Shock & Shame at Yellowwood Lake Trail

By: Christine Linnemeier, IFA Member

I was born in Bloomington nearly 65 years ago, grew up in Monroe County, and have lived here most of my life.  I have been hiking the hills and forests of Southern Indiana for as long as I can remember.  I was truly shocked this summer when I saw that the Indiana Department of Natural Resources planned to log on the western slope of Yellowwood Lake. 

Trees more than three feet in diameter cut for the financial value of their timber!

Richard Linnemeier stands before a cut tree more than three feet in diameter.

I knew the state had greatly increased the amount of logging in the state forests, but I didn’t think they would log so close to this lake or in an area so popular with hikers.  I was also amazed that they were going to log during the breeding season of the endangered timber rattler in one of the few places they can be found in the state.  I had hiked this area recently along the Tecumseh Trail.  On my hike I saw a large timber rattler, many chanterelle mushrooms, and a rare purple fringeless orchid.  The trail was a pleasant place to walk on a hot July day because it was very shady and had some huge trees.

This fall, my husband wanted to hike down this same trail.  I was hesitant because of what I might find, but I agreed to go, hoping that maybe they had just taken a few select trees.  As we started down the trail, things appeared to be normal, but soon I was absolutely shocked and depressed when I saw that they had cut a huge swath right next to the trail.

This formerly shady trail with huge trees was now a hideous site of stumps and debris and erosion.  I could not believe they would do something that destructive so close to the lake and a very popular trail.  Further down the trail, I could see (through what few trees were left) a clear cut along one side of a ravine through which a stream ran down to the lake.

It has only been a couple of years since the state drained Yellowwood Lake in order to dredge accumulated sediment out of it.  Now, they had denuded a part of the watershed that would definitely send more sediment into the lake.  Does this make any sense?

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Logging has caused erosion in Yellowwood Lake (upper right)

One of the most depressing things about this experience was realizing that this forest would not grow back in my lifetime.  This area has been permanently ruined for me.  Though the northern end of the trail had not been logged, my greatest fear is that they plan to come back next year and do more of the same along the rest of the trail.

There has been a 400% increase in logging in our state forests since 2002.  The state plans to continue this extensive logging in our state forests.  Many Hoosiers visit the state forests to hike and see wildlife and enjoy the beauty of nature.  Opening up our public lands to such extensive logging only benefits a few citizens while robbing the rest of us of the enjoyment of these lands.

Indiana was once covered in forests.  What we have left is a tiny portion of what once was.  There are plenty of private wood lots to meet our needs for lumber.  There is less and less space for wildlife and bird watching and hiking and renewing one’s spirit in nature.

If you would like to see the state preserving our public lands for nature and recreation please write the Governor and your state senators and representatives. And support organizations such as the Indiana Forest Alliance that are fighting to save these lands.

If you’re tired of public forests being logged to the detriment of our enjoyment of them, and would like to see a portion of our state forests set aside from logging, come to IFA’s Rally at the StatehouseMonday, February 20, 2017. Help deliver the message to our lawmakers that the citizens of Indiana deserve undisturbed wilderness to enjoy.

A version of this letter appeared in the Bloomington Herald-Times on 1/11/17.