Rx for Haverstick Woods: Creative Problem-Solving

by Clarke Kahlo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will Keystone Realty Work Towards a Win-Win Solution?

By Stacey Clark, Driftwood Hills resident 

The intersection at 86th St. and Haverstick Rd. is a forested parcel owned by Keystone Realty, a company that proposed to develop the property. The Metropolitan Development Commission (MDC) denied Keystone Realty’s proposal for Alexander at the Crossing, which was a request for a change from the previous commercial zoning for a big box retail building. Now, Indianapolis City-County Councillor Colleen Fanning is planning to call the proposal down at the March 12th full council meeting in an attempt to overturn the denial.  (Zoning Case #2016-ZON-020)

The decision to call down this case is the single greatest threat to respecting the wishes of the surrounding Driftwood Hills neighborhood, of 300 plus homes, and would undermine the whole process of zoning denial through the MDC.

Elizabeth Mahoney in the woods at 86th St. and Haverstick Road. (photo by Mary Bookwalter)

The Driftwood Hills neighborhood, with the support of Indiana Forest Alliance (IFA), is negotiating for a development that maintains the residential character of the neighborhood and preserves as much of this forest as possible as the Marion County Comprehensive Plan recommended when it designated this site as a critical area in 2005. The previous safety concerns of placing a large, commercial space on a small, residential street have not changed. The previous concerns with exacerbating traffic in a gridlocked, accident-prone intersection, have not changed. The need for an environmental buffer from sound pollution, water runoff absorbance, and protection from further commercialization on the north side of 86th St and west of Keystone, remains the same.

By attempting to call down the MDC decision, the City-County Council would be weakening the leverage of the surrounding community to negotiate with Keystone Realty for a mutually acceptable development. In the call down process, any negotiations that could be potentially reached between Nora and Keystone would not be legally enforceable. There is also a serious legal deficiency with Councillor Fanning’s attempt to call down this defeated ordinance, which will be addressed shortly by our legal counsel. Thus, Driftwood Hills is advocating for negotiations outside the call down process.

The Driftwood Hills Neighborhood and IFA are essentially asking for the same thing that the MDC did when they initially denied Keystone Realty a variance: come back to the table with a project that benefits the community. As the neighborhood immediately adjacent to the property, we respectfully make the following requests of the developer, Keystone Realty:

  1. Commit to a substantially lower impact residential development.
  2. Even better: keep the remaining 10 acres on the property as a park for the Indianapolis community to enjoy. Indianapolis ranks second to last in terms of park space available yet pubic parks provide numerous benefits for our health.
  3. Regardless of the plan chosen, please disclose your plans for the remaining 10 acres of the property. This has been a primary question from the community and other city planners all along.

We ask that Councillor Fanning urge Keystone Realty to negotiate with the Driftwood Hills Neighborhood for a compromise — not use the developer’s threat to clear-cut as an excuse to undo the MDC denial decision that gave the area a reprieve.

Save Haverstick Woods!

By: Stacey Clark, Driftwood Hills resident

What is the value of an urban forest left standing? Besides absorbing flood runoff, and buffering noise and heat, a woods where people can walk their dogs and let the kids play is a precious asset on the Northside of Indy.

That’s why the Driftwood Hills Neighborhood is against Keystone Realty’s proposed “Alexander at the Crossing” development at the northeast corner of 86th St. & Haverstick Road. The zoning required for said proposal was, thankfully, denied by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Development Commission (MDC) last October.

Stacey Clark pictured (second from left) at the Oct. 4, 2017 MDC hearing.

So why, in an unprecedented move, is Indianapolis City-County Councillor Colleen Fanning attempting to reverse the decision of the city’s governing land use body and have the woods bulldozed for yet another needless development?

As anyone who lives or drives through the intersection at 86th St. & Keystone Ave. knows, the traffic is a nightmare! This intersection was just listed as the number one intersection for seasonal accidents by the Indy Star.  How could anyone recommend further developing this area, exacerbating the existing traffic and safety concerns?

Indianapolis ranks terribly when it comes to greenspace available, 98/100Why would we want to see one of the last remaining green spaces on the Northside be cleared for more commercial development?

We need to let Councillor Fanning know that the community has spoken on this issue already. Our communities deserve better!

Please contact your Indianapolis City-County Councillor and urge them to vote “NO!” on Councillor Fanning’s proposal to reverse the decision of the MDC. Once you know who your City-County Councillor is, click here to get their contact information

The Driftwood Hills Neighborhood Association thanks you in advance.  



This article was submitted as a letter to the editor to major Indianapolis publications. Click here to learn more about the issue.

Why Forest Advocates Should Have Hope

By Anne Laker, IFA Staff

Forest advocates are moving the meter at the Indiana General Assembly. How, you ask, since the Senate bill to set 30% of state forests from logging did not get a hearing? And an amendment to set aside 10% was defeated in the House.

Here’s why: the Indiana forest bill in the Senate had support from 10 Republicans, was authored by a Republican, and sponsored by two others. In the House, three Republicans spoke in favor of the amendment, and 13 voted for it. Not to mention that both pieces of legislation have the full support of Democrats.

Forest advocates lobby for Indiana forest bill.

IFA Director Jeff Stant, biologist Leslie Bishop, and economist Morton Marcus make the case in the statehouse halls to a representative for leaving some forest unlogged.

In both cases, the word is that Governor Holcomb put his thumb on the scale. If Rep. Sean Eberhart (R-Shelbyville), the only House Republican to speak against the amendment on the floor, said: “The Governor has authorized me to say that he does not support this policy.” Had this claim not been uttered, who knows how many more Republicans might have voted for it?

So it took backdoor intervention from the Governor to halt progress. This is a governor who has never made a public statement about his position on the logging of Yellowwood, or articulated his own vision for our state forests.

Last weekend, an IFA member saw Gov. Holcomb walking around Nashville. She boldly approached him about Yellowwood. He said he has just been up in a helicopter with DNR staff. The Governor showed the IFA member pictures taken with his phone (from a major distance). The Governor said there was no old growth forest. The forest advocate stated that she understood that it was farmland in the past, but that the forest has been growing since then. The Governor said there were no 100-year-old trees. He said they were clearing the canopy so smaller growth can get bigger.

If the Governor is data-driven, as he often claims, he will take interest in IFA’s study of the Yellowwood/Morgan Monroe backcountry. We found 105 trees older than 100 years in the area being logged now. To say the least, forest advocates must continue to educate and engage the Governor.

IFA Director Jeff Stant greets Gov. Holcomb just after his inauguration in January 2017.

So then, why are we hopeful? “When you look at the level of bipartisan support in both chambers,” said IFA Executive Director Jeff Stant, “you have to conclude that setting aside some of the state forests from logging is an idea that is gaining traction in the legislature.”

Why is it gaining traction? Two reasons.

  • Time and again you’ve responded to the Indiana Forest Alliance’s call to, well, call your lawmakers. Via e-mail, phone and at in-person town hall meetings, you’ve taken the time to contact your senator and representative. Our voices are more audible than ever. Sure, representatives such as Peggy Mayfield and Jim Lucas have state forests in their districts and say they support the DNR. But we’ll only step up our dialogue with lawmakers in this category.
  • The idea of preserving some of our state forests from logging is not a “red” or a “blue” issue. It’s simply a wise, balanced policy. It speaks to the value wild nature has for tourism and for personal enjoyment and solace. Managing a small portion of our forests to be as they were 170 years ago is an exciting goal, one that most Hoosiers from whatever party would undoubtedly support.

The Indiana Forest Alliance is not against all logging. We don’t think that the DNR’s 30 trained foresters are bad people doing things that are 100% bad. Their efforts clearly meet their goal of generating trees to be logged, by supporting more oak and hickory, etc.

We simply question the idea that the single, solitary goal of state forests should be to produce merchantable timber, at the expense of open trails or an aesthetic forest experience or scientific study in unlogged areas. These are the other goals we know to be of value, and there is room for more than one goal. These are the public’s forests, and the public should have a voice in their public purpose.

This is the message we will bring without relent to the Governor, lawmakers, the public, the media—with your help.

Rep. Matt Pierce introduced his amendment by saying that offering our kids the experience of an Indiana forest as it might have been 150 years ago is one good reason to set aside some land from logging.

Three Economic Reasons to Preserve Old Forests

by Morton J. Marcus, Director Emeritus,
Indiana Business Research Center
Kelley School of Business, Indiana University

It is exciting to find the Indiana General Assembly exploring new directions for state government. Among these is a rethinking of the role played by the State Forests in our economy.

Today, as in the past, the State Forests preserve the natural heritage of Indiana. Extensive acres of woodlands and wetlands provide opportunities for Hoosiers. Some of these opportunities are commercial, others recreational. Logging and hiking both can have impacts on the forests.

The balance between these uses was stable until the last decade when a dramatic increase in logging occurred and the acreage exempt from logging was reduced. Now is the time to ensure that substantial Old Growth acreage in each State Forest is protected from logging.

A set aside program to protect Old Growth areas of the State Forests does not substantially change opportunities for logging. Instead, it recognizes three significant economic trends:

  1. Other than homebuilding, the wood-using industries in Indiana are in long-term decline.

Furniture manufacturing, a major wood-using industry in our history is no longer a significant factor in our economy. Whereas, RCA, Kimball, and numerous others were major names internationally among wood-using firms, today they have moved in other directions. Now only a few successful niche producers remain. Isn’t it contrary to our conservative economic values to continue and even expand a subsidy to a declining industry?

  1. Modern employers know their employees place high value on recreation and natural environments.

Today, workers and their employers see opportunities for the reflection and experience offered by natural areas as a positive in site selection. Thus, reserving more of our State Forests as undisturbed Old Growth areas enhances Indiana’s desirability as a place to live and work, an obvious economic development opportunity.

  1. Appreciation of nature is a strong, accelerating force in America.

The ongoing urbanization of Indiana and the entire nation has created a demand for opportunities to experience nature. Travel and tourism to natural areas is expanding. Instead of traveling to New York and Los Angeles, Americans flock to our national parks. Instead of visiting just Paris and Rome, Americans increasingly visit Iceland and the fjords of Norway. Proper advertisement of our State Forests and other Hoosier attractions could improve Indiana’s standing as a tourist destination.

A Jewish “New Year of the Trees”

by Rabbi Brian Besser, Congregation Beth Shalom, Bloomington

What is the origin of Tu B’Shevat, the Jewish holiday devoted to connecting us to the earth?

Tu B’Shevat — celebrated this year on January 31 — is first mentioned fifteen hundred years ago in the Talmud, the great compendium of Jewish law, as the legal designation for when the agricultural cycle begins. Hence its nickname: “New Year of the Trees.” In the 20th century, pioneers returning to the Land of Israel began planting millions of trees annually on Tu B’Shevat, in order to reverse and heal centuries of desertification and degradation of the landscape.

But the ecological stakes are now global. In recent decades, Tu B’Shevat has developed into a platform for protesting the enormity of human destruction inflicted against God’s Creation, including massive deforestation, loss of habitat and biodiversity, extinction of species, and climate change.

The Jewish mandate to preserve the natural world is ancient. In the Book of Deuteronomy, God commands: “when you besiege a city to conquer it, you may not chop down trees to fashion siege works. For is a tree human, that it may withdraw from you?” The idea is that trees are defenseless against human assault; they need us to protect them. If, in the utmost exigency of warfare, the eradication of trees is prohibited, how much more so, during normal times of peace? The Rabbis derived from this Biblical verse a basic moral principle: the needless destruction of any natural resource is wrong.

Rabbi Brian Besser

What is the underlying theology of the Jewish conservation ethic? Is it to safeguard the environment for future generations? Or is it that other forms of life place upon us intrinsic demands, separate from their potential benefit to us? For me, the Biblical story of Noah proves decisive on this question. When God decides to inflict a massive Flood upon the world because of human corruption, God first instructs Noah to send into the ark all the creatures of the earth, two of each kind. From this passage, it is clear that all species have an innate right to survive, independent of humanity.

Another key verse appears earlier in the Torah: “God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden to till it and to tend it.” The common translation suggests a tension between working the land (“to till”) versus protecting it for later use (“to tend”). But the original Hebrew can just as easily be translated: to serve it and preserve it. In this reading, the dichotomy in our relationship to the land disappears. We are left with the unambiguous obligation to live harmoniously within the overall ecosystem, rather than exploit it.

Tu B’Shevat is not just about trees. It is a reminder of the tight bond between human beings and the natural world, which we have frayed in recent decades. (In Hebrew, the word for “human being,” adam, comes from the word for “earth,” adamah.) This is a universal conviction. Chief Seattle said: “the earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.

Chief Seattle’s warning echoes the following ancient Jewish story: “when God led Adam around the Garden of Eden, God said to him: Look at My works! See how beautiful they are, how excellent. See to it that you do not spoil My world—for if you do, there will be no one after you to repair it.”

Fine Today, Disastrous Tomorrow: The Wisdom of Balance

(a version of this letter was published in the Brown County Democrat, 1/16/18) 

By Linda Baden, Friends of Yellowwood

My husband Charlie Cole and I bought our place, an island of private land within Yellowwood State Forest, in the early 1980s. We were eager to begin the healing on an old homestead that had been subjected to the classic Brown County triad of the previous 150 years: over-farming, over-logging, and neglect. So, the first thing we did was to order seedlings from the Indiana Division of Forestry’s Nursery. For the area under the power line, we selected several “Shrub Seedlings for Wildlife Plantings,” reasoning that we could benefit wildlife and at the same time establish some shrubbery on this bald spot on the land.

An order form I saved from 1985 from the Division of Forestry Nursery (see image below) lists this selection of shrub seedlings.  It includes two plants—Autumn Olive and Amur Honeysuckle—that we now know are pernicious invasives of our native hardwood forests. A third shrub, lespedeza, is considered moderately invasive.

Autumn Olive

Thus, with the most earnest of intentions, and with the endorsement and best advice of the Division of Forestry, we infected our place with two shrubs that we’ve been battling ever since.

But we were not alone: the Division of Forestry itself planted one of these shrubs in Yellowwood State Forest, taking their own advice that Autumn Olive provides “wildlife food and cover; interplant with hardwoods to improve soil” (quoting from a 1987 Forestry Nursery order form).

You see, in the 1980s, IDNR Foresters knew that Autumn Olive alters nutrient cycling by adding nitrogen to the soil, but they didn’t yet realize that this encourages other invasions. Beyond this, the problem with Autumn Olive, according to the Indiana Nature Conservancy, is that it “out-competes and displaces native plants by creating a dense shade that hinders the growth of plants that need lots of sun. It can produce up to 200,000 seeds each year, and can spread over a variety of habitats as its nitrogen-fixing root nodules allows the plant to grow in even the most unfavorable soils. Not to mention that it reproduces quickly and with little effort at all.”

In the mid-1990s, the Division introduced Callery Pear as a “fast growing wildlife shrub; small pear provides food for birds in winter.” Fast-growing indeed! We now regard Callery Pear (also known as Bradford Pear) as a “Bad, Bad Plant with Pretty Flowers,” which is the title of a 2013 alert on the Monroe County Identify and Reduce Invasive Species website that describes the invasion of Callery Pears on 900 acres of forestland in Martin County.

Callery Pear

Truth is, we don’t always know what we don’t know—even if we are well-trained and well-intentioned scientists or foresters. The Division made its recommendations based on what they knew at the time. Unfortunately for our forests, we are continuing to pay the price for these good intentions.

Which brings me to my point: by relying so heavily on what they take as management gospel to the exclusion of any other approach, the Division is endangering the ability of our already embattled hardwood forests to withstand future threats, foreseen and unforeseen. We need to embrace those unknowns by balancing harvested with unharvested areas of the state forests, just in case what we think we know turns out to be not what we expected.


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.


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.