Protect Indiana’s Assets

By: Dr. David Simcox 

Good morning, I am Dr. David Simcox. I come here not as a scientist, but as a private citizen who recently joined the IFA Board of Directors because I believe that conservation should be the cornerstone for managing our State Forests.

If you were to accompany me on one of my many hikes along back woods trails in our State Forests, you could not help but marvel at this natural

“Trail Closed” on the Knobstone Trail due to logging activity.

setting. Imagine that we are winding along a narrow path perched on a ridge top surrounded by a stand of majestic chestnut oaks and then turning a corner and encountering a 10-15 acre clear cut. Huge piles of tree tops, massive ruts, erosion, old farm roads now piled with crushed gravel, invasive plant species thriving in the sunlight. And then worse yet, you realize this clear cut was not all that recent. We see this time and time again.

Now when you hike the great trails like the Tecumseh or the Knobstone, ones that Indiana should be proud to show case, you will likely see them horribly scarred. I know how it effects me, but I wonder how this impacts scores out-of-state visitors and their desire to return to Indiana to hike.

I also want to draw your attention to the Division of Forestry’s Strategic Plan. On page 5 the DNR acknowledges the need to preserve and conserve “…10% of the forest in or developing older forest conditions…” While their statement certainly has some wiggle room in it, one could see their overall intent is consistent with Senate Bill 420.

However, this commitment is prefaced with a key operative phrase “work toward.” I am just afraid that by the time the Division of Forestry reaches their stated 10% goal, they will have long since logged precious sections of our older forests.

Actually the question before you is very simple. You will see that Senate Bill 420 just asks you, the Lawmakers of Indiana, to hold the DNR’s feet to fire on their state 10% conservation goal. Senator Bassler’s bill (SB 420) simply provides the specificity and teeth to do that.

Thank you for this opportunity to testify and I encourage you to pass this important bill.

The preceding testimony was presented by Dr. David Simcox to the Indiana Senate Natural Resources Committee by on Monday, February 13, 2017 at the hearing for Senate Bill 420. 

Please contact your legislators and ask them to support Senate Bill 420.


A Chance to Preserve Rich Species Diversity

By: Glené Mynhardt, Ph.D. 

My name is Glené Mynhardt. I am currently a biology professor at Hanover College. I obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from the University of Texas at Austin in 2004, completed a Master’s degree in Entomology at Texas A&M University in 2006, and earned a PhD at The Ohio State University in 2012. Between 2004 and 2012, I focused all of my studies on understanding insect diversity, including the biology of economically important insects, like pecan weevil (Curculio caryae). Insects are distributed everywhere on our planet, and, despite there being more than 1 million described species known, their biology and natural history is still poorly understood.

I support Senate Bill 420’s objective to set aside at least 10 percent of our state forests from logging to mature and turn over naturally as uneven-aged, old growth forests and want to explain why. 

Glené Mynhardt, Ph.D.

I was hired by Hanover College as a Biology Professor in 2013. I have extensive knowledge of insect diversity, having worked in several states and on numerous biological survey projects. Since being hired at Hanover College, I have established one of the most comprehensive insect collections any any small liberal arts college in the state of Indiana, which represents insects from our region, and recently, from Ecoblitz events sponsored by the Indiana Forest Alliance. Insect collections are one of the only ways scientists can document both a physical and permanent record of species diversity over time, which is why this work is so important to me.

My work with the Indiana Forest Alliance begin in summer of 2014, when I expected to gain some insights into insect diversity at Morgan-Monroe and Yellowwood State Forests. After the first year of the Ecoblitz in 2014, and then again after 2015, I was hoping we would have a general understanding of the species richness (number of species) to be found in these forests. We limited our collecting only to sampling insects by hand (note that the beetle specialists used traps), both during the day and at night. No traps or other collecting methods were employed at this time, but it was clear, after we spent a few days both years at these locations, that we were barely sampling any of the existing insect diversity there.

In the summer of 2016, we set up Malaise traps, designed to capture flying insects. Our goal was to better capture some of the diversity over not just a single weekend collecting event, but over the entire summer and into fall. When we brought samples back into my lab at Hanover, the sheer amount of insects was, and is, overwhelming. I had four students working with me in the lab to sort out specimens into what we propose are unique species. After 5-6 months of work in the lab, we still have very little idea of how many species we found, because of the challenge of identifying insects to species. What began as an effort to get a snapshot of the insect diversity in these areas has blossomed into a lifetime project! We have, very conservatively, collected many hundreds if not thousands of insects, all of which have to yet be identified by specialists. My expertise in beetles limits our abilities to do this quickly enough, which is why I am making the statement below.

Dr. Glené Mynhardt setting up a malaise insect trap in the Back Country Area of Morgan-Monroe/ Yellowwood State Forest. (photo credit: Jason Kolenda)

In the time that we have been identifying the specimens collected, it has become very clear that we have very limited knowledge of how many species exist in our Indiana forests. Efforts of the IFA, with help of scientists from many different institutions, have led to one conclusion: without preserving large tracts of old-growth forests, we could lose hundreds of thousands of species that rely on these forest habitats for survival. The species we are identifying are forest specialists that have been part of Indiana’s forests for hundreds of thousands of years. The survival of these species depends on intact forests, with many relying on fallen trees of varying ages of decomposition and decay. We are collecting hundreds of species of wasps, beetles, and flies, all of which are interdependent on one another for all the different stages of insect life. Not only do our native forests house these species, but never before has any group of naturalists been able to fully sample the rich diversity before.

We are facing what could be one of the most exciting ventures in understanding Indiana’s biological diversity, and we may lose it all. Across our planet, thousands of species go extinct each year, without scientists knowing anything about the biological importance of those species. We could be losing species that are important indicators of forest (and Earth’s) health, yet we don’t know much about these species in terms of their long-term reliance or impacts on these forests. Over the time that our planet has been in existence, it has taken millions of years for insects and other animals, including mammals, to evolve in the areas they not inhabit. We should be spending more time and energy to understand what we have in our own beautiful forests of Indiana, before it is too late.

In the lab, we have thousands of species that all rely on intact, deciduous forests for survival. And while we have many species, we still have limited knowledge of which impacts they have on our forests, which are slowly becoming small fragments of what they used to be. Habitat loss and fragmentation have largely resulted in the loss of biological diversity of insects. First we must understand which species are present in the first place (we do not yet have any close estimates). Second, without understanding which species are present in a given area or how much habitat space these species require, it is premature to make holistic decisions about preserve X amount of space for ALL species present in that area. As biologists we do not yet fully understand how different species are impacted by habitat loss, or how vulnerable different species are to fragmentation. Even though our forests have been around for a long time, this is the first and possibly the last chance we get to study the impacts of local species in our forests, and on each other, over time. 

The decisions we make today will have great impacts on what our children will be able to experience in the years to come. I, for one, would like generations after me to still experience the amazing diversity of life that lives in our forests. As a scientist whose mission it is to understand our living world, we need the time and support to understand what we have right here in Indiana. As humans, we can leave behind one legacy- we are the only species that has the intellectual capacity to understand the other organisms that share our planet, specifically our forests, with us. We rely on these species to maintain the forests we call home, the forests we like to frequent when we try to escape to get away from the busyness of life. Let’s try to first understand what we have before we lost it all.

The preceding testimony by Dr. Glené Mynhardt was given to the Indiana Senate Natural Resources Committee on Monday, February 13, 2017 during the hearing for Senate Bill 420. 

Please contact your state senator and ask them to support Senate Bill 420.

A Bill For Our Children

By: Kathy Klawitter

Hello. I’m Kathy Klawitter from Orange County. I’ve recently retired after working for 40 years for the Northeast Dubois County School Corporation as a teacher and a Central Office employee. Thank you for this opportunity to express my views on Senate Bill 420.

Tree marked to be cut in Ferdinand State Forest.

I grew up in Iowa, on the banks of the Mississippi. Moving to Southern Indiana and attending Indiana University then moving further South to my current homestead, I missed the big river but was taken by the wooded hills and hollers which distinguish Southern Indiana. I spent time wandering the woods and appreciate and enjoy particularly the unique beauty and subtle natural diversity only available in the forest ecology manifested in vanishing and scarce older growth forest lands.

One of the places I was privileged to have this kind of forest experience was in Ferdinand State Forest, which is a reasonable distance from where I live. Sharing this with my child and now grandchildren has been especially precious to me. Please help insure this opportunity is available to their children. We can’t insure such forestland will be available privately. Once the trees are cut, a generation or more will pass before the forest can regrow into old or older growth forest land. As eco-tourism continues to grow, this disappearing forest resource will draw people to the area. It would be particularly unfortunate to eliminate it just as it comes into its own.

The kinds of organisms which live in older contiguous blocks of forest are different from forest edge species. Multiple use of public land should include a provision for preserving older contiguous blocks of forest interior for us to continue to explore and save for our children and grandchildren. Once it’s gone it will be gone for them. The conservative thing to do is to keep some of it for us and for them.

Thank you for your consideration.

Kathy Klawitter submitted the preceding testimony to the Indiana Senate Natural Resources Committee during the hearing on Senate Bill 420 on Monday, February 13, 2017. Klawitter was active in the fight to revise the Management Plan that restricted logging by 50% in the Hoosier National Forest. 

Please contact your state senator and request they support Senate Bill 420.

Support from the Old-Growth Forest Network

By: Joan Maloof, Ph.D. 

To those considering Senate Bill 420, which designates that at least 10% of each state forest is designated as an old forest area:

Please know that thousands of supporters of the Old-Growth Forest Network (OGFN) strongly support the passage of this bill. OGFN is the forest national organization working specifically to preserve ancient forests for the enjoyment of present and future generations. In counties capable of supporting forest growth we identify at least one forest that will be forever protected from logging and open to the public. Then we help families connect with these forests. The result will be a national network of treasured forests where all generations can experience native biodiversity and the beauty of nature. We are called to do this work because so few old forests remain. Less than 1%! Most Indiana counties have no old forests left at all.

Yet old forests are so important because:

  • The older a forest is the better it cleans the air of pollutants.
  • The older a forest is the more storm water it can capture and purify.
  • The older a forest is the more different species will be found there, from birds to snails to ferns.
  • The older a forest is the more attractive it is for ecotourism.

We need to save examples of older forests to understand and appreciate our native ecosystem. We cannot depend on private forest owners to save these examples. Preserving a small percentage of our state lands is the perfect solution.

For the small amount of income that you will forgo from not logging that 10% you will more than recover in economic development from tourism, and possibly from the emerging carbon market.

The older a forest gets the healthier it becomes. This is the scientifically documented lesson from my recent book: Nature’s Temples: the Complex World of Old-Growth Forests. I urge you to read it if you wish to learn more about this topic.

Thank you for making the right choice for our forests and for the future generations.

Dr. Joan Maloof submitted the preceding testimony to the Indiana Senate Natural Resources committee in support of Senate Bill 420. 

Dr. Joan Maloof is a scientist, a writer, and the Founder and Director of the Old-Growth Forest Network, a nonprofit organization creating a network of forests across the US that will remain forever unlogged and open to the public. Dr. Maloof studied Plant Science at the University of Delaware (BS), Environmental Science at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (MS), and Ecology at the University of Maryland College Park (PhD). She has published numerous research articles in journals such as: Ecology, the American Journal of Botany, Plant Species Biology, the International Journal of Environmental Studies, and Environmental Philosophy. Dr. Maloof is a Professor Emeritus at Salisbury University in Maryland. Her book, Teaching the Trees: Lessons from the Forest, won an Honorable Mention from the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment. 

Please contact your state senator and urge them to support Senate Bill 420.


A Forest Health Bill

By: Paul Rothrock, Ph.D.

My name is Dr. Paul Rothrock and I was a professor of biology for over 30 years at Taylor University and am currently a research professor in the Biology Department at Indiana University. I am also a past president of the Indiana Academy of Science. Among my research interests has been the development of a widely used Floristic Quality Assessment methodology for Indiana. The protocol uses plant to rank natural areas and to monitor habitat change over time. In the past few years I have had the privilege of spending time in some of our amazing state forest land in Monroe and Brown Counties.

It is inaccurate to think of Senate Bill 420 as an anti-timber bill. It certainly would be wrong to think of Senate Bill 420 as an anti-hunting bill. It is a forest health bill. It is a recognition that old-growth forests are a resource needed for the long term health and sustainability of our forest lands. The bill seeks to promote a diverse mosaic of forest types and maturities that support ecosystem health.

Some particular observations:

1.) These mature forests allow the rhythms of nature to play out. As such they serve as reference points for understanding how we are doing in managing our harvested forests. As we compare old-growth forests to harvested forests we learn of the effect of harvest on soils, plant and animal life, the rate of tree growth, and many other aspects of forest ecology. This research helps to improve forest management and the sustainable supply of wood for our economy.

2.) As I have personally observed in Morgan-Monroe State Forest, our old-growth forests provide unique habitats, sheltering species that do better in old forests than in young. One finds in an old-growth forest a greater variety of ecological niches in the form of snags, fallen branches, deep soil organic matter, and tip ups of earth that favor a different suite of species than harvested forests. The results of my floristic quality analyses indicate both a remarkable richness of species and, in particular, an abundance of conservative species. This diversity of species and the mosaic of forest types result in a complex food web and symbioses that support the more familiar commercial and recreational species.

3.) Old-growth forests serve as a source of biological restoration. These forests are sources of seed and spores that spread to nearby areas thus sustaining the health of future forest generations. These forest systems preserve plant populations that are large enough to maintain genetic diversity important for future adaption to changing conditions and disease. (I should point out that this genetic diversity includes the trees themselves whose gene pool probably has been adversely affected by poor harvest practices of the past.)

To summarize: old-growth forests are a research tool, they support the complex mosaic of nature necessary for vibrant animal populations, and they are tools for restoration and renewal. In short, SB 420 is not an anti-timber bill. Certainly it is not an anti-hunting bill. It is a forest health bill.

Thank you.

The preceding was testimony given by Dr. Paul Rothrock during the Indiana Senate Natural Resources Committee hearing for Senate Bill 420 on Monday, February 13, 2017. 

Dr. Rothrock is a graduate of Rutgers, The State University, and received his master’s and doctorate degrees from Pennsylvania State University, majoring in Botany with emphasis in Plant Ecology and Plant Taxonomy. According to the Indiana Academy of Science, Rothrock has been recognized as one of North America’s, and especially Indiana’s, most prominent plant taxonomists and botanists with his research contributions spanning more than three decades. He has published nearly 50 peer-reviewed scientific publications, including five book chapters and one book. He has described three new Midwestern species and brought species status to three others, as well as leading the development of the Floristic Quality Assessment protocol for Indiana. Rothrock was elected Indiana Academy of Science Fellow in 1992 and has also served on several Academy committees. He has been the Vice-chair and Chair of Plant Systematics and Biodiversity Section. He served as Indiana Academy of Science President in 2009. 



SB 420: A Voice of Support

By: Marion T. Jackson, Ph.D. 

I am Marion Jackson and I currently reside in Terre Haute, Indiana and am a retired professor of ecology at Indiana State University where I was on faculty for the better part of 50 years. During that time I taught courses in forest ecology, plant ecology & taxonomy, and all of the related sciences that have to do with the biology of nature.

Since I’ve been retired, I have not been as active as I was before, but have been part of several long term studies that have been ongoing for fifty years or more in old-growth forests in the state of Indiana. It’s imperative that we keep these forests in tact and continuing because they are among the oldest communities of organisms present in Indiana. During the past several years I was the author of two books. Indiana University Press came out with The Natural Heritage of Indiana about ten or twelve years ago. I was the author of many of the chapters in this and also was the editor of the entire volume. This details the value of natural lands, particularly natural forests in the state, and the necessity of protecting them because of the diversity of life that is present in all of these remnants in what was originally the Indiana vegetation. More recently I put together 101 Trees of Indiana which is a field guide heavily illustrated with color photographs that helps people who have an interest in trees to identify them and appreciate them for their natural value and what they contribute to the state of Indiana. I’ve been retired now for several years.

I’m not as active in the outdoors as I once was. I don’t get around as fast as I once did. But, I have a tremendous interest in the original forests and their value and I hope that they can be protected. Being an ecologist I feel that 10% or even 20% of the original forest is not nearly enough. I think it should be greater than that and we should do everything we can to maintain these forests. This is what Indiana was originally. We need to have this for future generations to see what was here, what is still here, and to protect the remnants into perpetuity in the future. I would urge you to pass the bill protecting the remnants of the old-growth forests and provide ways in which we can keep them in tact insofar as possible. I do realize that we’re going to have development, landscapes, and so fourth in Indiana. But, the more of the original forests that we can protect, the better off we will be. I would urge you to pass this bill (Senate Bill 420).



The preceding was testimony of Dr. Marion T. Jackson given during the Indiana Senate Natural Resource’s Committee hearing for Senate Bill 420 on Monday, February 13, 2017.

Dr. Jackson has studied Indiana’s forest ecosystem for his entire academic career. He earned his degree in Plant Ecology at Purdue University in 1964 under Dr. A. A. Lindsey, one of the world’s leading forest ecologists. He joined the faculty of the Department of Life Sciences at Indiana State University that same year where he taught until his retirement in 2002. While there, he taught and worked with a number of undergraduate and graduate students and published a large number of papers, book chapters, and books, many in forest ecology. Some of his major contributions were as author and editor of The Natural Heritage of Indiana, published in association with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and the Indiana Academy of Science. He also published 101 Trees of Indiana, was associate editor of Habitats and Ecological Communities of Indiana: Pre-settlement to Present, and the Editor of the Proceedings of the Indiana Academy of Science for several years. While on sabbatical, Dr. Jackson served for a year as program ecologist for the Indiana Natural Heritage Protection Program with the Division of Nature Preserves, in the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and as Acting Director of The Nature Conservancy of Indiana in 1978/79, during the sabbatical of TNC’s first Indiana Director. 

Please contact your state senator and ask him to support Senate Bill 420



The Marred Face of the Knobstone Trail

by Todd Stewart, IFA Board Member

Last spring, at age 54, I accomplished something that I was unable to do at 22.  I successfully hiked from Deam Lake to Delaney Park on the Knobstone Trail — many would call this a thru-hike.  The Knobstone Trail is often referred to as the “Little Appalachian Trail” and widely known as a great place to train for the AT.  The Knobstone Trail is Indiana’s longest and therefore most prestigious trail.

As a horseman, I had traveled the tree-laden path of Deam Lake hundreds of times. Now as a hiker, I find myself traveling down that same path, but it is unrecognizable to me.  The joy of the path is now replaced with mud, stumps, and piles of wasted logging byproduct.  

Along the trail there are still many pristine unspoiled places where bulldozers and chainsaws have not rumbled for many years.  While hiking the trail at the height of spring flowers, I was amazed at the diversity and the beauty in areas allowed to recover from our pioneer days.  But now, less than 5% of Indiana’s treasured state forests are protected.

Wildflowers and fungi on the Knobstone (photo by Todd Stewart)

We know Indiana can do better than less than 5%.  I have been blessed to see the trails where the flowers still bloom and the trees still grow strong, but I have also seen areas not so lucky.  Many parts of the forest have already been clear-cut, leaving only an abundance of invasive briars.  I wonder if neighboring states treat their outdoor recreation opportunities with such little regard?

During my thru-hike, I was accosted by a logging operator who hurled a several-hundred-pound log across the open trail, with no regard to passing hiker’s safety.  This unsupervised logging yard was just feet away from the open trail.  This harvest was approved by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR).  Other hikers, including a veteran, shared this same scare.

While I was hiking north on the Knobstone Trail, near the Stuart Oxley trailhead, I saw that valuable hardwood trees had been removed so that the timber could be sold.  The only trees left in this section of the trail were less valuable pine trees.  Not long after the logging, a large wind blew the unprotected left over pines to the ground.  This closed a large section of Knobstone trail.

Today there is a section of the Knobstone Trail in the Jackson Washington Forest that is closed for logging.  The DNR closed this section for the “public’s protection.”  The map redirects hikers to a road walk-around, taking the hiker around what was once was a gorgeous section of trail (see my previous blog). Hikers who take this walk-around have no way of knowing that there are several unrestrained, aggressive large dogs guarding this road walk.  

Indiana’s great diverse forests have been developing since the Ice Age without the help of chainsaws and bulldozers, and will continue to develop if we allow them to.  Indiana is replete with successional habitat.  What we need are more deep forest ecosystems.  

The unstated reason for logging is to gain revenue for a woefully underfunded DNR, and I fear a balance has been tipped.  It’s true that state forests exist timber sources AND recreation. But timber revenues currently take precedence. This is not right, and it’s diminishing the experience of our forests, and jeopardizing the safety and needs of Hoosiers.

If you’re unhappy with how our state forests are being treated, come to IFA’s pro-forest rally Monday, February 20 at the State House in Indianapolis and help show our lawmakers how many of us value trees left standing. You can also express your support for Senate Bill 420, which protects 10% of state forests from logging.

Knobstone Trail, mile 40 (photo by Todd Stewart)

5 Reasons to Support SB 420

By Rae Schnapp, Ph.D., IFA Conservation Director 

Why should you encourage the establishment of old forest areas in your state forests? Use these talking points as a guide for when you contact your legislator and ask him to support Senate Bill 420. On Monday, February 13, 2017 Senate Bill 420 will be heard by the Senate Natural Resources Committee. Please join us for this hearing.

  1. Setting aside large areas of the state forests from logging has long been a nonpartisan objective of both Republican and Democratic Administrations. Governors Orr and Bowen established three “Backcountry Areas” in the state forests in the 1970s and 80s where logging was curtailed to emphasize wilderness recreation. As of 2003, 40% of the state forests, 60,000 acres, were set aside from harvests by the IDNR’s Division of Forestry under Republican and Demsb420-newocratic Administrations, which included “Old Forest Areas” where no logging was allowed. The current logging program has eliminated the “Old Forest Areas” and reduced acres set aside from logging to 4.8 percent of the state forest, approximately 7,500 acres. Recently, Jim Ridenour, Director of IDNR under Governor Orr and National Park Service Director under President H. S. Bush, addressed “increased timbering in our state forests” stating, “While it makes sense to have timber sales on some of our state lands, it also makes sense to save some of this land for hikers, bikers, campers, and other recreational users. We need to save prime acres of our forest lands for multiple use and also to tell the story of what Indiana pioneers found when they came to our state.”
  2. The Division of Forestry (DOF) within IDNR has stated repeatedly in the past decade that some areas of the state forests should be set aside from timber harvests. In their Environmental Assessment for the current logging program, the DOF rejected a plan for higher volume timber harvests stating, “it would not allow the DOF to set aside areas fore recreational, ecological, or aesthetic reasons that are free from timber harvests.” To obtain a “green” certification from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the DOF agreed in 2013 to “maintain 10 percent of the state forests in an older forest condition.” The DOF repeated this commitment in FSC’s 2015 audit, but still has yet to delineate the locations of these old forests in the state forests and has been logging in Back Country Areas and Old Forest Areas designated by previous administrations eliminating their value as “old forests”.
  3. The IDNR’s Division of Fish and Wildlife formally recommended in 2005 that at least 10% of the state forests should not be logged or maintained in an old forest condition (>100 years old) to provide mature interior forest habitat for wildlife. 
  4. Setting aside 10 percent of Indiana’s state forests as “Old Forest” will have a negligible effect on Indiana’s timber industry. Data from the Division of Forestry indicates that state forests are providing only 4.5 percent of the timber sold in Indiana each year.
  5. Recreation can generate dollars for local communities from state forests. U.S. Forest Service data indicates that recreation supports nearly 5 times more jobs in communities surrounding national forests than logging. A study of private property values around wilderness areas proposed in the Vermont’s Green Mountain National Forest found that designated wilderness enhances property values in surrounding towns (equivalent to our townships) by $1.2 to $2.2 million per year and is associated with lower property tax rates while generating revenues for local community development.



Creating a Forest Preservation Ethic in Indianapolis

By Jeff Stant, IFA Executive Director

Yesterday, Federal District Judge Jane Stinson denied our request for a preliminary injunction to stay contractors for the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) from clearing the Crown Hill North Woods while the merits of our lawsuit against the VA for violations of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) are argued. We are initiating an appeal of this decision to the Federal Appeals Court in Chicago and will be asking Judge Stinson as well as the Appeals Court to not allow this clearing to begin while they consider our appeal.

Candidly, our chances of prevailing in this appeal are not good. So we must brace ourselves and prepare to say goodbye to a forest that has endured the eradication of the passenger pigeon and bison, removal of Native Americans and loss of the wilderness primeval of its past to the industrialized city surrounding it but will not survive the greed and short-sightedness that pervades land-use decision-making in Indianapolis today.

It is not as though citizens have just started trying to save this forest nor have city or state leaders been unaware of its importance. Strong citizen outcry led the Marion County Metropolitan Development Commission to turn down a proposal for residential and commercial development of the forest in 2007. Before that, city planners identified it as a “high quality forest” in the 2005 Comprehensive Master Plan for Marion County. In a detailed statement, City Parks Department staff described the forest as an ideal park site in 2006. After the development was turned down, the state approved $262,500 in funding from the Indiana Heritage Trust as part of a package to buy the forest and make it a nature preserve describing it as “a remnant of pre-settlement forest” with “inordinate biological value.” This package fell apart when the private funding was erased in the stock market crash in 2008. Even Crown Hill Cemetery boasted about the forest as part of the natural legacy it was conserving in Indianapolis, in its 2013 coffee-table book, Crown Hill: History, Spirit, Sanctuary.

Tragically, these efforts apparently did not deter the management of Crown Hill Cemetery from quietly selling the forest to the VA in 2015 to become a veterans cemetery. Nor did they matter enough to prompt the VA to explore any of numerous alternative sites that could accommodate the veterans cemetery without destroying this forest. Or make a genuine effort to reach out to the community next to the forest or scientists who had spoken out for its preservation to ensure they were aware of this proposal and could give input to illuminate the decision-making process that NEPA calls for.

This could have resulted in a decision that would have been a win/win for the forest, veterans and residents of Indianapolis. Nor do these efforts matter to Judge Stinson who states in her ruling that plaintiffs will suffer irreparable harm without the injunction — but apparently also believes the analysis done by the VA under NEPA was exhaustive and sufficient even though no alternative sites were examined and the nearby community was not approached.

Perhaps most importantly, this forest and the public’s concern for it do not matter enough to key political officials who could most definitely have put more pressure on the VA to avert this tragedy.

Crown Hill North Woods is an ecological jewel, but it is certainly not the only forested green space to be put on the chopping block in Indianapolis that citizens have tried to save or that city planners have recognized as important pieces of nature to protect in parks plan after parks plan. In the past 40 years, city residents made diligent efforts to obtain a tree preservation ordinance under one mayor only to have their efforts shelved by another while city councilors of both parties continually tell their constituents complaining about the loss of green space that there is no money in the city’s coffers … not one dime … to acquire or protect any of it for the public’s benefit. Aside from the small amount of it protected in our existing parks, we are systematically losing all of our remaining green space piece by piece because city leaders do NOT believe that the preservation of nature is an important enough concern to their constituents.

We will be leading a candlelight vigil to say goodbye to the Crown Hill North Forest this Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, from 4-5 pm. It will be your last chance to see what the pre-settlement forests that once covered central Indianapolis looked like. We thank the veterans who have stood up for this Forest and ALL of you who have marched, written, called, and spoken out for this Forest. We will keep fighting for it in court.

But if it is not to survive, let’s resolve to make its loss a beginning in a movement to save the forested green space that remains in Indianapolis – a movement that will not stop until city leaders at all levels recognize that the preservation of nature is their obligation demanded by us all, their constituents, and take effective actions to save the nature that remains in our beloved capital city.


photo by Daniel Axler

Hundreds marched in support of Crown Hill North Woods, Sept. 25, 2016. Photo by Daniel Axler

Shock & Shame at Yellowwood Lake Trail

By: Christine Linnemeier, IFA Member

I was born in Bloomington nearly 65 years ago, grew up in Monroe County, and have lived here most of my life.  I have been hiking the hills and forests of Southern Indiana for as long as I can remember.  I was truly shocked this summer when I saw that the Indiana Department of Natural Resources planned to log on the western slope of Yellowwood Lake. 

Trees more than three feet in diameter cut for the financial value of their timber!

Richard Linnemeier stands before a cut tree more than three feet in diameter.

I knew the state had greatly increased the amount of logging in the state forests, but I didn’t think they would log so close to this lake or in an area so popular with hikers.  I was also amazed that they were going to log during the breeding season of the endangered timber rattler in one of the few places they can be found in the state.  I had hiked this area recently along the Tecumseh Trail.  On my hike I saw a large timber rattler, many chanterelle mushrooms, and a rare purple fringeless orchid.  The trail was a pleasant place to walk on a hot July day because it was very shady and had some huge trees.

This fall, my husband wanted to hike down this same trail.  I was hesitant because of what I might find, but I agreed to go, hoping that maybe they had just taken a few select trees.  As we started down the trail, things appeared to be normal, but soon I was absolutely shocked and depressed when I saw that they had cut a huge swath right next to the trail.

This formerly shady trail with huge trees was now a hideous site of stumps and debris and erosion.  I could not believe they would do something that destructive so close to the lake and a very popular trail.  Further down the trail, I could see (through what few trees were left) a clear cut along one side of a ravine through which a stream ran down to the lake.

It has only been a couple of years since the state drained Yellowwood Lake in order to dredge accumulated sediment out of it.  Now, they had denuded a part of the watershed that would definitely send more sediment into the lake.  Does this make any sense?


Logging has caused erosion in Yellowwood Lake (upper right)

One of the most depressing things about this experience was realizing that this forest would not grow back in my lifetime.  This area has been permanently ruined for me.  Though the northern end of the trail had not been logged, my greatest fear is that they plan to come back next year and do more of the same along the rest of the trail.

There has been a 400% increase in logging in our state forests since 2002.  The state plans to continue this extensive logging in our state forests.  Many Hoosiers visit the state forests to hike and see wildlife and enjoy the beauty of nature.  Opening up our public lands to such extensive logging only benefits a few citizens while robbing the rest of us of the enjoyment of these lands.

Indiana was once covered in forests.  What we have left is a tiny portion of what once was.  There are plenty of private wood lots to meet our needs for lumber.  There is less and less space for wildlife and bird watching and hiking and renewing one’s spirit in nature.

If you would like to see the state preserving our public lands for nature and recreation please write the Governor and your state senators and representatives. And support organizations such as the Indiana Forest Alliance that are fighting to save these lands.

If you’re tired of public forests being logged to the detriment of our enjoyment of them, and would like to see a portion of our state forests set aside from logging, come to IFA’s Rally at the StatehouseMonday, February 20, 2017. Help deliver the message to our lawmakers that the citizens of Indiana deserve undisturbed wilderness to enjoy.

A version of this letter appeared in the Bloomington Herald-Times on 1/11/17.

Five New Members Join IFA Board

By: IFA Staff

Members at the IFA annual meeting last Fall elected five directors to the board: janet4-1

Janet Hollis (Zionsville, Boone County): Janet is a retired teacher with a history of concern for Indiana’s forests.  With her parents she was acive in CCNRA (Citizens Concerned about the Nebo Ridge Area) in the late 70’s which sought to protect private property rights in the establishments of the Deam Wilderness.  Janet has served on the boards of several major environmental organizations in Indiana.




Todd Stewart (Scottsburg, Scott County): Todd is an avid hiker who lives near the Knobstone Trail and is deeply disturbed by the rampant logging affecting so many of Indiana’s trails.  Todd appreciates IFA’s common-sense approach.  As a board member, he will contribute his leadership experience as a funeral director, bank contractor, bank director, and YMCA director.



Chris Marks (Poland, Owen County): With a Ph.D. in Life Science (Ecology) from Indiana State University, Chris is a professor emerita of Equine Science at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.  A life-long horsewoman, endurance competitor, author, and archer, Chris sees the forest ecosystem as a community and not a commodity.



Bill Hurley Jr. (Memphis, Clark County): Bill moved to Indiana in 1993 to be near the Knobstone Trail.  As a father and grandfather, he is deeply interested in preserving Indiana forests for future generations. Now retired from the practice of law, Bill would like to work to slow down the destruction of our forests.



simcox-canoe-blue-riverDr. P. David Simcox (Bloomington, Monroe County): Dave and his wife Ruth moved to Bloomington in 2013.  He enjoys Indiana’s woodlands, volunteers with the Hoosier Hikers Council and is a member of the Sycamore Land Trust.  Having witnessed the impact of logging on Indiana’s state forests, Dave is committed to seeing conservation serve as a cornerstone of forest management.


Outgoing board members Mary Kay Rothert, Natalie Colbert and Mary Bookwalter were thanked for their dedicated years of service and leadership in the name of Indiana’s forests.

One Woman’s Words: Questioning Logging at Hardy Lake

By: Karen S. Smith, IFA Member

Why is Hardy Lake State Recreation Area on the logging list?  IDNR thinks timber revenue is the best way to pay for a nature center. We find it ironic and inappropriate for the IDNR to destroy the best interior forest habitat at Hardy Lake for this reason.


Trees marked to be cut in Hardy Lake SRA. Photo by Crowe’s Eye Photography.

Bloomington resident Karen S. Smith decided to speak out when she saw a cherished place being mismanaged.  Read what she wrote to Governor Mike Pence when she heard about logging at Hardy Lake.

Dear Governor Pence,

I am writing to express my dismay regarding the timber sale and private harvest planned for Hardy Lake State Recreation Area in deep, interior forest.  It is especially troubling that no Draft Resource Management Guide has been posted for public review and comment.  The logging of an estimated 364,107 Doyle Board Feet (DBF) will entail the closing or rerouting of approximately three miles of the Outward Bound and Cemetery hiking trails.  Logging so close to Hardy Lake could also have a negative impact on watershed quality, something which should be discussed in a DRMG and made available for public review.

Already this year, I’ve submitted comments regarding logging proposals for 29 tracts in Morgan-Monroe, Yellowwood, Putnam, Harrison-Crawford, and Pike State Forests.  Now, with this logging plan for Hardy Lake, there is not even a management guide to comment on.


Karen S. Smith during a February hike in Spurgeon Lake Area.

It is very inappropriate for logging to take place in state parks and reservoir areas. While the logging in question is connected to a Bicentennial project, it is also not right for monies to be raised for this project by logging interior forest in Hardy Lake State Park.  Reportedly, this logging is intended to increase quail habitat for the benefit of hunters; however, the area already has an abundance of early successional habitat.

It is simply not acceptable or sustainable for our state government to continue its policy of dramatically increased levels of logging on public lands to provide funding for the DNR.  Undermining the integrity and diversity of our state forest lands is surely not in keeping with the mission and responsibilities of the Department of Natural Resources.

I know there are thousands of people throughout Indiana who feel as I do about the need to preserve our public forest lands.  Please put an end to this policy of destruction.


Karen S. Smith

Read more from Hardy Lake State Reservoir’s Limited Deep Forest to be Logged, an article published in the most recent issue of the Forest Defender, IFA’s quarterly, printed newsletter.