Supporters of timber sales say their operations are normal and allow the environment to develop naturally. Opponents, however, say the impact can have devastating consequences. 10 protestors were on hand to voice their concerns over the auction at the Yellowwood State Forest office, in particular the Back Forest Area of the Morgan-Monroe State Forest.
Jeff Stant is the executive director of the Indiana Forest Alliance. Stant says allowing the logging to continue defeats the purpose of having state-protected nature.
“It destroys the whole experience, and it raises the basic question: why are we establishing state forests? What are they here for?” Stant says. “Are they just here to serve some private interest; is this just about serving special interests? Or is this about something larger, more meaningful: the public’s interest?”
The woods will not be completely cleared, but the companies that buy the timbering rights control which trees stay and go. Stant says the last time part of the back country area was auctioned, it left scars on the area that remain today.
But DNR Division of Forestry Director John Seifert says his department regularly forests woodlands after checking to make sure the trees are ready. The state has maintained rights to the back country since 1981. The protestors Thursday say that’s reason enough to block the timber sales. But Seifert says his department has the right to sell timber while protecting the land.
“If you go and look at the original document, we’ve always been harvesting in the back country area,” Seifert says. “This one here’s been a little more conservative than we’ve been on the other two forests, but we’ve always, and the enabling document always said we would be allowed to do some tree selection.”
Money for the timber sale goes to the Division of Forestry and to the counties the forests are located in.
Jinghua Tu contributed to this story.