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?

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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.

 

todd4

 

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.

chris1

 

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.

bill1

 

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.

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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-smith-ifa-hike-spurgeon-lake-area-7-feb-2015

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.

Respectfully,

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.

Logging & the Indiana Bat: Mitigating Disaster

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

We need to adopt a very conservative strategy to protect a species of mammal which bears our state name. Here’s why.

Currently, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Division of Forestry’s (DoF) harvests timber from state forest lands with little monitoring for Indiana Bat (Myotis sodalis). For example, the DoF was unaware of a maternity roost located by IFA’s bat surveys in the summer of 2016. Research indicates that the Indiana Bat prefers interior forest sites, not forest edges as previously reported (see studies by Jeremy J. Sheets in 2013 and James E. Gardner in 1991).

Another reason for concern: in 2005, total population estimates for the Indiana Bat were at about 457,000 — half as many as when the species was first listed as endangered in 1967. And now the Indiana Bat and other bat species are threatened by the deadly White Nose Syndrome, first detected in Indiana in 2011.

indianabat

IFA’s Ecoblitz has identified lactating female Indiana Bats in unlogged areas in Morgan-Monroe State Forest.

Now, the DoF has admitted that its timber sales in Indiana state forests might inadvertently kill the endangered Indiana Bat, so they have requested an “Incidental Take” Permit. The Endangered Species Act allows this incidental take in exchange for conservation measures, based on an approved Environmental Impact Statement and Habitat Conservation Plan. This provides an opportunity to minimize and mitigate incidental take by monitoring to determine more precisely where Indiana Bat colonies are roosting and foraging so that timber harvest in those areas can be avoided.

Indiana Bats are found in Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Michigan and New York, but Indiana is the primary repository of the species, so habitat here is crucial. In exchange for an allowable incidental take of this species, the DoF needs to develop robust monitoring that will identify prime habitat, minimize and mitigate cumulative impacts, and optimize the bats’ recovery. Using the precautionary principle, the EIS should evaluate alternatives that conserve enough Indiana Bat habitat in an unlogged condition to make up for any incidental take.

IFA has commented on the state’s proposed Environmental Impact Statement and Habitat Conservation Plan. Our detailed comments address:

  • Current status of the species including new information about roost sites from our Ecoblitz monitoring efforts
  • Cumulative impacts of logging in combination with other threats including White Nose Syndrome, wind towers, and transportation corridors
  • Quantitative estimates of incidental take associated with planned logging activities
  • Identification of roost and foraging locations where logging must be avoided
  • Mitigation recommendation that 40% of our State Forests should be set aside from all logging to ensure that no incidental take occurs in these areas

Robust monitoring is needed to evaluate the success of the species and effectiveness of mitigation procedures.

Click here to read IFA’s proposed environmental impact statement in its entirety.

Since When is an Early Death “Healthy”?

This letter appeared in the Oct 31- Nov. 6 issue of the Indianapolis Business Journal.  Help us spread the word about the unprecedented increase in commercial logging on our state forestland by signing and sharing this petition.


By: Jeff Stant, IFA Executive Director

Much of the Indianapolis Business Journal article, “Holcomb, Gregg disagree about how much to manage state forests” is devoted to the state’s assertion that its logging is good for the forests’ health.

Our hardwood forests have substantially longer growth cycles than current logging allows.  White oak, tulip poplar, sugar maple and American beech have maximum life spans of 300 to 600 years and average life spans of 100 to 300 years.

The Division’s logging is allowing the oldest trees in our state forests to reach only 125 years before they are cut down, well before the average life span and far before the maximum life span of most of these trees.

In addition to depriving the forest of trunk cavities, standing snags, and large logs which are important habitat niches and sources for organic material, this removal truncates the symbiotic growth of “hypogenous” or subterranean fungi that occurs in the living roots of older trees and is very important for healthy forest regeneration.

Trees have been falling and letting sunlight reach the forest floor for thousands of years without our help. In one of the most widely read textbooks on forestry, The Practice of Silviculture: Applied Forest Ecology, the authors state: “The most magnificent forests that are ever likely to develop were present before the dawn of civilization and grew without human assistance.”

Let’s be honest. The state is managing our state forests to produce merchantable timber, not to improve forest health.

 

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Opening created by the natural  life-cycle of trees in the Morgan-Monroe State Forest Back Country Area. (Photo by: Samantha Buran)

The Trees at Crown Hill Woods “Have a Life”

By Anne Laker, IFA Staff

Hundreds of calls generated to elected officials. Schoolchildren speaking bravely to the TV cameras about the value of trees. Veterans pleading with the Veterans Administration not to destroy a forest in their name.

Since the Indianapolis community got wind of the Veterans Administration project to displace and destroy an old growth forest with a concrete-heavy memorial on Crown Hill Cemetery’s North Woods, we’ve all been galvanized by the nerve this issue has struck. Forests matter, and people are willing to speak out to protect them. In the words of a second grader at the School for Community Learning: “the trees there have a life.”

Here’s an update:

Sept. 20, the Indiana Forest Alliance and members of the coalition to save Crown Hill Cemetery North Woods met face to face with VA officials from Washington. They showed us their latest design plans–which are 95% done, at a total investment to date of nearly $2 million. We walked the woods, looking at marked trees, the great majority of which are marked to be felled, to be replaced by tree starts, like those you might see at a newly-opened big box store, or housing development.

The VA made clear their intentions to go forward with a project that will supposedly honor veterans by destroying the only old-growth forest in inner city Indianapolis—unless, in their words—the top brass at the VA i.e., Veterans Secretary Robert McDonald (robert.a.mcdonald@va.gov), tells them to hold up and look at alternatives.

Your contacts to Secretary McDonald, and your continued calls to U.S. Senators Donnelly & Coats, Representatives Brooks & Carson, as well as Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett, will be the determining factor in this crusade.

Another action you can take is to attend a peaceful walk, from Christian Theological Seminary (CTS) to the Crown Hill Cemetery Woods, this Sunday, September 25 at 3 p.m. Bring your signs and banners (or come early at 2 p.m. and make some at tables near the CTS parking lot). Please help spread the word.

Come and see the majestic forest we want so much to save. Smell the spice bush and pawpaw leaves blowing in the breeze. Crane your neck at the tallest burr oaks. Hear poetry by author Kevin McKelvey.

Explore a new page on this site with a timeline and documents related to this issue. Review the Crown Hill Woods media coverage. And keep raising your voice for the only old growth forest in inner city Indianapolis.

photo by Lori Adelson

photo by Lori Adelson

What Can Save a 300-Year-Old Indianapolis Forest?

By: Anne Laker, IFA Staff

We are about to lose the only old-growth forest in inner city Indianapolis. Your calls to your Congresspeople are the only way to save these trees. Read on for background, talking points, and legislator contact information.

BACKGROUND:

Indianapolis’ Crown Hill Cemetery is a spiritual, historical, ecological treasure, as described in this sumptuous coffee table book. Its 555 total acres contain a stunning variety of native trees.

burr oak canopy

Burr oak canopy

One stand, on the north end of the property, is an incredible “pre-settlement remnant.” That means its trees have been undisturbed for as many as 300 years. The stand contains at least one burr oak tree thought to be 500 years old, some 15 feet in circumference. This stand of woods “preserves the gene pool of early Indiana,” wrote Rebecca Dolan, director of Friesner Herbarium at Butler University.

With its rich wildflowers, huge trees, and ephemeral wetlands, the North Woods is in a nearly pristine state, sculpted only by time – in the midst of the inner city! [Click here for photos of the site].

Now, most of this virgin forest is slated to be cleared. Last fall, Crown Hill sold a 15-acre parcel to the Veterans Administration for $875,000. According to this 2012 design plan, the VA plans to cover the area with columbaria to house 28,000 remains – part of a larger federal plan create more space to inter deceased veterans near major urban areas. They plan to “nestle” a flagplole stand, public information and restroom building, roadways, and parking into these woods.

Huge burr oak

Huge burr oak

Is the virgin forest stand the only place where the columbaria could be built? Absolutely not. There are 50 adjacent acres to the west the VA could consider that Crown Hill currently uses for dumping vegetation waste; other parts are vacant brushland. Another ten acres to the east are an open lawn. Plus, the costs of clearing the virgin woods are a significant but avoidable taxpayer burden.

Ten years ago, robust citizen action led by the Alliance of Crown Neighbors successfully stopped a proposed commercial development on this same property. At that time, the Central Indiana Land Trust proposed to buy the woods and make it a nature preserve, but the stock market crash prevented the purchase. Since then, despite assurances by Crown Hill representatives that they would never develop the virgin forest and consider it a sanctuary, the North Woods are in peril again.

Last year, the VA quietly put forth an environmental assessment report – stating that the parcel was of no significant ecological value, and that the project would have no land use impact. Worse, the VA skirted obligation under the National Environmental Policy Act to reach out to neighbors and the public to genuinely solicit their comment on the proposed destruction of this forest.

Now, bidding on the construction is about to begin. But a few hundred contacts NOW to Congresspeople to request a public re-noticing of the environmental assessment can trigger a reexamination of this project and alternatives that will not destroy these woods. Alliance of Crown Hill Neighbors, Indiana Forest Alliance, Heartlands Group of the Sierra Club, Earth Charter Indiana and others are working together to generate these calls.

Of course we support the idea to provide veterans with appropriate, well-deserved memorials. However, we need an actual community conversation about the decision to build in such a sensitive environmental area, when there is plenty of other suitable land on the Crown Hill property and in other nearby cemeteries where deceased veterans can be interred without disrespecting their memories by decimating the only virgin forest in inner city Indianapolis and one of the only such forests in all of Central Indiana.

Old growth tulip poplar

Old growth tulip poplar

The large trees’ ability to absorb rainwater, store carbon, filter chemicals, and relieve the heat-island effect is just some of the ecological services provided by the Crown Hill Woods that benefit all citizens of Indianapolis. American redstarts, Cooper’s hawks, gray squirrels, fox squirrels, and swallowtail butterflies take harbor in these woods. Large dead snag trees serve as the perfect roosts for the nationally endangered Indiana bat and Northern long-eared bat, just listed as nationally threatened.

Crown Hill refers to itself as “an outdoor classroom.” What exactly is being taught when old growth forests are being needlessly destroyed?

We stand against the destruction of the irreplaceable.

WHAT TO SAY WHEN YOU CALL/WRITE:

“I hear they are going to cut down a forest with 350-year-old trees at Crown Hill on a 15 acre parcel of land that was sold to the Veterans Administration. The construction bidding is about to begin. I’m appalled at this needless destruction, when there are 50 adjacent undeveloped acres that could be used for this veterans’ cemetery. I demand the opportunity to voice my concerns about this taxpayer-financed federal project.  I respectfully ask you to request that the Environmental Assessment for this project be republished to allow for public comment and a public hearing. I am certain alternatives could be found.”

Keep it simple and short. You’re a concerned citizen, and it’s the congressperson’s job to listen to you! FYI, Sen. Joe Donnelly is on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Thank you for contacting your legislators today, and sharing this cause with others.

CONTACT INFO: 

1) Rep. Andre Carson (District 7, central/south Indianapolis, inc. Crown Hill)
send comment to him at https://carson.house.gov/contact/email-me
call his office at (317) 283-6516
write him at 300 E Fall Creek Pkwy. N. Dr. #300 / Indianapolis, IN 46205

2) Rep. Susan Brooks (District 5, northern Indianapolis)
send comment to her at https://susanwbrooks.house.gov/contact/email-me
call her office at (317) 848-0201
write her at 11611 N. Meridian St. #415 / Carmel, IN 46032

3) Sen. Joe Donnelly
send comment to him at https://www.donnelly.senate.gov/contact/email-joe
call his office at (317) 226-5555
write him at 115 N. Pennsylvania St. # 100 / Indianapolis, IN 46204

4) Sen. Dan Coats
send comment to him at https://www.coats.senate.gov/contact/
call his office at (317) 554-0750
write him at 10 West Market St. #1650 / Indianapolis, IN, 46204

4) Contact Diana Ohman, Director, Midwest District, National Cemetery Administration, Veterans Administration: diana.ohman@va.gov.

massive northern red oak

Massive northern red oak

Defeating the Purpose: Logging at Hardy Lake

by Jason Flickner, IFA Conservation Director

IFA has learned that on August 8, the Indiana DNR Division of Parks & Reservoirs will conduct a timber sale and private harvest in one of the largest tracts of deep, interior forest at Hardy Lake State Recreation Area, located in Scott and Jefferson counties. Hardy Lake’s total property acreage is 2,449 acres, including the lake’s surface area of 741 acres. IDNR is proposing to sell and log 898 trees with a total estimated volume of 364,107 Doyle Board Feet (DBF). Included in the sale are 19 veneer trees (18 Northern Red Oak, 1 Black Walnut) with a volume of 13,972 DBF. Logging operations will close or re-route approximately three miles of the Outward Bound and Cemetery hiking trails. And it will occur very close to the lake itself, putting the watershed at risk.

Hardy Lake G-map

The cut will occur in the white outlined area to the west of the lake.

Why is this sale happening? Hardy Lake personnel stated that the timber sale is to increase quail habitat for hunters. In addition, Hardy Lake manager Terry Davis reported to the Scottsburg Kiwanis Club late last year that “2016 is the Bi-Centennial for the State of Indiana and the Centennial for the Indiana State Parks. Each State Park will have a special project to celebrate these two milestones. The project being planned for Hardy Lake State Park is to build an educational building and parking lot for the raptors. The project will be funded by a donation of $25,000 from The Friends of Hardy Lake, by proceeds from timber sales at Hardy Lake State Park and by a grant from the State of Indiana.”

A new raptor center is a noble cause. And, Friends of Hardy Lake should be congratulated for raising $25,000. But people who love Hardy Lake shouldn’t have to tolerate a destructive cut like this, especially in an area that’s already full of early successional habitat. This forest loss is a direct result of Indiana’s state government policy to force DNR, ironically and tragically, to “sustain” itself with timber sales on Indiana’s limited public land.

The mission of Indiana’s Division of State Parks and Reservoirs is to manage and interpret the unique natural, wildlife and cultural resources using the principles of multiple use and preservation, while sustaining the integrity of these resources. It’s unacceptable that DNR has failed to ever produce a Resource Management Guide for any of the tracts at Hardy Lake. We (the public) were never provided the opportunity to submit comments on a Draft Resource Management Guide.

Therefore, destruction of critical wildlife habitat (especially for rare, threatened, and endangered species), soil erosion and potential watershed impacts, and invasive species presence and control were never evaluated and documented to conclude that logging is appropriate for the health of the forest, wildlife, and Hardy Lake water quality. And sadly, this isn’t the first cut to occur in a state recreation area.

Please contact Governor Pence (he’s still our governor) and your legislators to tell them that state parks and reservoirs are not appropriate public lands for logging. Additionally, the state government should fully fund Bicentennial projects at State Parks and Reservoirs so the property does not have to sell timber and disturb its limited deep, interior forest habitat. Do you live in Scott or Jefferson counties? If so, contact Sen. James Smith (R-54) and Rep. Terry Goodin (D-66) to let them know what you think about logging at Hardy Lake.

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This tree in Hardy Lake State Recreation Area is marked to be cut. Photo by Jason Flickner.

The Rise and Fall of the Ruffed Grouse, and Associated Myths

By Curt Mayfield, IFA Board Member

Bob hollered from 40 yards above me on the ridge, They’re in the pines!” Of course they were in the pines, they were always in the pines. He was talking about Ruffed Grouse and it was the fall of 1979. As I moved along the creek bottom thicket I heard the familiar rumble of grouse wings as one flushed and then another. Soon another bird flushed and I heard two shots from Bill’s location, which was part way up the hill to my right. Did you get him? “No” came the reply. Grouse are the most difficult birds to shoot on the wing. Mainly because of their speed and the fact that no one really knows when or where they will flush. Even with a close hunting bird dog such as a Brittany Spaniel, it can be a challenge to get a bead on moving birds in thick cover.

Curt Mayfield, hunter & Brown Co. resident

Curt Mayfield, hunter & Brown Co. resident

No one killed a bird that day and it turned out that those were the only two shots fired by our group of three. It was late October and by the time the season ended in January each of us had a bird or two in the freezer. Better shooting and reduced leaf cover helped contribute to our success. Most of the birds that I harvested were consumed the next day. And I can say that there is no finer tasting bird than Ruffed Grouse. Even poorly cooked grouse tastes better than chicken, turkey, pheasant, or quail. They are simply the best.

And now they are all but gone from Indiana. Why? There are still a few grouse scattered throughout their range. I know where there are two in the Yellowwood State Forest, which is useless information as the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has closed grouse hunting in Indiana. Also, that area was logged last summer and it’s hard to imagine that the grouse would still be there. How did we get to this point in grouse management?

A DNR biologist once told me that the hunters could never kill enough grouse to harm the population as a whole. Grouse were resilient and as long as there was adequate habitat they would continue to thrive, he explained. Which brings us to the big lie: “Grouse need clearcuts.”

Let’s think about what brought grouse to peak numbers in the 70s and 80s and then a rapid decline in the late 90s. Biologists talk about a 10-year cycle of high and low numbers in grouse population. But, I killed my last grouse in 1996, and every year after that grouse were hard to find. That is 19 years of low numbers. There is no evidence to support a 10-year cycle in the grouse coverts that I hunt. Many hunters have stopped hunting grouse, but I have continued to go out two or three times a year. It was still enjoyable to be in the woods in grouse season regardless of the results.

When the state forests were established, the majority of the land was homestead farms that had failed. Poor farming practices were, in general, what led to failure. The areas that were cleared were used for crops such as corn and vegetables. These are the sites in the state forests where we find pine trees today. They were planted by the Civilian Conservation Corps to prevent further soil erosion.  Every one of these farms had a woodlot nearby because they needed wood for heat and cooking. They used wood every day. The trees that they cut were of a manageable size.

That’s why we can still find trees of an enormous size on our state forests. So, we had many small farms with woodlots scattered across the countryside. Those early pioneers were all hunters in addition to being farmers. Many raised chickens, pigs, and other livestock. Many of them trapped for food and extra income from fur. They also had to protect their livestock from predators. Deer and turkeys, as most of us know, were hunted to extinction. Grouse, on the other hand, were not. These early hunters were looking for food, not sport. The only grouse they ever killed were the ones that they could shoot on the ground or out of a tree.

Large predators were hunted to extinction as well. Hawks and owls were shot on sight to protect domestic fowl. Long-haired fur was in demand so trapping for bobcat, fox, and raccoon served a dual purpose: predator elimination and income. So now we see in addition to small farms and woodlots the elimination of many species that prey upon or compete with grouse. Once the farms were abandoned and taken over by the federal government and leased back to the state we had a perfect habitat for grouse, with good cover planted in pine and hardwoods nearby, unlike clearcuts which become monocultures dominated by the fastest growing species.

It has been established that grouse, a ground nesting bird, are preyed upon by a wide range of animals. Even squirrels have been known to eat the eggs and nestlings.

As time passed, grouse numbers grew and deer were reintroduced. It should be noted that grouse populations rose to the point in the 1950s that the DNR live trapped and reintroduced grouse from southcentral Indiana to other parts of the state. This effort was considered to be a failure by the DNR.

There didn’t seem to be much competition between deer and grouse, and I often found the best deer hunting spots while grouse hunting. In the 1970s we saw a huge resurgence in numbers of deer and grouse. And then something happened: the wild turkey was reintroduced. Turkeys have been outcompeting grouse ever since.  An event that occurred at the time just prior to one of the wild turkey reintroduction efforts was the live trapping of grouse by the DNR. These live-trapped birds were sent to the state of Missouri in exchange for turkey. This trade was considered by many to be the bane of grouse hunters in Indiana. We began to see more turkeys and fewer grouse in the woods. The DNR attributed the grouse decline to the 10-year cycle.

Then something else happened: the coyote, once rare in Indiana, began to populate the entire state. Coyotes were once so rare in Indiana that when a trapper caught one in 1976 it made headlines in my local paper. Now, coyotes can be heard howling at night just about anywhere in Indiana. They are an apex predator with no natural enemies except for humans. They know what a turkey call is. I have called in a number of coyotes while turkey hunting. So, it seems reasonable to infer that they know that a drumming grouse is an easy meal.

Photo Credit: Tim Lenz, Creative Commons, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Photo Credit: Tim Lenz, Creative Commons, licensed under CC BY 2.0

According to surveys conducted by the DNR, grouse numbers were at a low ebb in 2003 and then began to increase through 2006. They dropped some in 2010 and then leveled off. In 2013 there was an increase, especially in the southcentral part of the state. Coyote numbers have been increasing steadily since 1992.

Now in 2015 the DNR has decided to close the grouse season. There have been grouse seasons of varying length in Indiana since 1965. I killed my first grouse in 1971, so I think I know what grouse habitat looks like. A lot of people would have us believe that grouse need clearcuts. I don’t think so. It’s true that they thrive in thick cover, but what they really need are vast tracts of undisturbed wilderness. They won’t survive in forests that are logged on a regular basis. Forests that are crisscrossed with haul roads that turn into corridors for predators once logging is finished do not make good grouse habitat. Grouse made an amazing recovery in 20 years from 1965 to 1985. But, they had what they needed: greenbrier patches, aspen trees, and large tracts of undisturbed woods. If we don’t curtail the intense logging of our public lands, the grouse will be gone; given the current state of the DNR there won’t be a recovery at this time.

The official position of the DNR is that we waited too long to clearcut our public land and now it is too late for grouse recovery. There have been clearcuts on private land all over Indiana during the last 20 years, and a significant increase in clearcuts of varying size on our state forests dating back to the Daniels Administration. I think we can say that there is more to grouse management than cutting down trees and walking away, as some hunters believe.

In conclusion, let’s consider this premise. A series of land/wildlife management blunders led to a boom in grouse numbers. Then a reasonable approach to forest/wildlife conservation enabled grouse to thrive. In the last decade, our forests have been managed for timber production to the detriment of many species of plants and animals. It is time to return to forest conservation on the extremely limited amount of public land that is left before it is too late.

The Value of Tranquility: A Tribute to Richard Lieber

By Rev. Damian Schmelz, OSB (1932 – 2016)

One hundred years ago, the State Park system of Indiana was founded. The state was already 100 years old. Settlers continued to spread out over the landscape, having come here by water over the Ohio, Wabash and Tippecanoe Rivers, searching for a better place for their families. They found vast forests in which there would be lumber for building houses, barns, and other structures. They created open burn areas for their fields to grow crops and feed their families. They found a peaceful setting among hostile forces.

After a lifetime of service to the soul and to science, Fr. Damian Schmelz passed away June 12, 2016.

After a lifetime of service to the soul and to science, Fr. Damian Schmelz passed away June 12, 2016.

What they did not have time nor interest to find is what Richard Lieber envisioned. Amidst that landscape, he also beheld that there was a solitude and peacefulness among it. In his soul he sensed a tranquility which many others were ill-prepared to appreciate or understand. Among all these forests, meadows, and rivers he found peacefulness in his soul and spirit – one cherished even more than in trees, or rich soil, or water. He realized very well that he needed these elements, but he discovered that they did not fill him with wholeness.

He needed something else – something special. He was more than a “part” of that whole, yet he was not “apart” from it. At that time, most Hoosiers were not dreamers. Lieber was.

Thus, he worked long and hard to preserve a few of these special places for all generations: McCormick’s Creek and Turkey Run became the first two of his special places in our State Park system. Twenty-four are now scattered throughout our state as we celebrate the 100-year anniversary of what Lieber began.

Today, a small group of environmentally insensitive people, who will never understand or who will never share and feel his spirit, cannot help but harm our public lands. Revenue generating is often the entry point to similar forces that are destructive to Lieber’s efforts toward tranquility.

It is essential, dear Hoosiers, that you see the power that your voice, your opinions, your values have in preserving our natural heritage. We must stand tall, and continue Richard Lieber’s true vision.

Contact Governor Pence at (317) 232-4567, or at mpence@gov.in.gov, and urge him to protect the natural beauty of our State Parks and state forests.

Fr. Damian Schmelz, OSB (1932 – 2016) was a monk of Saint Meinrad Archabbey in St. Meinrad, IN. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1958. He did graduate studies at Purdue University, earning a master’s in plant ecology in 1964 and a PhD in that field in 1969. Fr. Damian taught biology at Saint Meinrad High School and College for nearly 40 years. He served for 33 years on the Indiana Natural Resources Commission and was co-author of Natural Areas of Indiana, published in 1969. The work served as a guide for the creation of Indiana’s Natural Preserves. Fr. Damian is also known for his research in Indiana old-growth forests. He also was active in the Indiana Academy of Science, receiving the Outstanding Service Award in 2003. In 2009, he was a member of the inaugural class named to the Indiana Conservation Hall of Fame.