Citizens opposed to logging on public land are hoping to educate people on what they say is happening to the state’s forests. Protesters gathered at Yellowwood State Forest Thursday during a timber auction. They said they knew they wouldn’t be able to stop the sale, but they wanted to encourage people to get involved to change the state’s policies on commercial logging. The group, Indiana Forest Alliance is opposed to the increase in logging since Governor Mitch Daniels took office and the rise in clear cut logging. That process involves removing all the trees on a selected tract of land. Indiana Forest Alliance President Dan Haberman says one of the tracts sold at the sale involved a 16 acre clear cut opening.
“Clear cut openings have been shown to be very damaging for soil, for water production in the forests, and certainly has been very harmful for biodiversity.” Haberman said. “There are birds, songbirds, who nest in our forests who completely depend on mature forests with a closed canopy.”
The sale was predominately pine trees. Haberman says the DNR claims if the trees weren’t harvested they’d be wasted. But Haberman says a significant number of nutrients will be removed when the trees are taken out and that will harm the forest.
Dan Ernst is the Assistant State Forester with the Division of Forestry. He says the tracts being auctioned were last harvested 25 years ago under a selective harvesting system. He says he’s comfortable with the department’s logging procedures.
“You know everybody has their own opinion and there are those who would like to see no cutting in the state forests.” Ernst said. “Then there are those who appreciate that the state forest system is managed in a sustainable manner. In fact we’re licensed under the forest stewardship council and the sustainable forest initiative.”
But according to the Indiana Forest Alliance, most Hoosiers aren’t aware logging occurs on public land and polls taken when Governor Mitch Daniels took office show the majority of people do not want commercial logging in state forests.
Haberman says since Daniels took office logging in state forests has increased 500%. Ernst says the reason that increase seems so dramatic is because harvesting in Indiana has traditionally been light. He says the state still currently cuts 50% or less of the annual growth. The tracts sold at the auction together went for about $67,000.