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Lawmakers Again Pushing For State Forest Protections

The DNR says logging is a way to keep the forest healthy, but opponents say it’s damaging the forest ecosystem.

Lawmakers are again attempting to set aside a portion of state forests to be protected from timber harvests.

Logging on state forest property has been a controversial issue for years. The Department of Natural Resources has increased logging in state forests significantly over the past decade.

The DNR says it’s a way to keep the forest healthy, but opponents say it’s damaging the forest ecosystem.

Republican Senator Eric Koch (R-Bedford) says he spoke with various groups that disagree on the science and economics of forestry before drafting his bill.

“So there’s some fundamental disagreements that I think can be bridged or at least the parties can have a better understanding of each other through public hearings in the legislative process,” he says.

Koch’s bill would set aside 30 percent of each state forest as “old growth,” where logging could not occur. Sen. Jon Ford (R-Terre Haute) and Sen. Eric Bassler (R-Carmel) are co-authors.

Koch says since the 2018 session is short, a lot of bills won’t get a hearing in committee. But, he says he’d like to see a summer study committee on the topic.

“Summer studies allow for a deeper dive into the facts of an issue than we generally have time for during the legislative session,” he says. “So there are any number of different possible outcomes here.”

Sen. Mark Stoops (D-Bloomington) has authored two bills this session: one would designate 13 “wild areas” in state forests that would be protected from logging.

Another would require the DNR to publish a cost-benefit analysis on its website before advertising a timber sale in a state forest.

Lawmakers have introduced similar measures every session for the past few years, but none has made it out of committee.

None of the bills have been scheduled for a hearing in committee.

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