Your state forests need your voice!
The Division of Forestry released its new Strategic Plan for our state forests in April, which outlines the management goals for these public forests for the next five years. In past years, the DOF has solicited Hoosier opinions in advance of setting forth its Plan; this has included a 30-day public-comment period as well as public hearings. These opportunities were neglected before the unveiling of the 2015-2019 Strategic Plan.
The plan makes several assertions and statements that Hoosiers who use state forests for recreation need to be aware of. First of all; there is a clear directive to continue the logging at the same scale as current levels from the past several years, or an average of 14 million board feet harvested each year. This means that state forests may actually sell (and cut) more than 17 million board feet one year to make up for selling less than 12 million board feet the previous year as they did in 2013-2014. The plan contains no discussion of the impacts of this continuing this level of cutting on forest interior habitat, water quality, or primitive recreation even though this logging is an order of magnitude greater than the logging that had occurred in the state forests up to ten years ago. There is in fact no discussion of setting aside any state forest areas for primitive recreation nor any mention of “climate change” or “ecosystem services” within the plan.
Expect to see more clear-cuts, roads and trail closures as you are out hiking if this Strategic Plan moves forward unopposed; clear-cuts are proposed “where appropriate to successfully regenerate oak-hickory forests.” (pg. 5) In addition, increased development within the state forests is emphasized, as the DOF asserts that park users do not want a primitive camping experience. Instead, the DOF believes that building “comfort stations”, more access roads, 3-bedroom cabins, shooting and archery ranges is necessary, and in order to do all of these things, needs to double the DOF’s income.
To do this, the DOF is looking to your wallet;
proposing to make you pay a “user fee” to visit these developed recreation areas. Their plan is also proposing to sell off scattered tracts of state forests in order to consolidate other tracts. What this will mean for scattered state forests like Ferdinand, Martin and Owen-Putnam is unclear.
The DOF has announced that it will hold three public meetings to gather input on this new Plan at the following dates, times and locations:
Monday, September 21, 6:30 to 8:30 pm at the Indiana State Museum, 3rd floor Museum Conference Room, 650 W. Washington Street, Indianapolis;
Tuesday, September 22, 6:30 to 8:30 pm at the Honeywell Center, Nixon Room, 275 W. Market Street, Wabash;
Wednesday, September 23, 6:30 to 8:30 pm at Cool Springs Education Center, 9412 E. SR 64, Velpen, which is about 8 miles west of Huntingburg on State Road 64.
The outcome proposed in the DOF’s Strategic Plan will be the destruction of deep forests in our state. We need every voice, every landowner, every pursuer of outdoor recreation in the state of Indiana to raise our voices NOW if we are to keep a state with deep forests intact. We have to fight for Wild Areas now in the State Forests to have a chance at preserving the natural heritage of our state. Please plan to attend one of these meetings to be one of those voices!
To learn about the proposed 2015-2019 Strategic Plan, visit this link:
More than writing letters, more than calling representatives; if you care for these forests, we need you to attend one of these meetings. Thank you for your ongoing support.