In March, the Spencer Evening World (the newspaper of record in Owen County) published a front page article in which the Owen-Putnam State Forest property manager was quoted extensively. “In our society, there is such a demand for the product that we have, we to move the product quicker,” he said. This Division of Forestry employee goes on to discuss at length how state forests operate essentially as timber farms. The article is not available online, but can be read here: (page 1, page 2). Two frequent users of the forest (both IFA members) wrote letters to the editor in response, the first of them published April 29, the other awaiting publication.
I was stumped as to who really wrote “Timbering in Owen Putnam Underway” on 28 March, reporter Michael Stanley or Property Manager Bill Gallogly. It was an excellent account of the activities and oversight now required by the Division of Forestry.
Lacking however was any query about balance in the management of our only public lands which permit Hoosiers to roam and enjoy the bit of wild nature that is our heritage.
95% of Indiana’s forests are private property. Far less than 5% is available for hiking, camping off trail, mountain biking, hunting and more for 6.6 million Hoosiers.
Since the abolition of that infinitesimal mil tax in the Daniels Administration (so that the governor could crow about “cutting taxes”), the Division of Forestry began cutting personnel, programs, and 600% more trees per year. All to stay in business. The vast majority of personnel left in the DOF are foresters. This forest industry expertise is excellent in a private company, but as for stewardship of public lands, it would appear to be skewed to timber management. Property manager Gallogly’s statement “There is such a demand for the product we have to move the product quicker” is a statement I find remarkable for a very decent public employee like Bill Gallogly to be forced to make.
Is it really so necessary to sell timber to the Chinese that we can’t enjoy our own forests that the state legislature set aside for us 100 years ago?
Private landowners should be able to meet that demand and if DOF charged the fair market price for our state forest timber instead of losing money for us, perhaps we would not have to log so heavily. Under-utilized or unenforced income sources like camping fees, small annual or day hiker fees, and horse bridle and mountain bike tags exist. Or, if you don’t like paying fees, we should reinstate the miniscule mill tax which robustly supported a once-excellent Division of Forestry.
The scenery, the enjoyment, the family experience of nature to be found, that the DNR state forest brochures advertise, ought to be true.
The truth of usage would be as appealing as the DNR brochures that advertise our natural beauty, campgrounds and fishing.