Activists rally to protect old growth forests

By Ashley Steeb
TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS — Hundreds of Hoosiers wearing green and carrying signs with sayings like “Let the forest be forest” rallied at the Statehouse in support of protecting old growth trees.

Participants at Monday’s Stand Up for Your Forests rally ranged from preschoolers to Sen. Mark Stoops, D-Bloomington. They advocated for Senate Bill 420, which would require the Department of Natural Resources to designate at least 10 percent of every state forest as an old growth forest. Recreational activities like fishing and hiking would be allowed in these portions of forests. 

One of the multiple signs at Indiana Forest Alliance’s rally about protecting old growth forests at the Statehouse. Photo by Ashley Steeb, TheStatehouseFile.com

Jeff Stant, executive director of Indiana Forest Alliance, said forests need to be protected to ensure future generations will come back to the state.

“They can log these areas or they can save some of them for our legacy, their legacy,” Stant said. “What will they do? Let’s help them take the long view about what purpose our state forests should serve.”

During testimony before the Senate Committee on Natural Resources last week, the Department of Natural Resources forestry division opposed the restrictions, saying they only cut 0.3 percent of Indiana state forest trees on an annual basis. They also argued humans need to manage forests by cutting trees to keep forests healthy.

Chris Marks, a professor emerita of Equine Science at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in Terre Haute, supports some logging because Indiana law says state forests are a source of timber harvesting, but doesn’t see that logging increase.

“The state forests may fall under DNR stewardship, but they do not belong to the DNR,” Marks said. “They belong to all of you.”

But supporters are running out of time. The deadline for Senate bills to advance out of committee is Thursday. As of Monday evening, the bill had not been scheduled for a vote.

Ashley Steeb is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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