Update on the June 2023 Indiana Forest Stewardship Advisory Council meeting

Lora Kemp, Sierra Club Hoosier Chapter Executive Committee and Conservation Committee member

On Tuesday, June 6, 2023, the Indiana Division of Forestry had the Spring Indiana Forest Stewardship Advisory Council meeting hosted at Camp Atterbury Fish & Wildlife Area near Edinburgh. The morning started with coffee & doughnuts and introductions. Jack Siefert, Indiana’s Director DNR Division of Forestry, and Bradly Schneck, Assistant Forester spoke of concerns of Indiana Legislators putting Indiana’s wildlife in peril by allowing more destruction of wetlands. Mr. Siefert spoke of how glad he was to see some of Indiana’s best conservation members at the meeting.

I was at the meeting representing the Sierra Club. I spoke of how the Sierra Club had made great efforts during the legislative session, including on Conservation Day at the State House, to support the efforts to give the IN DNR $25 million in additional funding due to the fact Indiana has a surplus of around 6 billion dollars. Through hard work and a steady presence at the State House, the Sierra Club helped the DNR get $10 million added to their budget, but Indiana legislators still need some more education on the fact Hoosiers love outdoor experiences, and tourist dollars and conservation & preservation efforts can go hand in hand in building a stronger, healthier Indiana.

Examples of some of the organizations attending include The Indiana Woodland Homeowners Association, Indiana Association of Consulting Foresters, Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Indiana DNR, Division of Nature Preserves, State Entomologist, Indiana DNR, and the Indiana Forest Alliance, just to name a few. Several organization leaders came to me during the course of the day and said they were glad to see a strong representation from the Sierra Club attending the Advisory Council Meeting, as previous Chapter Director, Bowden Quinn had been a strong presence there.

A field trip to the local hardwood veneer manufacturer, Amos Hills Associates, proved educational and insightful. The mill produces veneer sheets for a variety of different products and the production sawmill did everything from wash, soak, and split the trees, to peeling them down in paper thin strips, then packaging and processing them to go to destinations around the globe. The process was fascinating and educational. I would be hypocritical if I did not inform you that I am a wood consumer. I think most of us are. But we want our wood to come from sustainable practices and not from PUBLIC LAND. The fact is that only 1% of Indiana’s timber comes from public land, yet Indiana’s State Forests are being reduced to remnants in the current State Forest Management Plan. The gentleman that worked for Amos Hills said they could survive without State Forest timber, but they did buy some wood from Indiana’s State Forests, although the majority came from private land owners. Amos Hills even buys timber from out of state. One of the most interesting comments this fellow made was when the discussion of WHITE OAK came up. He said he worried that too much emphasis was being placed on white oak regeneration because he has seen forest fads come and go like with any other industry. This man had worked for this company for around 30 years and said he had seen certain tree species disappear or become harder to find in Indiana. He talked about how hard it was to find walnut trees of top quality, cherry trees of any size in Indiana, and he said they had to go to Michigan to get maple trees because Indiana had already chopped down its finest maples. Let that sink in for a moment. Then Mr. Siefert made the comment that people would always need the white oak for their whiskey barrels and that was not going out of style any time soon. When asked about how important it was for the forests where they were buying the timber to be FSC (Forest Sustainability Certification) approved, the Amos Hill employee stated they would not buy timber from a forest that did not receive the FSC Certification. Jack Siefert made the comment that the DoF was working to keep their certification, and all the time I knew Lora Kemp and Julie Lowe of the Sierra Club had helped hold the DoF to those standards. After the tour we returned to Camp Atterbury for the typical DNR lunch: Pizza. Conversation with other conservation groups was interesting. One thing I heard about was this “Let the Sunshine In” Initiative that encourages land owners to clear all underbrush and understory. I’m not sure I like this idea, as some things may regenerate better in sunlight, many deep forest areas need to be kept shady for the protection of the water sources and all the living creatures that rely on the natural decay of leaves and forest floor litter.

The second part of the day was spent touring two properties owned by private landowners and enrolled in the CFW (Classified Forests and Wildlands) Program. The properties were well maintained, harvested lightly and were great examples of wildlife forests. Too bad the Indiana Division of Forestry does not treat our public land as gently as these private landowners do.

One of the goals that Jack Siefert listed on the 2020 Action Plan is to significantly increase the size of Indiana’s urban forest canopy. Conserving and protecting existing forests, especially large forest patches was also listed. As we get ready to make comments to the IN DoF on High Conservation Value Forest Areas, Morgan/Monroe/Yellowweed Backcountry Area and the Jordan Creek Wild Area in the Owen-Putnam State Forest, I hope he keeps this in mind.

Here is a link where you can send comments anytime: The Division of Forestry welcomes the ideas and suggestions of Indiana taxpayers. We actively solicit public input through several processes. Public input is given serious consideration in the development of strategic and operational plans and management decisions. Submit a public comment.