An upcoming auction by the Indiana Division of Forestry to sell logging rights in part of the Morgan-Monroe State Forest has sparked an outcry from a forest conservation group.
Members of the Indiana Forest Alliance say the state is not listening to the concerns they expressed during a public comment period on commercial logging in the Back Country Area (BCA) of Morgan-Monroe State Forest.
The Division of Forestry held a 30-day comment period in May. Now, about a month after the comment period ended, the division plans to go through with the sale, which is scheduled for Thursday, July 25.
Mike Luurtsema is the coordinator of Hoosier Forest Watch—an Indiana Forest Alliance project. He says the proposed sale is ten times larger than the first logging that took place Back Country Area ten years ago.
“The endangered wildlife in the Morgan-Monroe State Forest Back Country Area survives because of the trees that are there,” Luurtsema says. “These Back Country Areas are some of the last vestiges of this sort of habitat in the entire state, which will be lost if the current logging program continues.”
Indiana Department of Natural Resources State Forester John Seifert says the sale is a non-issue as it has been publicly known for more than a year and poses no threat to the environment.
The Indiana Division of Forestry gives 15 percent of its revenue from its timber sales back to the counties where the trees are harvested.
Counties received $381,440 from last year’s timber sales, which is three times the amount they received in 2005. Half of that money goes to local fire departments for fire control in state forests.
The DNR says the increase was due to an increase in state forest timber sale volume from 3.5 million board feet to 14.1 million board feet. However, DNR officials also note less than 2 percent of the marketable timber in state forests is being harvested.