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Plea: Don't Cut Our Old-Growth Forests

Logging has caused erosion at Yellowwood State Forest. (ifa.org)
Logging has caused erosion at Yellowwood State Forest. (ifa.org)
August 28, 2017

NASHVILLE, Ind. – When people are asked to name the most beautiful area of Indiana, Brown County is the answer most often given.

People who live there and others who want to preserve its scenic beauty are fighting back against a plan to log in the Yellowwood State Forest.

The Indiana Division of Forestry recently announced plans to log three adjacent backcountry tracts. The planned cut will impact the popular Tecumseh hiking trail.

Longtime Brown County resident Dave Seastrom says the state is trying to convert the forest into a tree farm and is sacrificing habitat and threatened or endangered species.

"I've gone into cuts four years later and I haven't seen any oak and hickory,” he relates. “What I do see is
lots of invasive plant species, continuing soil erosion and 30-foot-wide gravel roads that obscure the old hiking trails."

In response to our inquiry, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources cited a 1981 pledge to only log in backcountry areas in a manner that is the least disturbing to recreational areas.

The agency also says timber management there will take place using the single-tree selection method.

David Simcox, a member of the state forest advocacy group Mind the Gap, says even that plan will destroy key habitat for the federally endangered Indiana bat, the endangered timber rattlesnake, warblers, which the state has listed as a "species of special concern," and smoky shrews, which live only in older undisturbed forests.

"It doesn't do you any good to go in and log around big trees and leave the big trees because all these forests' ecosystems are interconnected, and there's plenty of work that's been done to show that you can't just go in and selectively cut and not impact the sustainability of the remaining trees that you leave behind," Simcox stresses.

The logging plan includes cutting a remote hollow that contains tulip poplars, sugar maples and northern red oaks between 150 and 200 years old.

The cut will include at least 475,200 board feet of timber, and possibly as much as over 712,000.

Legislation (SB 420) to force the state to preserve 10 percent of each forest as old growth, and off limits to logging didn't make it out of committee this spring. Advocates say they will try again next year.



Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IN