Editorial

Push pause on Indiana’s backcountry logging

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Logging companies may soon spoil one of the most beautiful, pristine areas of Indiana, and they’re set to do so with the state government’s permission.

The lucrative business of harvesting timber in Indiana’s state forests isn’t new. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources has for years allowed companies to build roads and cut down trees in forests under the state’s protection.

But the current plan to destroy century-old trees on 300 acres of Brown County backcountry is especially egregious because of the forest’s rich diversity of species and the state’s shrinking reserves of unspoiled wilderness.

State officials say the timber harvest is a necessary part of forest management, but many conservationists question that assertion.

“There is a question of what is legal and what is right,” Cliff Chapman, executive director of the Central Indiana Land Trust, told Indy Star’s Sarah Bowman. “This truly is a science and does get complicated very quickly, but our forests were getting along OK before we started cutting and managing them.”

The forests in Michigan, where logging isn’t allowed, appear to be getting along OK as well. Our neighbors to the north have set aside wilderness areas that can be used for recreation but not timber harvesting, Chapman says the state needs to slow down, listen to both sides and have a broader conversation about how best to manage Indiana’s natural resources. He’s right.

Slowing down means extending the 30-day public comment period, set to expire Sept. 3, on the proposal to log the 300 acres in Brown County. Our natural resources are too precious and too limited to rush into destroying and hauling away trees that have graced southern Indiana hills for more than a century.

Even more important, the state needs to engage in a full conversation with Hoosiers about how best to protect our forests, fields and streams.

We have a long and unfortunate history of spoiling our states’ natural resources. Let’s pause now to make sure this time we’re getting it right.