« Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court issues one (so far) this afternoon | Main | Ind. Decisions - Illinois COA discusses Indiana law re insurer's duty to defend in unsolicited fax suit »

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Environment - " State threatens to mar beauty of pristine Indiana forest"

That is the headline of Matthew Tully's Indianapolis Star column, dated June 21st. Some quotes:

Why in a state with a short supply of natural beauty, one without the mountains or plains or oceans that grace so many other states, are Indiana government officials so eager to bring loggers and their chainsaws into places such as Morgan-Monroe with increasing frequency?

In case you missed the story, which the state has done its best to underplay, DNR is taking another big step in the most aggressive logging plan in state forests in decades, targeting the backcountry areas that environmentalists, hikers, birdwatchers and others value so much. Morgan-Monroe, just 45 minutes south of Indianapolis but a world away, is on the latest list, as is Yellowwood State Forest. It’s all part of a dramatic increase in state forest logging that began during the Daniels administration and looks certain to continue under Gov. Mike Pence.

But why? To please the politically connected logging industry, which counts key legislators as its friends but has so much private land on which to work? To raise money for the state, roughly $2 million annually, according to DNR? It doesn’t make sense.

That’s not to argue against logging in general, or against the need for smart timber management. But this ongoing effort to invade state forests is just another example — along with over-the-top protections for factory farms and attacks on industrial regulations — in the never-ending disregard for basic environmental protections in Indiana. * * *

In its newsletters in recent years the timber industry has celebrated elections that have put friendly faces into key government spots — from legislative committee chairmanships to the governor’s office. Over that time, timber harvesting on state land has increased by up to 400 percent, DNR spokesman Phil Bloom said, though he added that only 1 percent of the land is harvested each year. * * *

The question is when will the increase in logging stop, and when will environmental concerns begin to get a seat at the adult table when decisions are made. Logging has increased to this point with little outcry from Hoosiers and at absolutely no political cost for former Gov. Mitch Daniels and now Gov. Mike Pence. If bumping the figure up to 1 percent of state forests is acceptable, will anything change if, and when, that figure doubles or triples?

Indiana has its strengths and its weaknesses, both now and in its long history. And one of its consistent weaknesses has been an unwillingness to protect its environment. I’m not talking about an Oregon-like belief in placing environmental concerns at the top of the list of every debate, but rather just a basic understanding that clean air and water, open spaces and reasonable controls on industry and factory farms, can add much to the quality of life.

The logging in Morgan-Monroe State Forest is certain to move forward. DNR’s spokesman told me that the environmentalists who have objected to the plan “brought no new issues to light.”

But that’s the point. They shouldn’t have to. In Indiana, the old issues still haven’t received their due.

ILB: Here are some earlier Star stories:

May 31, 2011 - "State forest trees are sold for logging: Group trying to save 1,300-plus specimens, thought to be protected". The story began:

More than 1,300 trees that environmentalists thought had been protected when Gov. Bob Orr declared them part of a backcountry haven in 1981 may soon be mere stumps.

The state Department of Natural Resources auctioned rights to cut down the trees in the Morgan-Monroe and Yellowwood state forests Thursday morning to an Indiana logging company for $52,702. Now, the only thing standing between the trees and a chainsaw is legal action by the Indiana Forest Alliance.

Sept. 16, 2005 - "Daniels plans to cut down up to five times the number of trees in state forests". A quote:
The state Department of Natural Resources has historically harvested about 3.4 million board-feet of forest each year. Under the Republican governor’s plan, that figure would jump to between 10 million and 17 million board-feet.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 22, 2013 11:29 AM
Posted to Environment