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Hikers Question Logging in Hoosier Forests

Hikers along the Knobstone Trail and others are finding areas that have been logged and clear cut. (Indiana Forest Alliance)
February 8. 2017
Hikers along the Knobstone Trail and others are finding areas that have been logged and clear cut. (Indiana Forest Alliance)

INDIANAPOLIS – Logging in state forests in Indiana has been stepped up, and that's not sitting well with hikers. The state ranks ninth in the nation in total lumber production according to the Department of Natural Resources.

Those who use popular trails such as Knobstone and Tecumseh say more trees are being harvested now than ever, and in some areas, the trails they hike are closed.

State Bill 420 by Sen. Eric Bassler (R-Washington) is being heard in committee next week and would set aside one-tenth of that land.

Rae Schnapp, conservation director for the Indiana Forest Alliance says public forests only make up about 3.5 percent of total forest land in the state.

"We don't have to be harvesting from our state forests in order to have enough timber for the timber industry," she said. "So, it really comes down to the question of, what are we using our state forests for?"

The economic impact of logging in Indiana totals more than $13 billion. The state's chief forester says logging on public land saves taxpayers money and claims it's based on science and research.

Avid hiker Cathy Greene says she's noticed an uptick in the number of logging trucks and has seen what's left behind in Monroe County where she lives and in nearby Brown County.

"And that's a major draw for people to come visit, to see the woods and the leaves," she said. "And definitely the businesses there depend on those folks coming, and the people come to see the beauty. Some of the areas that they've logged, they're really devastated."

Schnapp says Hoosiers want to know that old-growth forests exist in the state.

"Even if it is far from their home, that could be a vacation destination, that type of thing," Schnapp added. "They have the view that this is a public forest and it ought to be there for future generations and not as a tree plantation - as a real forest wilderness experience."

The Indiana Forest Alliance is planning a rally at the State Capitol on Feb. 20 in support of legislation that promotes a balance between logging and recreation.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IN