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.
- 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 Democratic 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.”
- 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”.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.