Protecting Our Wild Public Forests

What you can do to help ensure that our State Forests’ wild, old forest areas are protected forever.

Contact your state senator today and ask him or her to co-sponsor Senator Bassler’s “Old Forest” bill, SB 275.

Attend Stand for Yellowwood at the Statehouse on January 16, 2018.

Senate Bill 275, which would set aside 30% of our state forest lands as protected old forest areas, has been filed. Read the bill in its entirety here.

Background:  Legislators will again introduce a bill to require that a modest percentage of Indiana state forests be designated “old forest areas”, where natural forest processes will be allowed to occur without timber management. The Indiana DNR will determine which specific areas are designated as old forest. An old forest area must be at least 500 acres in size if possible.

Tree marked for cutting alongside the popular Tecumseh Trail in Yellowwood State Forest.

Similar to the language of SB 420 in 2017, timber management will be prohibited in old forest areas, but traditional recreational uses will continue, including fishing, hunting, hiking, camping, horseback riding, mountain biking and gathering wild edibles. The bill allows control of invasive species to occur in old forest areas.

 

Why is the Old Forest bill needed?

  • Prior to 2005, a moderate amount of logging in the Indiana state forests allowed designated backcountry areas and areas with maturing forest to be off limits to timber management. In 2005 a new state forest management plan called for a dramatic increase in logging, more than quadrupling the amount of timber cut on our public state forests. (IDNR Division of Forestry Strategic Plan 2005-07, IDNR DOF 2015 Annual Report)
  • Subsequent to adopting this new forest plan that increased logging, DNR officials committed to “set aside areas for recreational, ecological, or aesthetic reasons that are free from timber harvests.” (Indiana State Forests: Environmental Assessment 2008-2027). DNR biologists recommended that about 10% of state forests be set aside to provide areas of over-mature trees and for natural disturbance processes to develop. (Recommendations for management of DNR Forest Properties, DNR Division of Fish and Wildlife, September 1, 2005).
  • In the 1970’s and 80’s, Republican Governors Otis Bowen and Bob Orr established “backcountry areas” in Indiana state forests where wilderness-type recreation would be provided and logging curtailed. Under the new state forest plan these areas are now subject to increased logging.
    • DNR’s commitment to set aside adequate areas as old forests has not been fulfilled, and instead — in November 2017 — the Department sold logging rights for  299 acres in the Yellowwood State Forest Backcountry area.  The 1.700 trees sold are being cut down at this time.  Read more about the Yellowwood Backcountry timber sale here
  • Many of Indiana’s top biologists have said that significant areas of the State Forests should set aside to become old growth forest, stating “To ensure the viability of Indiana’s native forest ecosystems for the future and for Hoosier’s future quality of life, we need to conserve major portions of our state forests and allow them to return to old growth conditions.” (Letter from 228 Indiana scientists to Governor Holcomb, November 2, 2017)
  • State forests supply only a very small percentage of the commercial timber harvested in Indiana – less than 4% annually. The vast majority of timber harvested in Indiana comes from private land. (Forests of Indiana 2016, Indiana’s Forests 2016 Estimate Tables, USDA Forest Service)  
  • Indiana’s twelve state forests encompass about 158,000 acres. This area represents about 3% of Indiana’s total forest area of 4.9 million acres. (DNR, and USDA Forest Service, Forests of Indiana 2016).