Logging plan for Indiana forest draws opposition

Environmentalists are pushing against a Department of Natural Resources plan to allow the logging of about 1,100 trees in largely undeveloped area of a central Indiana state forest.

The group Hoosier Forest Watch maintains that the logging work would damage the 1,500-acre back-country section of Morgan-Monroe State Forest near Bloomington.

DNR officials are scheduled to sell the rights to the timber during an auction Thursday that will include three other sales of timber spread across Morgan-Monroe and the nearby Yellowwood State Forest, The Herald-Times reported. A total of about 7,500 trees are being included in the sales.

Hoosier Forest Watch coordinator Myke Luurtsema said Morgan-Monroe's back-country provides an ecosystem that includes the federally endangered Indiana and gray bats and state-endangered hooded, cerulean and worm-eating warblers.

The area also is important because it has few roads or trails, Luurtsema said.

"The state parks are so developed and heavily populated," he said. The back-county section "provides a unique experience that you can't find anywhere else in the state of Indiana."

John Seifert, director of the DNR's Division of Forestry, said surveys found the back-country area has no species that require that specific habitat such as the old-growth forest and that the agency has a long history of responsible logging on state properties.

"It always grows back if you take care of it," Seifert said.

Luurtsema said the forest alliance is asking members to make phone calls to Gov. Mike Pence's office and ask for the timber sale to be stopped.

Logging in Indiana's state forests has increased from 1.4 million board-feet in 2002, to more than 14 million board-feet in both 2011 and 2012.

Seifert said 3,000 acres are set aside as nature preserves in Morgan-Monroe and Yellowwood state forests and that there are thousands of acres designated for recreation as well. Morgan-Monroe and Yellowwood state forests are each 25,000 acres.

The Indiana Division of Forestry gives 15 percent of revenue from its timber sales back to the counties where the trees are harvested. Indiana counties received $381,440 from last year’s timber sales. Half of that money is spent on fire control in state forests.

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