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 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.

Preserving Our Way Out of the Climate Crisis

People — including citizens outside of Indiana — are watching how Indiana treats its state forests. An astute Ohio resident took the time to write to Indiana’s governor, and shared her letter with IFA. Her message reinforces the fact that we in Indiana need to remain vigilant and vocal in stating our desires for our taxpayer-owned forests. Her ideas also show that we have significant untapped potential among our Indiana forests left standing.

Dear Governor Holcomb,

As an Ohio resident, I am writing on behalf of the mature forests located throughout Indiana’s State Forests. Our family has had the pleasure of visiting many of these forests during our vacations. Several years ago, our family had to relocate for my husband’s job. We moved from our wooded property in Southeast Ohio to the cornfields of Iowa. We missed the forested ecosystem of Ohio and Indiana very much. On our way home we often stopped by Salamonie River State Forest. Those trees, trails, and waterfalls were a welcome sight.

Dry waterfall at Salamonie River State Forest. Photo by Jeff Stant.

We were saddened to learn that logging may be harvesting many of the mature trees in Indiana’s State Forests. This is especially true of Salamonie River State Forest. The trees that are being culled as “inferior” species are indeed very valuable trees for an ecosystem. The American Beech is habitat for many bird species and the hornbeams are second only to our dying ash for their strength and hardness.

My doctorate work on non-timber forest products allowed me to see the value in an intact ecosystem. I can tell you that once logging takes place, no matter how careful the process might be, the forest is never the same. To believe that we can cut out certain tree species and the native hardwoods will magically reappear is naive.

Invasive species and climate change will prevent the return to forests structures of yesterday. We need to protect these forests for the valuable intact ecosystems that they provide.

In 2008, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated that U.S. forests absorb 792 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. This is equivalent to 11% of all the greenhouse gas emissions from industrial sources. However, in a time when we should be planting trees and conserving existing mature forests, this country is logging at an unprecedented rate.

According to the World Resource Institute, less than 1% of large contiguous virgin forests with all species intact still exist in the lower 48 states. Additionally, our forests are extremely fragmented and suffer from droughts and invasive species.

We need to recognize that forests are more than timber and to incorporate them into our climate change planning. Over two thirds of our fresh water supply filters through forest ecosystems. Forests act as a natural flood control. Forests provide habitat for species and help preserve biodiversity. Millions of people flock to national and state parks and forests every year for recreation, hunting, and inspiration.

Although 99% of our virgin forests are gone, we still have forested areas that could be used to sequester carbon dioxide emissions. Studies are showing that mature trees and their ecosystems can store and absorb more carbon than a young forest. Several countries are using this principle to save mature trees and encourage planting of new trees. Using trees to counteract atmospheric carbon also provides an economic benefit. This is achieved via a new program called carbon offsetting.

According to the World Resource Institute, a forest carbon offset is a metric ton of carbon dioxide emissions which is avoided or newly sequestered and is purchased by greenhouse gas emitters as a cost-control mechanism to compensate for emissions occurring elsewhere.

So basically what happens is a company will pay a forest landowner to not log his or her trees, but keep them growing. The growing trees will theoretically be absorbing the carbon dioxide that the company has emitted. It is a win-win situation as the forest remains intact and is able to provide all the services like flood control, and the company is able to offset some of its carbon pollution.

This program is similar to cap and trade in that carbon credits are traded via a carbon market but unlike cap and trade, forest owners, not companies are given the credits. The United States has just recently begun exploring this idea and several new programs are underway. There are four programs that are currently working with southern forest owners in the U.S. to design and leverage carbon credits systems. They are: The Gold Standard, Verified Carbon Standard, Climate Action Reserve, and American Carbon Registry.

In 2014, the city of Astoria, Oregon was faced with a budget crisis. One of its options to raise revenues was to aggressively timber old growth hemlock in the Bear Creek Watershed. However, the city decided to enter into an agreement partnering with a non-profit organization, the Climate Trust.

The 3,423 acre watershed would be used to offset greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fueled power plants in the state. The program will sequester carbon dioxide in growing trees for forty years. The first year will earn the city $358,750 in carbon credits. Following years will add $130,000 annually to the budget for the next nine years. By the end of the agreement timeframe, the city will have gained $2 million in revenues after fees.

Hopefully, these carbon credit programs will start to become viable options in Indiana as well as other states especially since there has been a 400% increase in commercial logging in public forests in Indiana since 2002.

Instead of cutting down more forests, we could be preserving and planting our way out of the climate crisis we now find ourselves in. We need to be innovative and smart because once a tree is cut, it will take decades to re-grow the potential carbon sink it once was.

Additionally, for many people who do not have access to forests, these areas are a place to escape into a world of beauty and tranquility. They are a place to observe the natural world. They are a place to take children and teach science concepts. They are a place to find peace.

I urge you to find another way to make revenue and to allow the old trees to do what they do best, grow and inspire us.

Sincerely, Randi Pokladnik, Ph.D. (Environmental Studies) | Uhrichsville, Ohio