An Indiana Department of Natural Resources timber harvest map highlights the 127-acre tract where 984 trees are marked for sale and to be cut and removed by March 11, 2022. Indiana Department of Natural Resources image
An Indiana Department of Natural Resources timber harvest map highlights the 127-acre tract where 984 trees are marked for sale and to be cut and removed by March 11, 2022. Indiana Department of Natural Resources image
Nearly 1,000 trees at Salamonie River State Forest will be sold to the highest bidder today despite ongoing opposition to logging plans set to take place this winter.

The proposed plan stalled in April of 2019 after about 900 concerned citizens submitted a petition asking the state to designate Salamonie River State Forest and Frances Slocum State Forest into state parks, which prohibit logging. The Indiana Natural Resources Commission rejected the petition three months later, allowing the sale to proceed, according to past Chronicle-Tribune reports.

Local protesters formed the group Friends of Salamonie Forest in 2018 to oppose a document filed with the Indiana Division of Forestry (IDF) that outlined a 20-year plan for forest management that called for cutting and selling 31 percent of 121 acres of trees at Salamonie River State Forest.

IDF officials said in the 2014 document that the logging is necessary to remove pine and allow hardwood forest to regenerate, but protesters pointed out that the official documents show that only about one-third of the trees selected for logging were pine trees.

Pine trees now make up approximately 37 percent of the lumber to be harvested, according to an active timber sale noticed published on the IDF government website, but protesters claim the logging will harm biodiversity, help invasive species thrive, hamper recreation, hinder native hardwood growth and hurt wildlife – like the hundreds of bald eagles that choose to roost near the lake each winter.

According to the Indiana Forest Alliance, a nonprofit environmental group based in Indianapolis, the sale is the largest logging plan introduced in the area in 85 years. They say the plan will remove approximately 20 percent of merchantable trees within the 127 acre tract, positioned in the north central area of the state forest.

“This will fundamentally degrade the condition of Salamonie River State Forest,” Indiana Forest Alliance representatives wrote in a statement regarding the logging plans. “In light of the climate crisis and biodiversity loss, we can not afford to continue to lose forests like Salamonie to commercial logging.”

Proponents of the logging say that selective logging will improve the forest by allowing light to penetrate the canopy of the trees, but protestors and biologists against the plan say the damage caused by machinery and disruption to the canopy will give invasive species an advantage and cause soil to pollute the water, causing further water quality issues.

“It’s dramatically going to open up this forest floor. I’ve seen pictures of Yellowwood after they did what they call a single tree selection like what they’re doing here and it’s all overgrown with briars and honeysuckle and everything else,” Aaron Goulet previously told the Chronicle-Tribune in protest of the plans. “The trails will be impassable for quite a few years because it’s all going to be briars and brush. Even back here already without it being opened up you have some Asian honeysuckle. You open this up even more, this stuff is going to flourish.”

The timber sale notice states that the business that wins the logging bid will have to complete its harvest during the 2021-22 winter. Despite concerns with access to recreation, the official timber sale notice published recently specifically outlines stipulations that must be followed.

“Skidding & hauling allowed during stable soil conditions only. All trails must be cleared of debris and groomed to equal or better conditions prior to harvest,” the notice states. “All mapped streams (east-west) must be cleared of debris.”

According to Environmental Protection Agency and Indiana Department of Natural Resources reports, Salamonie Lake is on the “impaired waters” list and also suffers from toxic algae blooms each summer due to nonpoint-source pollution caused by silt, organic debris and agricultural runoff.

Protesters said they are concerned that removing trees will allow storm water to erode the soil which will in turn worsen the effects of harmful algae blooms. A reduction in trees would also lessen the forest’s ability to capture agricultural runoff, namely nitrogen and phosphorus, before it reaches the lake, also fueling algae blooms.

Although the timber sale notice states that the sale ended Nov. 30 at 11:59 p.m., it states that “wildlife concerns may result in an alteration of sale conditions.”

The terms of sale outlined in the notice state the winner of the bid must remove its property by March 11, 2022.
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