The Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ 2015 – 2019 strategic plan has been met with criticism from a coalition of state environmental groups, spearheaded by the Indiana Forest Alliance
calls for the continued logging of state forests. According to the IFA’s Sept. 18, 2015 press release, the plan specifically allows for logging of up to 14 million board feet from the state forests each year, for the next four years. The plan also calls for the selling of “non-essential” tracts of forests and the building of new recreational facilities, including buildings, roads cabins and shooting ranges.
IFA also accuses the DNR of “Slashing public comment opportunities” by only hosting three public forums. The first will be held tonight, Sept. 21, at 6:30 p.m. in the 3rd floor conference room in the Indiana State Museum, 650 W. Washington St. The second meeting will be tomorrow, Sept. 22 at 6:30 p.m. in the Nixon Room at the Honeywell Center, 275 W. Market St. in Wabash, Ind. The third and final meeting will be held Sept. 23 at 6:30 p.m. at Cool Springs Education Center 9412 E. SR 64 in Velpen, Ind.
Jeff Stant, Executive Director for the Indiana Forest Alliance, says these meeting times are not enough time for the community to voice concerns. The IFA, along with the Hoosier Chapter Sierra Club
, Hoosier Environmental Council
, Knob and Valley Audobon Society
, Save the Valley and Valley Watch sent a formal request to Indiana DNR director Cameron Clark on Sept. 16, requesting that the DNR allow more time for public input.
The six groups are requesting a 60-day public comment period beginning after the scheduled meetings, two additional public meetings near Clark & Jackson – Washington State Forests and Yellowwood & Morgan – Monroe State Forests and for the DNR to produce and distribute a response to all comments.
“People have got to show up [to the meetings],” Stant said. “They want to be able to say, ‘Well no one showed up, so they must not have any problems with the plan.’”
Stant says the IFA also is upset over the use of state forests for logging. The 160,000 acres of state forest were bought and paid for, he says, by Hoosier taxpayers.
According to the DNR’s strategic plan, the revenue generated by the logging will be used to make up for part of the department’s budget. On page 3, the plan reads: “A majority [of funding] comes from sources dedicated to the Division of Forestry primarily sales of nursery and forest products and user fees.”
The report refers to the loss of the revenue once generated by the forestry property tax, which was cut in 2008. According to the same report, the most recent forestry property tax made up for 26 percent of the department’s budget.
The Department of Natural Resources could not be reached for comment at the time of this article’s publication.