FAQs

You Have Questions, We Have Answers

Woman balancing on log in Hoosier National Forest

Do you have a question about IFA’s work? Are you interested in learning about Indiana’s forests? Here are some answers to common questions we have received. If your question isn’t answered here, contact us. Your question, and the answer, just might end up here! IFA’s 2019 intern, Clara Amendola (pictured above), takes a short break while doing research in Hoosier National Forest.

The Indiana Forest Alliance (IFA) is dedicated to the long-term health and well-being of Indiana’s native forests. We provide accurate information to the people of Indiana to involve them in efforts to protect Indiana’s forests and ensure their opportunities for input into decision-making that affects forests. We speak for the native animals, plants, and other creatures who depend on Indiana’s forests and cannot speak for themselves.

Yes! Anyone can hike and camp in Indiana’s State Forests. In fact, unlike state parks, off-trail hiking is allowed in state forests as well as wilderness camping.

We have created a page dedicated to forest recreation. Check out Indiana’s State Forests and find out why we are so passionate about them.

No! IFA supports sustainable forestry projects on private forestland as well as sustainable logging projects on public lands that protect the integrity of forest ecosystems without compromising the habitats of rare, threatened, or endangered species.

What IFA opposes is the increase in commercial logging on public lands over the past decade, specifically IDNR’s Division of Forestry (DoF). IFA advocates for the reduction of commercial logging in state forests to annual levels below the 3.5 million board feet threshold that was maintained from the creation of the state forests until the surge in logging that occurred just over 10 years ago.

Current levels of logging seriously degrade the scenic, natural character of public forests and destroy deep forest habitat needed by native wildlife.

Learn more about IFA’s efforts to protect Indiana’s public forests.

IFA’s proposed Wild Areas represent some of the last and best remaining opportunities for people to experience the closed canopy forests that were once the heart of the largest temperate hardwood forests in the United States. Learn more about the Wild Indiana Campaign.

No! Prescribed burns are not required to regenerate forest habitat and in fact are detrimental to some rare, threatened, and endangered species. Controlled burns are sometimes used to reduce the amount of downed woody debris that could fuel a forest fire. However, Indiana’s forests are becoming more mesophytic (that is, wetter) as part of natural forest succession and climate change. According to the Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment, the past 125 years has seen an annual average precipitation increase of 5.6 inches. A wetter forest is less vulnerable to forest fires.

And yet, in Indiana, fire is commonly used by foresters to destroy maple and beech in favor of fire-tolerant oak in an attempt to change the character of forest ecosystems.

Learn more about the history of burning in Indiana’s forests in the summer 2020 issue of the Forest Defender.

IFA asks that at least 10% of state forest land be designated Old-Forest Areas as ecological reference zones to be protected from logging through the Old Forest bill.  These areas would serve as controls for comparison with various timber management regimes being used now or in the future.  Minimum impact recreation (hiking) would be allowed in these areas.

Historically, setting aside large areas of state forests from logging has long been a nonpartisan objective of both Indiana’s Republican and Democratic Administrations. In the 1970s and 1980s, Indiana Governors Orr and Bowen established three Backcountry Areas in state forests where logging was curtailed to emphasize wilderness recreation. As of 2003, 40% of state forests, 60,000 acres, were set aside from harvests by the IDNR under both Republican and Democratic Administrations, which included “Old Forest Areas” where no logging was allowed.

DNR officials overseeing the current logging program have eliminated the “Old Forest Areas” and reduced acres set aside from logging to only 4.8 percent of state forests, approximately 7,500 acres.

Recently, Jim Ridenour, Director of IDNR under Governor Orr and National Park Service Director under President George H. W. 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.”

Yes! Visit IFA’s internship page to find out what kind of opportunities we offer.

No! Ruffed grouse (Bonasa umbellus), are at a “very low risk of extinction or collapse due to a very extensive range, abundant populations or occurrences, and little to no concern from declines or threats,” according to NatureServe’s global conservation status ranks. While these birds are ranked as vulnerable in Indiana, they are historically known for large population swings, given that Indiana is located in the southern edge of its territory. Ruffed grouse are a Northern bird that has evolved to survive harsh winters. They prefer varied habitats, including old forests and openings, for different seasons and purposes.

During the last 15 years, IDNR’s Division of Forestry has attempted to “manage” Indiana’s forests for ruffed grouse and yet their populations have not increased. No amount of management is going to bring back the ruffed grouse until we address climate change.

See IFA’s statement on designating ruffed grouse as endangered in Indiana and The Rise and Fall of the Ruffed Grouse, and Associated Myths by IFA member and hunter Curt Mayfield. He also had this to say to the Members of the Natural Resource Commission about the ruffed grouse:

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to comment on the proposed listing of the Ruffed Grouse as an endangered species. My name is Curt Mayfield and I live in Brown County which is in South Central Indiana. I have been a hunter most of my life and I killed my first grouse in 1971. I killed the last one in 1996. During those years I spent many hours in the woods hunting grouse. I learned their habits as well as the places where they could be found. I think I read every article ever published in the outdoor magazines in the ’70s and ’80s about grouse hunting. I have also read a number of books on the subject. My hunting companions consider me an expert on grouse and grouse hunting. We still hunt woodcock 1 or 2 times a year in many of the same places where we used to hunt grouse.

I want you to consider the fact that the bones of grouse have been discovered in caves in Western Maryland that date back to the Pleistocene era. That would indicate that nature has successfully managed grouse for thousands of years. The Fish and Game departments have managed grouse for about 100 years with limited success.

Did you know that grouse have special appendages on their feet that enable them to walk on top of deep powdery snow? They also have tiny feathers inside their nostrils that prevent ice crystals from forming in their airways so they can stay buried in the snow for long periods of time. Grouse have evolved to survive in the wilderness through harsh winter weather. We don’t have much snow in Indiana anymore and we don’t have bitter cold through the winter months as we once did. How can we expect a bird to survive if their evolutionary adaptations are of no value?

My hunting companions all say that the grouse are gone and they aren’t coming back. Even the northern tier states that have much more wilderness than Indiana have seen population declines with fewer birds taken per hunter hour.

So, list them if you must, but any plan to bring back grouse that doesn’t address climate change is doomed to failure.

Contact IFA if you have a question that we have not answered.

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