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Groups oppose logging in Indiana forest

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press
Sunday, December 15, 2013 - 10:40 am

BLOOMINGTON — Environmental groups upset by logging in a state forest in central Indiana are asking state officials to allow nature to take its course in back-country forest areas.

About 900 trees in the back country portion of the Morgan-Monroe State Forest are being felled by Hamilton Logging, a Martinsville company that purchased the trees for $51,556 in a July timber sale, along with another 287 pole trees.

That logging is expected to generate nearly 200,000 board feet of sawtimber — wood that's suitable for cutting into lumber. The current logging is the second time the area about 35 miles south of Indianapolis has been logged since it was designated a back country area in 1981 by then-Gov. Robert Orr.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry calls the tree removals an example of timber management, a practice that's been around for about a century which generates revenue, removes dead or dying trees and opens up space for young trees.

"We know that the forest will regenerate itself with or without us. We just think we've been able to apply some good science and technology to manage that forest for the long-term good," Jack Seifert, director of the DNR's Division of Forestry, told The Herald-Times.

But members of the Indiana Forest Alliance call it timber harvesting and say the growth and death of trees in state forest back country land should be left to nature.

Myke Luurtsema, coordinator of the Hoosier Forest Watch of the Indiana Forest Alliance, said a simple walk through the Morgan-Monroe back country area shows it's not just dying or diseased trees that are being logged.

"They're going after high-value commercial timber," he said.

The Indiana Forest Alliance and other environmentalists and outdoor enthusiasts hope to obtain permanent protection from logging and road building for Indiana's three back country forest areas in part through legislative help from state Rep. Matt Pierce and state Sen. Mark Stoops, both Bloomington Democrats.

They want 7,100 acres of the Indiana's 156,000 acres of state forest land protected from logging and road-building.