Update – December 28, 2022

The formal comment deadline has passed but you can still take action by contacting U.S. Senator Mike Braun and urging him to request that the Forest Service withdraw the Buffalo Springs draft environmental assessment and prepare an environmental impact statement before making any decision on the Buffalo Springs Restoration Project. Send a message to Sen. Braun. Read HEC’s comments on the draft environmental assessment.

Now is the time to take action on a proposed forest management project in the Hoosier National Forest. Read more about the Buffalo Springs project below, which would impact over 17,000 acres of national forest land in Orange County. The deadline for comments is this Monday, December 19.

About the Buffalo Springs Forest Management Project

The Hoosier National Forest is planning a major forest management project on 17,000 acres of national forest land in Orange County, in the watersheds of Patoka Lake and the Lost River.  Patoka Lake is a popular recreation lake and also provides drinking water for 65,000 nearby residents.  This is a richly diverse forest area that is home to endangered bats, forest songbirds including the state-endangered Cerulean warbler, and more common species including wild turkey and whitetail deer.

The Buffalo Springs project includes clearcutting 707 acres of pine forest, logging, thinning and stand improvement on 2,859 acres of hardwoods, another 1,558 acres of thinning pine forests, up to 15,500 acres of prescribed burning (would include private forestland with landowner consent), and herbicide treatments. 

To conduct the management activities, the Forest Service would build 4 to 6 miles of new roads and reconstruct another 13 miles of roads, in some cases building logging roads on top of existing hiking trails.

To evaluate this project, the HNF has prepared a draft environmental assessment.  The proposed logging and burning project, and the draft EA, have many flaws and are based on incomplete information.  What’s more, the draft EA does not comply National Environmental Policy Act requirements to include a robust comparison of alternative plans to the proposed project.  In other words, the Forest Service has only evaluated its plan, and a no action plan.  The project purpose is described as: to improve forest health and the sustainability of the oak-hickory ecosystems while also improving wildlife habitat. Whether it would achieve this outcome is in question.

Here’s why the project should be withdrawn:

It will disturb the soil.

Logging and prescribed burning in these sensitive watersheds will increase the risk of soil disturbance and sedimentation reaching the lake from logging roads, log landings, and skid trails.

The proposed practices aren’t proven effective.

There remains uncertainty about the effectiveness of the proposed logging, burning, and herbicide practices in regenerating oak species.  Forest stand composition depends on the soils, slope, and aspect of specific sites. Instead of being forests of “less desirable species” (draft EA), mixed hardwood forests are richly diverse forests and no less biologically diverse than the management-maintained oak-dominated forests intended to result from the HNF’s management approach.  Nor is there evidence that limiting forest management activities will eliminate all oak species as implied in the draft EA. 

It fails to take into account the broader context of the forest.

The emphasis on creating young forest habitat (zero to nine years in age) does not take into account forest management activities and other disturbances that occur on the surrounding and interspersed private lands in the project area. 

It discounts the input from Hoosiers.

The HNF chronically discounts public input on its management proposals, making few if any changes from its original proposals.  This happened with the Houston South forest management project south of Lake Monroe, and so far is the case for the Buffalo Springs project.

It ignores the connection to carbon sequestration.

The project analysis glosses over the relationship between forest management and carbon sequestration, particularly the Forest Service’s own research finding that timber harvesting is by far the most significant cause of reduced carbon sequestration in the national forests, including the HNF.

It dismisses negative impact on forest recreation.

The project analysis also discounts the negative impacts on forest recreation, particularly the conversion of some forest trails to logging roads during the project’s 10 to 15 year implementation.

Its practices will encourage the spread of invasive species.

The project analysis acknowledges that logging and road building will encourage the spread of non-native invasive plant species like Japanese stiltgrass, and proposes after the fact actions to address this spread of invasives instead of effective action to prevent the dispersal of these harmful plants. 

Take Action Now!

The deadline for comments is December 19, 2022.

Email the Hoosier National Forest and ask them to withdraw this project proposal, and focus HNF management on protecting the forest as an ecosystem reserve, outdoor recreation resource, and source of climate resilience.  

Send your email to: comments-eastern-hoosier@usda.gov 

Use this subject line: Buffalo Springs Restoration Project.