The Indiana Forest Alliance recently set out on a short hike in the Jackson-Washington State Forest to talk about logging practices. And state legislators and representatives from the Department of Natural Resources joined them to see the results first hand.
The group took a short trek through switchbacks that climbed a hill and opened up on a long section of trail. Tree cuttings from several years ago line the trail, which eventually disappears over a hill. But the hike never got that far as the conversation turned heated.
DNR officials reacted to claims made by some Forest Allaince members that they’re logging activity is profit driven. They say their management practices are focused on the health of the forests.
Logging on state forests is a contentious issue right now in Indiana. One forest alliance member questioned why some of the cuttings that line the trail hadn’t been removed.
“They’re turning around, they’re making a whole bunch more money, I expect them to clean up after themselves, I raised my children to clean up after themselves,” she said.
Rep. Jim Lucas (R-Seymour) and Rep. Ed Delaney (D-Indianapolis) asked questions to dig deeper into both sides of the debate.
Forest Alliance member Paul Bryan says the quotas the DNR has to meet means their role is no longer about preservation.
“The forest is a system and when you go in and log it the way the DNR is logging, it alters the entire makeup of that ecosystem,” he says.
But Director of the DNR’s Division of Forestry John Seifert says their practices are meant to promote a healthy forest.
“Actually we would argue that ecologically this is really critical because there is a whole host of ecological species that aren’t going to happen without this kind of habitat,” Seifert says.
Forest Alliance members say they hope the hike will get lawmakers to scrutinize possible logging in the nearby Starve Hollow State Recreation Area.