MARY SCHUERMANN KUHLMAN
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (INS) – An attempt to save acres of Indiana forests failed in the legislature this year, but Hoosiers still have the chance to voice their concerns about current timber harvest proposals.
The Indiana Department of Natural Resources is taking public comment on a logging plan for several tracts in the Harrison-Crawford State Forest, which total about 500 acres.
Officials say the periodic removal of trees in managed harvests targets stressed and diseased trees, and is needed to allow new growth.
However, Rae Schnapp, conservation director for the Indiana Forest Alliance, counters that it impacts other aspects of the ecosystem, and doesn’t allow for old-growth forest.
“Selective harvest is still very destructive to the forest ecology and the community of species that are living there,” she explains. “It is especially destructive to creatures that live on the ground, that live on dead logs and that sort of thing.”
An amendment introduced at the Statehouse this session that would have set aside 10% of state forest for old-growth trees was not successful.
IDNR also is taking comments on timber harvest proposals for Owen-Putnam, Ferdinand and Martin state forests as well. The deadline for submission is Sunday.
Schnapp explains that wilderness recreational experiences also are at risk, as the management plan for Harrison-Crawford includes a horse trail and the Adventure Hiking Trail.
“Often, our hiking trails are closed so that they can do logging,” she explains. “And that is our concern that the Adventure Hiking Trail will be closed again. So recreational use is secondary to timber harvest. ”
Schnapp notes that timber harvests have increased four times over the past 15 years, and less than 3% of state forest acreage is off-limits to logging.
“One of the reasons that they say we need to harvest is to promote the growth of oaks,” she states. “Why do we need to promote the growth of oaks? Well, that is a management decision that is largely driven by what is marketable.”
An average volume of 14 million board feet of timber is prescribed to be sold from state forests each year of the Division of Forestry’s 2015-2019 Strategic Plan.