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Indiana Could Learn Logging Practices from Neighboring States

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A clearcut in Pike State Forest in southwestern Indiana. (Greg Clarke)
A clearcut in Pike State Forest in southwestern Indiana. (Greg Clarke)
July 31, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS – States that neighbor Indiana are protecting their old forests, and conservation advocates want to know why the Hoosier State isn't doing the same.

Michigan has designated more than 116,000 acres of state forests off limits to logging. In 1972, Ohio set aside nearly 8,000 acres of Shawnee State Forest, and in Wisconsin 14 percent of the state's forests are excluded from commercial timber harvests.

Rae Schnapp, conservation director for he Indiana Forest Alliance, says there aren't many protections in place for Indiana's 158,000 acres of forest land, and legislation to protect some of it has failed despite widespread public support.

"We proposed two different kinds of approaches,” she states. “One was a bill that would set aside wild areas. Another was a bill that would set aside old forest areas. Neither one of those got very much traction in the legislature."

Schnapp says older forests are made up of a mosaic of different trees, downed logs and woody debris used by wildlife.

Andrew Duncan, a specialist with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources' Bureau of Forestry, has advice to Indiana: Follow guidelines set by the Forest Stewardship Council, which he says has a goal of protecting and maintaining natural communities, while at the same time harvesting valuable timber.

"It tells the public that you are managing according to a sound scientific plan and to standards that are accepted worldwide," he explains.

While the Indiana Division of Forestry is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, staff from the Indiana Forest Alliance dispute the most recent certification because the division doesn't conduct species inventories prior to logging, and because of the designation of high conservation value forests, which are not off limits to logging.

Schnapp says if steps aren't taken, Indiana's old forests could disappear.

"They are doing selective logging so they're just taking out the old trees,” she states. “It does leave a lot of debris with the construction of roads and log landings and so forth. It really does a lot of disturbance to the remaining forest."

According to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, of the state's original 20 million acres of forest, fewer than 2,000 acres of old growth areas remain intact.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IN