found to frequent these recent clearcuts, including ovenbirds, wood thrushes, and scarlet tanagers.

Single-tree selection did not affect the abundance of any Neotropical breeding bird analyzed by HEE researchers – including all species studied that nest in forest interiors.

Researchers have concluded the cerulean warbler – a state endangered species – does not avoid recently harvested areas.

The statement that these bird species—the hooded warbler, worm-eating warbler, black-and-white warbler, etc.—will benefit from logging ignores the fact that every one of these rare, threatened and endangered (“RTE”) species has been documented to be in Tract 3, which is the portion of this proposed logging area inventoried in the Ecoblitz. Furthermore, these animals aren’t just passing through. The Ecoblitz has documented the breeding success of several of these species in the undisturbed forests of these tracts that will be logged.

A study of neotropical forest birds in Indiana done in 2000 concluded: “When combined with other deleterious effects of forest fragmentation such as reduced habitat availability and increased nest predation, brood parasitism may seriously threaten neotropical migrant populations … Management activities presently occurring in state and national forests, such as timber harvests and the creation and maintenance of forest openings, increase the area of internal edge habitat.  Such habitat alteration may reduce nesting success and thus detract from this landscape’s value as a source for populations of neotropical migrant birds.”  [see full text of IFA’s rebuttal for more detail and references].

Male hooded warbler, feeding

No bat species using state forests has been found to avoid harvested areas, including the federally endangered Indiana bat and threatened northern long-eared bat.

Researchers have found evidence that most bat species using state forests also benefit from timber harvesting in some way. For example, researchers found Indiana bat maternity roosts were preferentially located within canopy gaps and openings, and most of these roosts were within areas recently affected by harvesting.

At Morgan-Monroe and Yellowwood State Forests, researchers have intensively studied Indiana bat roosting and foraging within three separate maternity colonies. Each colony includes recently harvested areas where researchers have documented high levels of nocturnal (foraging) and daytime (roosting) use during the summer maternity season.

Approximately half of known northern long-eared bat (federally threatened) maternity roosts on state forests occur within recently harvested areas.

Plenty of reproducing Indiana Bats have been found in the undisturbed backcountry forest. The large number of dead tulip poplars and other snags make this forest good habitat for additional maternity roosts of this nationally endangered animal in a report submitted last year to the DOF. It’s not noted here but the state’s Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment (HEE) actually found a maternity roost of Indiana Bats with 90 females and young this year in the BCA between the western boundary of the Ecoblitz area and Low Gap Road: an area that has not been logged.

Mr. Seifert asserts that half of known Northern long-eared bat maternity roosts occur in recently harvested areas (without explaining what “recently harvested” means), but ignores the fact that three of these nationally threatened bats have been found in the old forest in the Ecoblitz area, and two of them were lactating females. Also not mentioned is that IFA mammalogists have informed DOF netting results and acoustic data indicate that this older forest is harboring seven different bat species, including–the Eastern Pipestrelle and Little Brown Bat–whose numbers have dropped by 71% and 90% respectively in winter surveys by the Indiana Division of Fish and Wildlife, thus making the viability of their summer forest roosting habitat that much more important. 

Additional research from HEE may be found at these websites: and the number of species recorded in a managed forest.

DNR Forestry is staffed by professional foresters and other scientists with a combined 500-plus years of field experience. The division is evaluated annually by two forest certification organizations (reports here). For 10 consecutive years, these two independent audits have certified that DNR Forestry meets nationally and internationally recognized standards for sustainable, well managed forests.

Mr. Seifert touts the audits that certify the DOF’s practice of sustainable forestry in its logging of the state forests.  Although we are alarmed at the 400 percent increase in logging of the state forests that has occurred since Mr. Seifert took over the DOF in 2005, we agree that the DOF’s practice of single tree selective forestry in many areas of the state forest is more sustainable and less destructive to the natural forest ecosystem than other forms of timbering such as clearcutting. 

However, for at least the past five years, these audits have recommended that the DOF manage the state forests to let more of the underrepresented old growth condition that would occur naturally, return to these forests. Specifically, on page 75 of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) audit which applies to all of the state forests, the FSC states:

6.3.a. Landscape-scale indicators 6.3.a.1 The forest owner or manager maintains, enhances and/or restores under-represented successional stages in the FMU that would naturally occur on the types of sites found on the FMU.  Where old growth of different community types that would naturally occur on the forest are under-represented in the landscape relative to natural conditions, a portion of the forest is managed to enhance and/or restore old growth characteristics.

The DNR Forestry staff is dedicated to maintaining the health of the state’s forests. This harvest plan is directly in line with other timber management plans that have led to healthier backcountry areas.

The people’s will should be considered–and the multiple use philosophy abided by–in the treatment of our state forests.

Over time, the DNR’s annual harvest has increased from 0.3 percent of the merchantable trees to 1.2 percent. That is a 300 percent increase and equates to taking less than two trees for every 100 in the state forest. This trend also means that the once abandoned and cutover lands assembled as the Indiana State Forest system have done well and have grown exponentially to now enable sustainable timber benefits for Hoosiers.

We continue to believe that the DOF should set aside more than the 4,000 acres of state forest currently set aside from logging out of the entire 158,378 acres of Indiana’s state forests to return to the old growth condition. These acres comprise a mere 2.5% of the state forests. They are designated in small nature preserves usually less than 100 acres, HEE control areas and Indiana Bat hibernation sites spread across the state forests.

These 4,000 acres do not conserve the native biodiversity found in these forests on a viable scale. They are far below the 60,000 acres of state forest that was set aside from silviculture by the DOF prior to 2005. They are well below the acres of state forests set aside by states such as Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Connecticut.

The management plans for the three tracts proposed for active forest management can be found at www.in.gov/dnr/forestry/3643.htm.

The Indiana Forest Alliance’s plan for 13 State Wild Areas – state forest sections set aside from logging– can be found at: https://indianaforestalliance.org/wild-indiana-campaign-2/.

Sincerely,

John Seifert, State Forester

Sincerely,

Jeff Stant, Indiana Forest Alliance

 

 

 

In Defense of Outdoor Recreation: Tourism Leaders Speak Out for State Forests

by Anne Laker, IFA Communications Director

“Every backcountry trail I’ve hiked in Indiana has had evidence of logging…Even though I live in Indiana, I prefer to hike in neighboring states just to avoid having to witness it.”

“We recently moved to Indiana from Vermont and were appalled by the logging/erosion at Yellowwood. Hiking there was depressing.”

These two comments made on IFA’s Facebook page beg the question: why is Indiana wrecking our finest eco-tourism assets? Can we afford to?

A hiker among marked trees in Jackson-Washington State Forest.

Indiana’s 13 state forests – all but one of them in the southern half of the state – are the only state properties where visitors are allowed to hike and camp off trail, for a rustic experience of wild nature. With many of the state’s best hiking trails and only backpacking trails running through them, state forests should be the go-to places for outdoor recreation. But logging on state forests has increased 400% since 2002. The state has prioritized logging in state forests over recreational use, when they were created for mixed use.

Contrast this with our popular state parks, which are characterized by miles of paved roads, developed playgrounds, man-made lakes, etc. In our state nature preserves and the portions of state parks left to nature, hikers are not permitted to explore off trail. Primitive camping is only allowed in two of the 25 state parks. Other activities such as mushroom foraging are not allowed at all.

The popularity of Indiana state parks proves that Hoosiers are starved for outdoor recreation. Hoosiers ranked hiking as one of their most favorite forms of outdoor recreation in four of the last five outdoor participation surveys in the DNR’s Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan. A primary reason that Hoosiers did not use trails was: “structural barriers-poor setting/physical environment.” Both the Knobstone Trail in Scott County and the Tecumseh Trail in Monroe/Brown/Morgan Counties should be Indiana’s version of the Appalachian Trail.  Instead, the Tecumseh, for example, has been logged over in 14 places in the last 7 years, resulting in trail closures and re-routes.

In addition to closing trails, logging in the state forests is turning beautiful areas of wild nature into aesthetically unattractive sites that depress visitors and discourage return visits to state forests.

Thus, Indiana is missing tourism opportunities. According to the latest US Census Data, more than two million people live within 20 miles of Indiana’s state forests and more than 14.5 million people live within 100 miles of our state forests. If the state forests were seen as desirable destinations, more outfitters, bed & breakfasts, and cafes would spring up. The 59% of Hoosiers who participate in outdoor recreation are an untapped market for our state forests.

Tourism leaders like Mike McAfee, executive director of Visit Bloomington, are taking notice:

“We target visitors that want to make the world a better place and I do not think there could be a stronger example of that than outdoor recreation enthusiasts or what we call our ‘Health Nut Set.’ The more we keep our forests pristine and wild and take care of them, the more valuable and attractive they are. It is a special balance but the forest is only sustainable as an eco-tourism asset if it is intact. Traffic on our website to our Monroe Lake section is up 780% this year if that is any indication to you how popular outdoor adventure is in this region.

Monroe County’s trees, hills, water and wildlife are priceless natural resources that we must preserve and we are against any activities, including logging, that curtail people’s enjoyment of the outdoors. We urge Governor Holcomb and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to seek every possible alternative before allowing further logging or developments in Indiana state forests or any locations where people enjoy wilderness experiences.”

Likewise, the executive director of the Brown County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Jane Ellis, sent a strong message to Governor Eric Holcomb this month:

“…I would like to take this opportunity to express Brown County’s dissatisfaction with the logging practices that have been taking place in Yellowwood State Forest. As one of Indiana’s most forested areas, we value the natural beauty that surrounds us, as well as understand the importance it has upon our local economy. Each year, millions of individuals visit Brown County, a large majority of whom come specifically to admire and explore our natural resources. As the Brown County CVB, we also have spent a significant amount of money on promoting our beautiful scenery and outdoor opportunities through an extensive outdoor marketing campaign…

However, the recent logging that has taken place in Yellowwood has hurt the State Forest’s reputation. We have heard negative feedback from many visitors who have been to Yellowwood State Forest either on their own accord or based on our recommendation. Not only is this hindering interest and visitation to Yellowwood, but if it continues, it could possibly negatively impact Brown County’s notoriety as a premiere outdoor destination, as well as revenue generated by tourism…We ask that you please have respect for Brown County’s natural resources as a steward for Indiana’s forests.”

[Read Ms. Ellis’ letter to the Governor in full here].

In a place as naturally beautiful as southern Indiana, forests in their purest form are the renewable resources we should invest in — by simply leaving some of them as nature intended.

source: Outdoor Industry Association. https://outdoorindustry.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/OIA_RecEcoState_IN.pdf

 

 

A Matter of Heritage: A Forest with Civil War-Era Trees Should Not Be Logged

IFA Executive Director Jeff Stant in front of an American Beech in the backcountry area of Yellowwood State Forest. Photo by Samantha Buran.

In the Yellowwood Backcountry Area, there stands a tree older than our nation. It’s an American Beech, 33 inches (almost three feet) in diameter. This tree, we discovered, is 238 years old, and started growing during the American Revolution. What a treasure, here in our Indiana state forests.

Did you know that, until IFA’s Ecoblitz, there has never been a comprehensive inventory of the plants and animals on a tract of state or national forestland in Indiana? While the DNR’s Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment gauges pre- and post-logging presence for a handful of species, the Ecoblitz provides a broader picture.

Four years ago, with permission and permits from the DNR, IFA began conducting the Ecoblitz—an inventory of all life in a 900-acre tract of older unlogged state forest. Twelve teams of scientists from 12 colleges and universities and volunteers have spent hundreds of hours, in all seasons and times of day—seeking birds in the early morning, seeking bats in the middle of the night—to undertake this survey (made possible with the support of the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust and the Efroymson Family Fund). The premise is that more data could help inform decisions about forest management.

This year, we are culminating this survey with a study of the forest itself: a forest characterization study. It’s a methodical, in-process effort to gauge the quality, diversity and age of this forest. Dendrochronologists from Ball State University, Indiana University and Hanover College—along with Dr. Leslie Bishop, Professor Emerita of Biology, Earlham College; state-certified arborist Jerome Delbridge; IFA Executive Director Jeff Stant; and IFA Ecoblitz Coordinator Samantha Buran—have some exciting preliminary results that should be of interest to the Division of Forestry and Governor Holcomb.

Forty-seven trees live were cored (a process that does not harm live trees). The highlights:

  •      The range of tree ages is from 80 years to 238 years.  
  •      8 of these trees are from 80 to 99 years old.
  •      39 of these trees are equal to or more than 100 years old.
  •      27 of these trees are equal to or more than 110 years old.
  •      20 of these trees are equal to or more than 120 years old.
  •      11 of these trees are equal to or more than 130 years old.
  •      5 of these trees are equal to or more than 140 years old.
  •     And 3 of these trees are equal to or more than 150 years old.

Two of the three oldest trees are inside the proposed Yellowwood logging area (Tract 3): the 238-year-old American Beech, and a Northern Red Oak, also in Tract 3.  It is younger, but larger at 37.2 inches in diameter. It is 163 years old and thus began to grow in 1854, seven years before the Civil War.  The forest characterization team also documented a SugarMaple in, Tract 3. It is 154 years old.

Dr. Leslie Bishop measures a tulip poplar (the Indiana state tree), in the backcountry area of Yellowwood State Forest, where the DoF plans to log.

The team cored the largest trees from 13 species that were good candidates for coring.

As part of the study—still in progress—the team is analyzing historical information about the whole area, including aerial photos that show that the vast majority of this forest in Tract 3 in the area proposed to be logged was closed-canopy forest in 1939. This indicates that this forest is more than 100 years old.

Division of Forestry staff insist that they are going to leave some of the largest trees. But their logging plans do not provide this assurance. Regardless, single tree selection, cutting “inferior tree species, thinning, removal of cull trees, and widespread salvage logging of ash, poplar and oak” (quoting from their management plan)—will destroy a healthy forest ecosystem on its way to being old growth. And old growth is very rare in Indiana state forests.

According to the Division of Forestry’s own Continuous Forest Inventory**, out of the 151,092 acres that comprise our state forest, only 493 acres are 160 years or older. Of the 24,312 acres making up Yellowwood State Forest, no acres are 160 years or older.

Clearly, by canceling plans to harvest in these three tracts, the DOF will be adhering to its own commitment in the 2015 & 2016 Forest Stewardship Council audits to restore old growth forests in the Morgan-Monroe/Yellowwood Back Country Area.

Moving forward with these plans in this older forest in the heart of the Morgan-Monroe/Yellowwood BCA, given the paucity of Indiana state forest land with the age of this forest, will make a mockery of that commitment.

This is why we must all let Governor Holcomb know, along with our state senators and representatives, before it’s too late, that these logging plans need to be cancelled. It’s a matter of knowledge, heritage, and principle.

 

footnote: **(“Indiana DNR State Forest Properties Report of Continuous Forest Inventory (CFI) Summary of years 2012-2016,” Joey Gallion, See Tables 2 & 5). About 5,000 acres in our state forests are lakes, ponds and campgrounds, and other non-forested ground.

Defending Your Right to Wilderness Recreation: 5 More Actions You Can Take

We are making ourselves heard. Hundreds of Hoosiers — along with the Indy Star editors — have implored Governor Holcomb to reconsider a proposal by the Division of Forestry (DOF) in the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to log 299 acres in the Morgan-Monroe/Yellowwood State Forest Back Country Area (BCA).

This 2,700 acre BCA is the largest tract of old forest left in our state forests since logging was escalated by 400% over the last 12 years to restore 30% of the DOF’s budget cut by the Legislature. The oldest trees in this tract are 130 to 160 years old.

There are so many reasons why this cut should be halted. These are just a few that Governor Holcomb should heed:

In July 1981, when this Back Country Area (BCA) was established, the head of the DNR said in press release: “We’re extremely pleased to provide this new area for persons who enjoy the rugged, primitive areas remaining in Indiana.” A subsequent brochure published by the Division of Forestry (DOF) explained that logging in the BCA “will be restricted to single tree selection of mature, damaged or diseased trees on slopes of less than 45 degrees” to allow this area “to be enjoyed by the wilderness seeker as a place of solitude and repose.” This cut will make the forest a place you don’t want to be.

Unlike previous harvests which were smaller and out of public view in the northwest and southeast corners of the BCA, this plan will log 299 acres located across most of the center of the Back Country Area. It will require two popular hiking trails, the Tecumseh Trail and Possum Trot Trail, and the primary entry point into the BCA’s eastern side to be closed for six months.

The plan is proposing to log a higher volume from this area than was proposed to be logged over comparable sized areas in at least 12 of 30 other selective cut logging operations outside of the Back Country Area in Yellowwood State Forest since 2013. It will harvest between 475,000 and 712,800 board feet from the 299 acres, taking approximately 23%, nearly a fourth of the standing tree volume from more than half the acres, damaging many remaining trees, tearing up the ground on steep slopes, and leaving stumps, gravel roads and many other very visible impacts for many years.

State forests are the only state public lands where wilderness recreation – long distance hiking, back packing, primitive camping, orienteering, hunting and foraging in wild nature – is possible in Indiana. These activities are not possible in state parks, nature preserves, or fish and wildlife areas.  As such, the state forests, particularly the three Back Country Areas established in them, are crucial assets that enhance Indiana’s quality of place. The Regional Cities study emphasized that the talented workers companies are looking for most, educated younger workers — and those workers are deciding where to live based on many variables but “among the top are certainly recreation amenities,” one of which is “trails.”

Indiana’s business community is recognizing that attracting a talented work force necessary to attract new high paying employers requires a focus on “quality of place.” Indiana’s ecological crown jewel are our beautiful native hardwood forests.  BENCHMARKING U.S. REGIONAL CITIES: A STUDY AND GUIDE FOR TRANSFORMATION Interim Report  produced by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation to launch Indiana’s “Regional Cities Initiative” in 2014 finds that cities and regional communities across the nation are successfully transforming and growing their economies by focusing on quality of place which includes recreational amenities such as trails and public lands that allow people to get close to nature.

On the other hand, the state’s timber industry would hardly notice if logging in the three BCAs in our state forests was forgone to conserve their wilderness for recreation. At 158,000 acres, Indiana’s entire state forest system comprises just 3.2% of the state’s 4,900,000 total forested acres.

In turn the Morgan-Monroe/Yellowwood Back Country Area’s 2,700 acres comprise just 1.7% of the state forests’ acreage. The 3 BCAs collectively comprise 7,200 acres, just 4.6% of the state forests’ total acreage. Today’s harvests from all state forests of 14 million board feet make up just 5-6% of the total board feet harvested in Indiana annually according to the Purdue University’s Annual Timber Price/Stumpage Reports.

IFA’s biologist surveys over the past 4 years have found that 21 endangered species including the Indiana bat, timber rattlesnake, smokey shrew, and worm-eating warbler live in this forest.

Lastly, these forests are our heritage. As IFA member, seventh-generation Hoosier Angela Herrmann, put it: “I’ve had the good fortune of traveling around the world. Of all of the places I’ve ever visited, no place has ever felt more like home to me than southern Indiana, specifically the area known as Yellowwood Forest with its aromas of spring flowers, summer campfires, and autumn decay. The silence I experience on a winter’s day within Yellowwood forest is unlike any silence I have ever experienced anywhere else. Destroying these woodlands is akin to removing any connection my family and I might ever have to our ancestral history. These are the forests my ancestors would have traveled through and hunted in as they migrated north from Kentucky. A forest like this cannot be replaced in my lifetime.”

If you’ve called the Governor and made official comments to the Division of Forestry, what more can you do?

2) E-mail DNR Director Cameron Clark.
3) Ask your state rep and senator to ask the Governor to stop the timber sale.
4) Ask your friends and neighbors to do items 1-3.
5) Write a letter to the editor of your local paper.
It’s time that the Governor put the Division Forestry in check. A tidal wave of sustained public pressure is the way that this timber sale will be stopped. THANK YOU for speaking out!

   

Citizens to Gov. Holcomb: “Value of our state forests cannot be measured in board feet & dollars”

So far, you’ve generated hundreds of contacts to Gov. Holcomb’s office to ask him to halt the planned logging in Yellowwood State Forest and the backcountry area. Here, we share powerful excerpts of messages from outraged citizens to Gov. Holcomb’s office:

FROM A DOCTOR:

“Dear Gov. Holcomb: I am a Republican, a lover of nature and our great state forests, and a member of the Indiana Forest Alliance.  I am originally from Chicago, but have lived and worked in Bloomington as a physician the better part of my life, and I want to preserve the land and its beauty for all time for our children. For the last 12 years or so, the old, natural forests, esp. here in Southern Indiana, have been extensively and aggressively logged as if they were just some exploitable commodity.  But they are really life itself for our fellow travelers here on earth, the animals in the wild, and for us who love it for recreation.  And the foresters sell off our timber at rock bottom prices to the logging industry, so Indiana citizens don’t benefit and animals lose their homes….

You are in charge of the Dept. of Forestry, which made a commitment to manage all of the forest within this Back Country Area as ‘older forest.’   Please oversee and greatly reduce these logging plans, and let the forest in these tracts return to the old growth condition. Please institute a more responsible management plan for our state forests that will set aside more areas for ecological conservation and wilderness recreation for us and our children!

–Annette A.

 

FROM A HIKER:

“Dear Gov. Holcomb: I am writing to ask you to help continue to battle to protect Indiana forests from extensive logging. I grew up in Henry County, where my family owned, and protected, a tiny piece of forest. I spent most of my childhood outdoors, playing and exploring nature. As an older adult living in a Johnson County suburb, I have very little access to the forest, and no ability to ‘buy’ a piece. Morgan-Monroe State Forest and Yellowwood have been “my” forests for years. I have hiked, camped, backpacked, participated in trail runs, and volunteered there. I have through-hiked Tecumseh Trail three times and combine through-hiked Tecumseh and Knobstone Trails once. I now have cancer and my options are limited. The trails at both forests are being systematically shut down, rerouted, damaged, and if reopened, have been turned into eyesores.

… What was once my sanctuary from stress has become a mud bog of lost hope and despair. While the State Parks and Nature Preserves do not have logging, they are very busy places and fairly expensive to those on a limited income. Back packing is almost exclusively a State Forest activity, and even that is limited to Tecumseh Trail until you get down to HNF. The Low Gap Area of Morgan Monroe State Forest is one of the most fascinating places in mid-central Indiana. I can still remember the first time we took our children there for a three mile hike, thinking we had just entered a prehistoric land. That absolutely must be protected!”

–Sherrie O.

FROM AN ECOBLITZ VOLUNTEER:

Dear Gov. Holcomb: I am deeply dismayed that the Division of Forestry (DOF) has posted plans to log 299 acres in Yellowwood State Forest that fall within the Morgan-Monroe/Yellowwood Back Country Area. Specifically, these are Tracts 2, 3 and 4 in Compartment 13. For the past four years I’ve participated in the Indiana Forest Alliance’s “Ecoblitz,” primarily as a member of the vascular plant team, helping to document the rich diversity of flora and fauna in this Back Country Area, including rare, threatened, and endangered (RTE) species….

I have commented in the past on numerous DOF Draft Resource Management Guides (DRMGs) and frequently noted that no thorough review or species inventory of flora/fauna had been conducted to determine the presence of rare, threatened, and/or endangered species in the affected tracts. Unfortunately, this is also the case with Yellowwood Compartment 13, Tracts 2, 3 and 4. Each DRMG states that a “Natural Heritage Database Review” was completed for the tract (in 2013 for Tract 3 and in 2016 for Tracts 2 and 4). What this indicates is that DOF staff searched the database of identified populations of RTEs, which is maintained by the Division of Nature Preserves and rarely updated…

I was at the Indiana Forest Alliance rally at the Statehouse on February 20, when 650 or more citizens gathered to express their strong support for greater forest protections, including the setting aside of 10% of our state forests from commercial logging. This diverse assembly included school groups, environmentalists, scientists, business experts, faith leaders, etc., and both Republican and Democratic legislators were featured speakers. All of us who attended know the importance of our state forests, which cannot be measured in board feet and dollars. Now more than ever, with a changing climate and habitat rapidly disappearing for many at-risk plant and animal species, we need to leave some areas of forest undisturbed, so that complex ecosystems can continue to thrive and support our native flora and fauna.”

–Karen S.

FROM A WATER ADVOCATE:

“Dear Gov. Holcomb: When the Lake Lemon Conservation District is now looking at spending more than $4 Million on dredging, why are DNR officials continuing to aggressively log in that watershed? The models estimating the $4M does not even take in consideration the massive increase in logging this past decade. This is insane: DNR sells logging contracts to pay for budget cuts and then forces private citizens to have their Lake dredged. What about Lake Monroe, the drinking water source for 120k+ people and recreation venue for one million annually? When the DNR logs in that watershed, how much sediment flows into the Lake? How many small creeks are silted and creatures destroyed?…

I am not anti-logging. But it needs to be done in a responsible way that issues like invasive plant species, erosion control ect are honestly addressed and we conserve what we promised to protect. DNR’s zeal to log for short term gain ignores the long term impact of these actions.”

–Dave S.

 

Join the chorus and contact Gov. Holcomb by phone  at 317-232-4567 (Monday – Friday), his online e-mail submission form, or via US mail. Contact info here: http://www.in.gov/gov/2752.htm.

Thank you for raising your voice in defense of Indiana’s forests.

Tell the Governor Now: It’s Wrong to Log this Brown County Forest, and Here’s Why

by Jeff Stant, IFA Executive Director

This past week, the Indiana Division of Forestry (within the Indiana Department of Natural Resources) posted plans to log 299 acres in Yellowwood State Forest inside the Morgan-Monroe/Yellowwood Back Country Area in Brown County.  The plans will log the most remote and pristine hollow which contains tulip poplars, sugar maples and northern red oaks between 150 and 200 years old.  IFA conducts part of our Ecoblitz flora/fauna survey in this area, and we know it to be exceptionally diverse in terms of animal and plant life.

The Division of Forestry’s shocking plans totally ignore the fact of this forest’s high ecological quality. And once again, their logging would re-route one of Indiana’s longest and best hiking trails, the Tecumseh Trail.

WHERE IS THE PLANNED LOGGING TO OCCUR?

The 299 acres are in northwestern Brown County and comprised of three adjoining tracts on both sides of Possum Trot Trail.   The tracts extend northward from the Possum Trot Road Trail Head across the Tecumseh Trail between Shipman Ridge and Bear Lake. DOF plans to sell the timber this year.

WHAT CAN WE DO? ASK GOVERNOR HOLCOMB TO STOP THESE PLANS!

Our Governor is about to find out how many people are tired of our state forests being treated like timber farms. PLEASE make a call or write a letter to Governor Holcomb (317-232-4567). Both of these are more effective than an e-mail, but all communications are of value. Key points to stress:

1) THE STATE HAS NOT CHECKED FOR RARE/THREATENED/ENDANGERED SPECIES. An inventory of the flora and fauna on these tracts should have been done before any decision to log them was made.  No such inventory has been done. The DOF staff have only examined the state’s Natural Heritage Database in 2013. The IDNR’s Division of Nature Preserves maintains this database: they explain that it is only a collection of documented identifications and should never be relied upon to decide whether rare, threatened or endangered (“RTE”) species or their habitats exist at any particular location. The existence of such species can only be determined by an inspection of the site by qualified individuals, a step which the DOF must take here!

2) IFA HAS DOCUMENTED BATS HERE. IFA’s Ecoblitz has documented many RTE species in two of these tracts and submitted this information to DOF. Just this year, mammalogists netted the federal and state endangered Indiana Bat in the hollow in Tract 3 and found a maternity roost for this bat in a ravine in Tract 2. In 2016 they also found a maternity roost for the Indiana Bat within a hundred yards of Tract 3 and netted an Indiana Bat and many Eastern Red Bats which are a Species of Special Concern (officially considered “rare”) on Possum Trot Trail separating these three tracts. Logging should be kept out of this entire area given the rapid decline of the Indiana Bat toward extinction and the documented evidence of its dependence upon this forest to raise its young.

In addition to bats, in 2015 mammalogists found 5 smokey shrews and 1 pygmy shrew, Species of Special Concern that require undisturbed old forest, living along large downed logs in Tract 3. Herpetologists found a mother and young timber rattler snakes, state endangered animals in a den in Tract 3 in 2014. Ornithologists have found worm-eating warblers, a Species of Special Concern feeding young in Tract 3 for the last three years. They have found Louisiana Waterthrushes, Acadian Flycatchers, ovenbirds, hooded warblers and many other uncommon deep forest birds in this tract as well. Within Indiana, these animals are largely limited to the deep forests that exist only in this part of the state.

3) THIS NATURAL AREA IS OF THE HIGHEST QUALITY.  In 2015 a team of botanists from Indiana University and Ball State assessed the floristic quality of the plant community in the Ecoblitz area including the hollow in Tract 3 and found it to be one of the highest and most pristine ever measured for a hardwood forest in Indiana, stating, this forest “has very high “remnant natural value,” perhaps the highest in the State.”

4) THIS CUT WILL DESTROY THE WILDERNESS CHARACTER OF THIS FOREST. The IDNR promised to maintain this character when it designated the forest as a “Back Country Area” in 1980. DOF is proposing to log anywhere from 475,200 to 712,800 board feet of timber out of these tracts in what can only be described as an aggressive selection cut. From the vagueness of the logging plan, it’s impossible to tell exactly how trees will be cut throughout these tracts. Also, an unspecified number of areas infected with ash borer or that contain “wind blown” trees will be “salvaged” and thus potentially cleared entirely.

5) THE DOF HAS REPEATEDLY COMMITTED TO MAINTAIN THIS FOREST AS “OLD GROWTH” AND “OLDER FOREST.” It has done so in order to obtain its national Forest Stewardship Council certification for practicing sustainable forestry.  In response to the FSC auditors’ demand in their January 31, 2017 report that a portion of Indiana’s state forests be managed “to enhance and/or restore old growth characteristics,” the DOF committed to maintain all Back Country Areas — specifically mentioning the Yellowwood/Morgan-Monroe Back Country Area — in this “older forest” condition. There is no mention in these logging plans of any such commitment.

6) THIS FOREST CONTAINS SOILS PRONE TO EROSION. The rugged nature of the forest will exacerbate damage from the logging. DOF has acknowledged that one of the primary soils in this forest, the “Berks-Trevlac-Wellston complex” on 20-70% slopes, will be prone to erosion hazards from logging and logging equipment. One cannot log these slopes without adding to the siltation of Lake Lemon which has been publicly acknowledged as a major problem that will be expensive to fix.

Here are the DOF’s logging plans for the three tracts in the Morgan-Monroe/Yellowwood State Forest Back Country Area:

ASK GOVERNOR HOLCOMB to hold the DOF to its commitment made to obtain a sustainable forestry certification to manage all of the forest within this Back Country Area as “older forest,” stop these logging plans from moving forward and let the forest in these three tracts return to the old growth condition.

Request that he institute a much more balanced and responsible management of our state forests that will conserve all of the BCA’s and other state forest areas for ecological conservation and wilderness recreation, for our children’s children!

Contact Gov. Holcomb at 317-232-4567 or via mail: 
Office of the Governor
Statehouse
Indianapolis IN 46204-2797

You can also e-mail him via his website by clicking here.

EXTRA STEP: MAKE A COMMENT TO THE DIVISION OF FORESTRY:

If your time allows, please also submit a comment on these logging plans here: www.in.gov/dnr/forestry/8122.htm. It is best to submit all your comments from that page: some of the links listed you see at the bottom of each of the three plan PDFs do not work.

You will need to indicate the State Forest Name, Compartment Number and Tract Number in the “Subject or file reference” line to ensure that your comment receives consideration. Comments must be received by Sunday, Sept. 3 and will then be considered and posted at http://www.in.gov/dnr/forestry/3634.htm.

If you are interested in getting more involved with local groups that are working to save this forest, please contact Sandy Messner, IFA’s Outreach Director, at sandra@indianaforestalliance.org.

THANK YOU for speaking out against this historically bad logging plan. Together we can prevent this:

Eleven Reasons to Leave Haverstick Woods Standing

By Clarke Kahlo

Haverstick Woods is the last forest stand in the busiest retail corridor in the city of Indianapolis. But a developer is lobbying the Metropolitan Development Commission to re-zone it for yet another office building with retail at street level. Here are 11 reasons why the Commission should reject this proposal – as most residents already have. They’ve even formed a group called Northside Neighbors Against Alexander at the Crossing to speak out against the destruction of this forest.

Join them, IFA Executive Director Jeff Stant, and our members at a Commission hearing Wednesday, October 4, the Indianapolis City-County Building, 200 E. Washington St., Room 230, from 1 to 3:30 p.m. It’s our last chance to send a big message to city planners: more development is not the answer for better quality of life: more forest are. Here’s why we’re in favor of letting this forest stand:

 

1) NO NEED FOR MORE RETAIL: The Haverstick Woods is a prime potential urban forest, in an area sorely in need of parks and natural areas, which does not need more commercial retail and office space. Indy ranked last among 100 cities for park investment and access.

2) GREAT NEED FOR NEW PARK: The Indianapolis Parks Department has indicated a strong interest in adding this site to its park system if a no-public-cost acquisition strategy can be implemented. (However, as per long-standing unofficial city policy, Indy Parks will not take a public position lest it conflict with the recommendations of other City agencies such as DMD and DPW, and any opinions of the Mayor’s office.

3) TRAFFIC GRIDLOCK WILL ONLY WORSEN: Traffic congestion in the Keystone at the Crossing and Nora area has become an all-too-frequent vexing condition for motorists. A park, instead of a retail commercial building with a 360-space parking lot would ameliorate, or at least not substantially exacerbate, traffic congestion. The City has signed off on study-after-study showing no impact from proposed developments—yet the resultant real-world experience by motorists at the location–as well as all along the entirety of 86/82nd–is gridlock (Level of Service ratings F and D) many times throughout the day.

4) THE NORA COUNCIL IS AGAINST THIS DEVELOPMENT: After much consideration and many meetings, The Nora-Northside Community Council voted resoundingly (9 to 2) to take a position of Objection to the petition. The Driftwood Hills Neighborhood Association has also voted to oppose.

5) LOWER QUALITY OF LIFE FOR RESIDENTS: A commercial use petition would constitute an attack upon the use and value of nearby neighborhoods because the tract is so situated that it would, if developed as proposed, exert negative community impact—traffic congestion and hazards, emergency vehicle impairment, light pollution, the urban heat island effect, loss of buffer for noise pollution and particulate (air) pollution, and short-cut traffic—from the primary arterials and onto narrow Haverstick Rd. and East 91st Street (which are neither planned nor constructed as arterial streets).

6) THE WOODS PROVIDE SERVICES SUCH AS RUNOFF ABSORPTION: The development will cause excessive stormwater discharges, and increased flooding in already flood-prone areas such as the River Park neighborhood to the south. Currently, the forest provides the excellent service of stormwater runoff absorption. The developer’s proposed storage tanks will likely not be large enough to capture half the runoff that the forest now does. Healthy, heavily treed riparian environments make society’s job of cleaning water much easier and cheaper once it hits the water treatment plant. If the woods are developed, much more dirty water will shoot straight into the White River.

7) IT WOULD CREATE A ZONING PRECEDENT: Approval of this commercial use would also create a zoning precedent which, thereafter, would encourage strip development and commercial sprawl to the west—unless the regulatory authorities (zoning boards and commissions) are able to “draw (and hold) the line.” Unfortunately, as we increasingly learn, we cannot rely on history, applicable precedent, agency resolve, or accumulated wisdom in public policy-making. The public must vigorously defend against this dangerous proposal.

8) LEAVING THE WOODS WOULD HELP FULFILL THE MAYOR’S NEW SUSTAINABILITY AND RESILIENCE ACTION PLAN: A standing forest. There’s no cheaper way to mitigate climate change, since trees are the perfect instrument for absorbing carbon.

9) LEAVING THE WOODS SHOWS THAT INDIANAPOLIS “VALUES COMMUNITIES & NEIGHBORHOODS”: Last year, Indy Rezone, a major update of the City’s zoning ordinances, was introduced. It contained six Livability principles, as guidelines for future development decisions, including this one: “Value Communities & Neighborhoods: Enhance the unique characteristics of all communities by investing in healthy, safe, and walkable neighborhoods – rural, urban, or suburban.” What better way to enact this principle than retaining Haverstick Woods as a park?

10) IT’S A “CRITICAL AREA”: The tract has been designated as a “Critical Area” by the Marion County Comprehensive Plan. Why ? The north side of 86th Street is primarily residential in nature. The residential areas are under development pressure from commercial expansion. There is no significant barrier west of Keystone Avenue to stop the process of commercial encroachment on 86th Street. If commercial development were allowed on any of these parcels, several more parcels on 86th Street could be in line to convert to commercial development as well. It is critical to protect the existing residential nature of this portion of 86th Street from any commercial development. Source: Marion County Insight

11) IT’S AN ANIMAL HABITAT & WITH TALL TREES THAT PEOPLE LOVE AS IS: The site is a remnant natural heritage site featuring steep slope terrain which supports hundreds of older-growth trees and harbors much wildlife habitat in a highly paved over area. Most of the site has never been developed due to steep slopes and heavy woods. It’s a wonderful place for kids to play in nature and for people to walk their dogs. How do you place a dollar value on that?