“The Gradual Destruction of Indiana’s Longest Footpath”: A Knobstone Trail Hiker Speaks Out

When the Indiana Division of Forestry announces a plan to log a state forest, we the people get 30 days to comment. New plans to log Jackson-Washington State Forest include re-routing the Knobstone Trail — raising the ire of hikers! Why would our own state government disregard the value of our greatest eco-tourist asset, enjoyed by so many? It’s imperative that we comment to the Division of Forestry, as hiker Laura Pence has, below. Will you speak out in your own voice? Here’s how. The deadline is midnight, Monday, August 6.

“I’m a Knobstone Trail thru-hiker with a great passion for Hoosier forests, and I have some concerns/questions about the plan to harvest timber in the Jackson-Washington State Forest.

In April, I backpacked the entire Knobstone (a.k.a. the “KT”) with friends and we’re planning to go back again in the fall.

Laura and her friend Nicholas on the KT, spring 2018.

This spring there were already multiple areas that appeared devastated by logging and a large swath of damage from a tornado in 2012. Tangles of briers and weeds, not new trees, filled in the areas I hiked through. All of these areas will take many decades to recover. What does the DNR do to restore the ecosystem and encourage the proper types of plants to grow in these damaged areas?

Tornado damage is a natural disturbance; the artificial disturbance of logging is not needed. Photo by Todd Stewart.

It saddens me to think of the forest in the Jackson-Washington State Forest leg of the KT being logged before much healing has had a chance to happen in the woods along the trail. Not only does the harvest leave ugly scars on the landscape, it is very difficult to navigate in areas without trees.  We nearly got lost in the spring because there was nothing to paint a blaze on for half a mile in one of the heavily logged areas.

Is it really even economically necessary to harvest timber in the Jackson-Washington Forest right now? How is the value of that wood determined? My understanding from the Indiana Forest Alliance is that the state is selling timber even when market prices are low, and the prices fetched — no matter what the quality of the wood — are lower than the lowest quality private timber prices 95% of the time.

I understand the value of timber as a natural resource for the state, but I also worry about the impact on our environment, erosion in such a hilly area, and the gradual destruction of Indiana’s longest footpath, the Knobstone Trail.

I love this area and want to protect it for my son, a budding trail runner and backpacker.

Laura’s son Gavin’s very first backpacking trip in the Deam Wilderness, 2013. Photo by Laura Pence.

We only just lost access to one our favorite trail in Yellowwood State Forest due to timber harvest. It seems so much is being taken. Will our children have the same opportunity to escape to wooded wilderness areas that we do?

I hope the DNR is fulfilling the role as long-time conservators and guardians of our beautiful state.”

–Laura Pence (no relation to Mike), Bloomington