House Democrats tried to pass two amendments this week that could have changed the way Indiana manages its forests. They added them to a bill covering a variety of things regarding the state’s natural resources.
Rep. Matt Pierce (D-Bloomington) proposed an amendment to create a task force to look at how the state manages its forests and make recommendations to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
Another amendment, proposed by Rep. Carey Hamilton (D-Indianapolis), would have set aside 10 percent of state forest for old growth trees. It would also have preserved areas surrounding the state’s most popular backcountry trails — Knobstone in the Clark and Jackson-Washington State Forests, Tecumseh in the Morgan-Monroe State Forest, and Adventure in the Harrison-Crawford State Forest.
State data shows that in about 15 years, Indiana has increased logging in state forests by nearly 200 percent. Pierce says it frustrates hikers to see logging in the state’s backcountry. He says a task force would give the public more of a say in how Indiana manages its forests.
“And I think that, unless we do something like this, we’re going to be back here year after year having this discussion,” Pierce says.
Pierce says similar measures have gotten bipartisan support in the past.
Rep. Alan Morrison (R-Brazil) sits on the House Natural Resources Committee. He says these changes would set a bad precedent for the legislature and that the state should trust its forestry experts.
“At the end of the day, we have designated the DNR to be the agency that makes these decisions on what is best for our natural resources and our wildlife,” Morrison says.
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.