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DNR carrying out "management activities" in Owen-Putnam County State Forest

friends of the forest

(Cali Lichter, WFIU/WTIU News)

There are special places worth saving. At least, that’s the motto of Owen-Putnam Friends of the Forest. The group is dedicated to celebrating the natural heritage, recreation, ecology, and sheer beauty of the forest.

They believe that one of the places in the forest is in danger, specifically Rattlesnake Campground.

In 2013, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources created a resource management guide that stated “management activities” could take place in the campground in the Owen-Putnam State Forest. A resource management guide, or RMG, includes a profile of the area surveyed and actions that can be done to preserve the forest, and also carry out timber harvesting. 

Trees in Rattlesnake are currently being marked for harvest, nearly nine years after the first RMG. But for those wanting to comment on the activities taking place, they’re out of luck. The DNR only gives one month after an RMG is posted to make comments.

Kurt Kemp, a member of the Friends group, was a logger for nine years. He inquired about the activities taking place in the forest and got a short response.

“I got a one-sentence answer: Yes for timber sale,” said Kemp.

As the group's self-proclaimed numbers guy, Kemp looked extensively at the DNR’s RMGs for other areas of the forest, and at their timelines for the average RMG release to the timber sale.

He said the data for Rattlesnake Campground are anything but normal.

“The average was 2.2 years, or 808 days. We’re currently at eight years, four months, 11 days, or 3,056 days,” said Kemp.

Once an inventory is taken, the DNR has a set number of years to take action. On Rattlesnake Campground’s RMG, the time allotted is 20 years. That means that “management activities” in the area can be seen out through 2033. But in those two decades, another RMG does not need to be made nor does it have to be updated. 

“We cannot reconcile the harvest amounts they’re going to take with this track’s ability to sustain that, because we don’t know currently what is here,” said Kemp.

The DNR does have its reasons for harvesting certain trees. It says that harvesting certain trees creates healthier forests since some species can be invasive or invite invasive species to Indiana’s forests. But others say that it isn’t necessary and that it’s purely for profit. 

Chairperson Lora Kemp believes that going through with this plan will create more harm than good. 

“Any changes that man makes to a natural habitat, the natural areas, is a travesty,” said Kemp. 

She says even though the campground isn’t moving, it will be changed forever. 

“The campground will still be here. They’re not taking the campground away,” said Kemp. “But they’re changing the face of the area around this campground, and it won’t be the same place.”

The DNR hasn’t responded to recent requests for comment but during previous communications, officials seemed to suggest the plans under the current RMG would continue.

But that won’t stop the Friends. They are going to persist and stick to their goal of changing what’s being done in the Owen-Putnam State Forest.

“There are special places worth saving,” Kemp said. “And we believe truly this is one.”

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