Banding Together for What Belongs to All of Us

by Dave Seastrom

In these times if we want to see something positive in the world, we have to create it ourselves. The most effective way to get something done is to band together with likeminded people, and work for a common goal.

The Indiana Forest Alliance exemplifies this ideal.

For several years we (IFA) fought the exploitation of our state forests, and in that time we’ve grown from a tiny group who showed up at timber sales to protest the sale of our legacy to the highest bidder, to an organization that is working hand in hand with legislators to forge laws that will protect our forests. We’ve also become a science-based preservation group that has conducted an extensive inventory of all living things in our forests, known as the Ecoblitz.

Banding together at the IFA Member Meeting, 11/4/17

The timber sale in the formerly preserved Yellowwood Back Country Area that took place one year ago has galvanized the movement and increased our membership tremendously. Dr. Leslie Bishop authored a letter to the Governor urging him to preserve a portion of our forests that was signed by 240 professors from universities all across Indiana. We also generated 5,070 contacts with Governor Holcomb that eventually led to a face to face meeting with him this past August.

These actions have changed the status of our organization, and where once we were routinely ignored, we are now asked to sit at the table and discuss our concerns.

Publicly owned land provides a rich opportunity to create large contiguous sections of undisturbed forest that can be allowed to mature into true old growth conditions that will act as a repository for the plants and animals that need this environment to thrive. We want to return the protected status of the Back Country Areas, and to establish large protected tracks with our 13 state forests, for plant and animal habitat, and multi-use recreation in a wilderness setting.

We also want to protect the integrity of our hiking trails by establishing a sufficient buffer that would leave the trails undisturbed by logging. We seek a mix in forest management that includes the interests of all stakeholders, and not just those of the timber industry, and we support the creation of new forests on marginal farm land that would provide a timber resource for the future.

There is much work to do, and we need your help.

It’s a privilege to work with so many dedicated volunteers, and we are most fortunate to have a talented, underpaid, and overworked staff. We are far more effective than our numbers and resources would indicate, but it all comes down needing your support to continue the work. Please consider a donation to the IFA. The forests we’re fighting to save belong to all of us.

Staff Changes at Indiana Forest Alliance

There are two new faces and in the IFA office and two transitions, as well.

In January, we welcomed Nick Joseph?(upper left) as a community organizer and phone canvasser. Don?t be surprised to get a call from Nick, inviting you to call your legislator or to renew your IFA membership. Nick came to Indiana from Pittsburgh last November bringing his experience as a water rights activist to assist with Yellowwood advocacy. Nick says: ?After staffing the Yellowwood resistance camp, I wanted to do more to help save Indiana’s beautiful wilderness.?

Lora Bowman (upper right)?joined the IFA staff in April as Bookkeeper/Office Manager. ?As an avid hiker, protecting Indiana?s native forests for future generations means a great deal to me,? says Lora. Her diverse experience includes accounting, client care, and team support, having worked for Meals on Wheels and Dillman Law Group.

In a staff reorganization, Sandra Messner (lower left)?is now serving as Development Director.?Sandy–familiar to IFA members as director of outreach for the last 2 and a half years–says: “I’m so excited to connect with current and new IFA donors to encourage their enthusiasm for Indiana’s forests and help leave a legacy for forest preservation in Indiana.” Reach out to Sandy to discuss a contribution to or sponsorship of?Indiana Forest Alliance.?

Paul Bryan left IFA in June after nearly three years raising funds for the forest cause and activating IFA members. IFA Executive Director Jeff Stant had worked with Paul in various capacities since the 1980?s and had this to say about Paul’s career: ?From saving wilderness in the Hoosier National Forest, to preserving the wild bends and wetlands of the North Branch of the Elkhart River, to establishing the non-game wildlife checkoff program in our state tax returns, Paul has been a powerful warrior for our cause for nearly two generations. ?He also raised substantive levels of support as IFA?s development director, was an anchor in the Crown Hill fight, reaching out effectively to neighbors of this woods, and organized opposition to the logging in Jackson-Washington State Forest. His shoes will be hard to fill.?

A Future for our Neighborhood Forests

By Jerome Delbridge, IFA Urban Forest Preservation Director

Jerome Delbridge, Urban Forest Preservation Director, presents Forests For Indy at the Launch Event May 21

Monday May 21, under an old chinquapin oak, forest advocates gathered to learn about Indiana Forest Alliance?s newest program, Forests for Indy. As described in this front page IndyStar article, Forests for Indy is an initiative to identify the most valuable forests in Indianapolis and create a comprehensive plan for protection of each of them — so Indianapolis can be guaranteed a forested future.

Urban forests are immensely valuable for conservation of our natural heritage and they have the power to improve the health of neighbors who live near them. These forests clean the air, cool the surrounding neighborhood, offer places to play and reduce life?s stress. They provide a refuge for migrating birds and a place in a city for nature to thrive.

Forests for Indy was born out of the successful struggle to save Crown Hill North Woods. We discovered other forests in Indianapolis worthy of protection, including Haverstick Woods on the northeast side. To maintain forested areas in our city for future generations, we must actively seek to protect this land from development.

The first phase of the program is to identify valuable forests that are not currently protected. Combining datasets and high-resolution imagery as well as neighborhood input, we will be mapping forests throughout Marion County. These forests will be prioritized based on their size, quality and benefits both ecologically and to the neighbors who live nearby.

Next, a comprehensive conservation plan will be written for each of the the top forests identified. A unique strategy for protection will be laid out as well as policy recommendations that will support a city that supports healthy and resilient forests.

Take a walk in a forest near you and take a moment to be immersed in the vibrancy of life all around you. Invite a neighbor or friend to join you and be aware of the complexity of the forest from the forest floor to the canopy. These places are sacred and?need protected for future residents.

Take a stand for our neighborhood forests?and make a contribution: the more resources we have, the more forests we can save. Give by July 1?via our GoFundMe campaign to match an initial donation from the Dr. Laura Hare Charitable Trust. The more funding, the more forests we can protect.

Box Turtles: Looking for Love is Easier in Contiguous Forests

By Ann Deutch Hougham, IFA Member

When my husband and I moved back home to Indiana 16 years ago, we had a young Box Turtle visit our garden regularly. It was a mystery how that little turtle could get in and out of our fencing. We finally caught sight of him or her simply turning sideways and scooting through. Box Turtles are declining in numbers through most of their range so seeing a youngster made us especially cheerful.

In the large contiguous forest near our home, we?ve since seen more than 70 different individual Box Turtles, of which 6 were smaller than a full-grown adult. Clearly, the forest in this part of south central Indiana–not far from Morgan-Monroe State Forest–is vital for the future of Box Turtles because we see that some adults are successfully reproducing here.

Any full-size turtle we see could easily be older than we are; Box Turtles can live to be 100 years old. Box Turtle populations, like so many other wildlife, have diminished over recent years. The Eastern Box Turtle is recognized by the state of Indiana as a species of Special Concern, while several similar and related turtles such as the Ornate Box Turtle, Blanding?s Turtle and Spotted Turtle are listed as State Endangered species.? While Box Turtles can forage and nest in a wide variety of habitats, they hibernate in upland forests over winter, burrowing into the soil under leaf litter and woody debris.

Females take about 13 years to reach reproductive maturity.? Turtle eggs and hatchlings are so often eaten by predators that it can take decades for a single female to reproduce herself. A few years ago, a Box Turtle laid her eggs near my driveway. It was evening and my husband and I promised each other to erect a protective fence the next morning. To our dismay, a predator beat us to it. We suspected it was a raccoon who dug up her nest and ate the eggs but it could also have been a skunk or a fox.

Increased agriculture, housing and road development can cause a local extinction of Box Turtles that won?t be noticed for many decades because most likely, it?s the eggs, hatchlings and juveniles harmed by these threats. The adults live so long that it?s hard to notice when young turtles aren?t joining their ranks.

Like you, I want my great-great-grandkids to be able to enjoy seeing them just the way we do. A forest healthy enough to sustain Box Turtles will also be home to a diverse community. That forest will support such a variety of animals, plants and microbes with such complex interactions that the old phrase ?web of life? only begins to describe them. And so, what is the impact of logging on Box Turtles?

Researchers on the Indiana Department of Natural Resources? Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment (HEE) in Morgan-Monroe and Yellowwood Forests and elsewhere found that logging doesn?t kill turtles within their brief two-year study periods, but it does cause some behavior and physiological changes. For example, after timber harvests the turtles moved more often but shorter distances each day. They often crossed logging roads. Turtles were found more often in the deep forest or on the edge of harvested areas than inside harvested areas.


Can we be sure that logging on a grand scale as now practiced, no matter how careful, will allow Box Turtles to survive over the next century?

Purdue recently published a forest management guide saying ?Based on our current level of knowledge, it is impossible to predict all consequences, positive or negative, of timber harvesting? (MacNeil). Purdue suggested some Best Management Practices to minimize the problems science already recognizes. Don?t run over turtles, don?t drive in turtle nesting or hibernating areas except when the ground is frozen, leave woody debris on the ground, and don?t disturb temporary spring pond areas. Is this enough to assure turtles will survive in our logged forests? Scientists are not sure.

Here?s what we do know: forest size matters. The bigger the better. Box Turtles in the HEE (Morgan-Monroe and Yellowwood) live in a larger contiguous forest and have larger home ranges than any other studied turtles. Two of the 44 radio-tagged HEE turtles were more nomadic than most. How One of them covered about 464 acres in just one year. One nice warm day, this turtle ended up a football field length away from w


here it started. Most of the HEE?s radio-tagged turtles stayed much closer to home averaging a home range (home area) of 18? acres (Currylow 2012 and Saunders 2013).

Turtle nomads are important members of the turtle community. All of the turtles this side of the Appalachians are related as one family according to their DNA (Kimble 2014). How were the family genes spread over such a vast territory? Throughout history some turtles must have been wanderers like the two found in the HEE, traveling far and finding new mating partners all along the way.

A genetic study of Box Turtles all over their range showed that there was historical migration connecting turtles all the way from Missouri to Tennessee. However, the same scientists found evidence that currently, would-be wanderers can?t traverse through the fragmented habitats throughout their range.

Even within their remaining habitat, crossing a road can easily be fatal for a Box Turtle. The same is true on logging roads. Turtles often hide in a little pile of leaves so a person driving a b


ig vehicle on a forest road can?t see them at all. Dividing their range with roads is a source of harm to the population as well as individual turtles. Because the few nomadic turtles cross extra roads, they are more exposed to being run over than stay-at-home turtles. In the past, Box Turtle populations operated at much larger geographic scales. (Kimble 2014).

The Precautionary Principle, or erring on the side of caution when any activity raises plausible or probable threats of harm, guides us to save as many of the few remaining large road-free forest areas as possible. It?s up to us to make sure as many turtle populations as possible have a large area where turtles can roam safely and mate with others who live far away.

The IFA?s proposal to set aside 10% of our State Forests as Wild Areas is a nod to the Precautionary Principle. Creating State Wild Areas would help protect Box Turtles and the community of life in the forest in ways we don?t yet understand.



Currylow AF, MacGowan BJ, Williams RN (2012) Short-Term Forest Management Effects on a Long-Lived Ectotherm. PLoS ONE 7(7): e40473. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0040473

Currylow, Andrea F., et al. “Seasonal variations in plasma vitellogenin and sex steroids in male and female Eastern Box Turtles, Terrapene carolina carolina.” General and comparative endocrinology 180 (2013): 48-55.

(available on Google Scholar)

Kimble, Steven JA, O. E. Rhodes Jr, and Rod N. Williams. “Unexpectedly low rangewide population genetic structure of the imperiled eastern box turtle Terrapene c. carolina.” PloS one 9.3 (2014): e92274.

Lloyd, Terrell C., et al. “Modeling Hematologic and Biochemical Parameters with Spatiotemporal Analysis for the Free-Ranging Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina) in Illinois and Tennessee, a Potential Biosentinel.” EcoHealth 13.3 (2016): 467-479.

(not available on the open internet- use a university library)

MacNeil, Jami, Brian J. MacGowan, Andrea Currylow, and Rod N. Williams. “Forest Management for Reptiles and Amphibians.”

Saunders, Michael R.; Swihart, Robert K. 2013. Science in the hardwood ecosystem experiment: accomplishments and the road ahead. In: Swihart, Robert K.; Saunders, Michael R.; Kalb, Rebecca A.; Haulton, G. Scott; Michler, Charles H., eds. 2013. The Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment: a framework for studying responses to forest management. Gen. Tech. Rep. NRS-P-108. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station: 315-332.???