Hundreds of Hoosiers gathered at the Statehouse Monday to support a bill that would preserve 10 percent of State Forests as “old growth,” which the state cannot harvest for logging.
Senate Bill 420 isn’t new legislation; groups like the Indiana Forest Alliance have advocated for years for a law requiring some of the state forests be preserved from logging. But so far none of the bills have made it out of committee.
The IFA says there has been a 400 percent increase in commercial logging in public forests since 2002, and says it’s not sustainable.
And IFA rep Anne Laker says this session’s legislation isn’t asking for much.
“This year we decided to encourage the introduction of a bill that was more moderate and could have been more popular among the supermajority that we have right now, setting aside 10 percent of state forests,” Laker says.
Advocates say the Division of Forestry has increased commercial logging to make up for a lack of state funding.
But State Forester John Seifert says the only motivation for logging is the health of the state forests.
“All we do is manage,” he says. “Think of a garden, you’re thinning, you’re reproducing, you’re trying to create a habitat to keep everything going.”
A Senate committee heard public testimony on SB 420 last week, but Natural Resources Committee Chair Republican Senator Susan Glick will decide whether the bill will get a vote.
The deadline for legislation to advance out of a Senate committee is Thursday.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly gave the deadline for legislation to advance out of committee.