What’s Wrong with the Plan to Log Salamonie River State Forest

by Jeff Stant, IFA Executive Director

In fall 2014, the Division of Forestry published a logging plan for Salamonie River State Forest near Wabash, Indiana. They are now getting around to marking the trees and are apparently preparing for a timber sale.

Why is IFA particularly concerned about plans to log this forest? At least five reasons:

1)? The Division of Forestry is planning to log 260,000 board feet out of 847,000 estimated board feet in the tract to be logged (Compartment 1, Tract 3, 121 acres).? This is 31% of the stand and doesn’t count an untold amount of additional trees that the DOF is planning to take in a timber stand improvement (TSI) after the cut that it considers to be inferior species or “cull” trees such as American beech and various hornbeams and maples.

2) It plans to eliminate the sycamores and a native species that is not very common, Kentucky Coffeetree, entirely from the forest.

Trees marked to be cut in Salamonie River State Forest. Photo by Mary Bookwalter.

3)?While DOF says a major purpose of the logging is to remove pine to allow native hardwoods to regenerate, the fact is only 29% of the wood harvested will be pine, so?most of the trees logged will be the majestic hardwoods.? Furthermore, the pine stands are receding with hardwoods already regenerating in them.? Removing a lot of the pine and adjoining hardwoods all at once will change the character of the forest to make it much more sunny inviting in a lot of invasives and creating a virtual thicket that will be hard for hikers, horseback riders, and hunters to walk through.

4) The DOF is planning to remove invasive nonnative plants such as bush honeysuckle, autumn olive, and multi-flora rose in the timber stand improvement.? However, these and other?invasive species have been exploding across the state forests?because the DOF?s logging is opening up the canopy to more sunlight and tearing up the forest floor, the two physical factors that give these aggressive invasive plants the advantage over native plants.? Furthermore the DOF does not have the resources to go back into the forest regularly enough to control these hardy invasive plants which bounce right back from cutting.

5)?It is hard to find forests as large?as the 1,000 acre block of forest provided by Salamonie State Forest for many miles across much of central and northern Indiana ? particularly a forest that large that the public can enjoy as wild nature.? And the Salamonie?s forested bluffs, ravines, limestone canyons, waterfalls and creeks flowing into the Salamonie River are a beautiful gem of wild nature ? of state park caliber ? worth preserving in their natural condition.

While Salamonie River State Forest is a smaller state forests than those in the southern half of the state, where most of our state forests are, in some ways it is more significant, because the deep woods habitat that they provide is much more rare in northern Indiana.

IFA?s primary focus is on the management of our state forests because, while they are only 3% of Indiana?s forests, the state forests still provide some of the largest blocks of intact forest in the state and are the only state-owned public lands managed by the Department of Natural Resources where wilderness recreation, i.e., primitive camping, backpacking, long distance hiking, orienteering, foraging, etc, is possible.

We must speak out?because the DNR has increased the amount of logging in these forests by 400% over the past 13 years ? 3 to 4 times more logging than was ever done in these forests for the 102 years that they existed prior to 2005.? At the current authorized rate of 14 million board feet being logged per year, the DNR will have logged through all tracts of the state forests within another 12-13 years.

This amount of logging is destroying the natural wilderness character of our state forests, the forests we all own together as Hoosier taxpayers.

Contact IFA Outreach Coordinator Nick Joseph?to learn about how you can participate in organizing meetings and new advocacy efforts for our two northern Indiana state forests, Salamonie State Forest and Frances Slocomb State Forest. And or,?become a member of the Indiana Forest Alliance today: join the network of forest advocates.

Authentic Public Input on Public Forest Planning

Last month, Wisconsin-based forester and forest ecologist Fred Clark visited Indiana to dialogue with legislators, DNR leadership, and IFA staff, at the invitation of Executive Director Jeff Stant. Fred brought a unique viewpoint. His 35-year career as a natural resources professional includes leading the Forest Steward?s Guild, a national organization dedicated to sustainable forest management. Fred also served three terms as a state representative in Wisconsin?s state legislature, sitting on governor-appointed forestry committees. And he runs Clark Forestry, Inc.?managing public and private forestland throughout Wisconsin, and offering timber management, custom logging, and reforestation services.

IFA is not categorically opposed to foresters or forest management. We simply believe that taxpayers should have a voice in how public forests are managed. And we?re inspired by Wisconsin?s public input process, described by Fred below. Let?s work with DNR to enact this in Indiana!

by Fred Clark

I enjoyed spending a few days last week learning about the Indiana Forest Alliance and about management of state forest lands in Indiana.? Along with Jeff Stant and IFA Conservation Director Rae Schnapp, we?ve met with legislators and with staff from the Division of Forestry. ?I certainly learned a lot!

As a forester, ecologist, and former legislator in Wisconsin, I?ve tried to offer another perspective on Indiana forest issues.? We expect our public forests to produce a variety of benefits for citizens, and forest managers must play a critical role in satisfying multiple uses while keeping forests healthy and resilient. As the impacts of climate change and invasive species increasingly affect our forests, that work becomes even more important and more challenging.

Fred Clark spoke at IFA’s 2016 Toast to the Trees event. Photo by Anne Laker.

There is a role for active forest management, including timber harvesting, on public forest lands.? Active forest management can include a wide range of activities and intensity, ranging from areas subject to clearcutting, to areas where no management occurs (passive management). It?s critically important, however, to work hard to balance timber management and other values by protecting sensitive and unique areas, and employing a range of management intensity in other areas.? Good forestry fits the activities to unique aspects of each site, instead of forcing the same activity on every acre.

In Wisconsin, management on our state forests is driven by comprehensive master plans that are developed for each forest following an extensive process of public input and collaboration with other resource experts.? The resulting plans create land use priorities for each forest and provide a picture of the goals and activities that will occur over time. While stakeholders may not get everything they wanted in a good master plan, most will support an outcome that results from a truly inclusive process. ?We have not had many controversies over forest management in Wisconsin for a long time, and I think our commitment to collaborative planning is part of the reason why.

Forest advocates have skeptical dialogue with DNR staff at a timber sale protest at Owen-Putnam State Forest in June, 2018. At present, Indiana’s DNR appears not to seriously consider public comment on individual forest tract logging plans — whereas Wisconsin has an extensive public comment process. Photo by Mary Bookwalter.

Our public forests are essential assets for recreation, wildlife, clean water, cool and clean air, carbon storage, and forest products. These benefits may not occur on every acre, but they can all occur on well-managed public forest lands. ?While there may be areas of specific disagreement, I believe that the staff of the Indiana DNR Division of Forestry work hard to balance many competing interests and maintain healthy, productive state forests.

As the Indiana Forest Alliance calls attention to the importance of protecting Indiana?s highest quality forests, there is much room for working together to achieve goals that we should all share to protect forests for future generations.