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Are there more trees in Indiana than there were a decade ago?

woods

Trees in the Hoosier National Forest. (Devan Ridgway/WTIU)

Are there more trees or acres of forest in Indiana than there were a decade ago? A listener in Elkhart wanted to know.

Not much has changed in the past decade — but the answer is still a little surprising. According to the U.S. Forest Service, from 2006 to 2019 the number of forest acres in Indiana went up slightly by 2 percent. But the number of individual trees went down by 6 percent.

John Seifert directs the Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ division of forestry. He said the reason is that Indiana’s forests are aging.

“And as trees get bigger, they shade out other trees, it's just sort of the survival of the strongest, so to speak," Seifert said.

READ MORE: Project spurs controversy between Hoosier National Forest and environmentalists, residents

Join the conversation and sign up for the Indiana Two-Way. Text "Indiana" to 73224. Your comments and questions in response to our weekly text help us find the answers you need on statewide issues, including this series on climate change and solutions.

In 2020, Gov. Eric Holcomb announced an initiative to plant 1 million trees in Indiana by 2025. The Central Indiana Land Trust plans to match that, but over a longer time frame.

Together they’ve planted about 445,000 trees so far. Seifert said the DNR expects to plant another 220,000 by the end of this spring.

But Seifert said these initiatives pale in comparison to how much private landowners plant — who own most of the forest land in the state. The DNR’s nursery sells about 3 million trees to the public each year.

“So our part is just a small piece of what's actually been going on in the state of Indiana, very silently by the private sector. And a lot of that's driven by farm programs, you know, the federal government's putting tree planting initiatives," Seifert said.

Contact reporter Rebecca at rthiele@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @beckythiele.

Indiana environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.

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