Input sought on forest management project proposals


Hoosier National Forest officials introduced proposals to promote healthy, diverse forest ecosystems in the Houston area to the public Monday during an open house at Brownstown Central High School.

The proposals, which would be completed over a period of 10 to 20 years if approved, are designed to promote tree growth, reduce insect and disease levels and increase the resiliency and structure of forest stands.

"This project area contains approximately 4,000 acres primarily in Jackson County with a little in Lawrence," said Andrea Crain, public affairs officer for the Hoosier National Forest.

She said forest service experts have been out in the project area over the past year or two to see what the conditions are and if there are issues that need addressing.

"What we’ve come to find out is we have a lot of non-native pines dying from disease," Crain said. "We have a lot of oaks that are being chocked from invasive pines and others from invasive plants. There’s not a lot of good habitat out there. In particular, we don’t have a lot of young forest."

She said correcting the issue is a hard one for people to understand.

"You want to see the old growth trees, but if they’re overstocked, it’s a natural thing for forest to replenish itself," Crain said.

In the past, natural events such as tornadoes and flooding took care of that issue, she said.

But with all of the development of land, the forest service now has to go in and do it.

At this time, there is a draft environmental analysis in place.

"This is not a final document," Crain said. "This is a public comment period until Aug. 26."

She said the proposal contains many possible actions, and the final plan could include everything or just part of it.

"One of the proposed actions in the plan is to do nothing," Crain said. "What are the ramifications if we do nothing?"

The area is currently dominated by mature forest with mixed oak and oak-hickory canopies, and competitive oak regeneration does not exist across a majority of the area.

There are few areas where oak or hickory species are able to compete with more shade-tolerant trees such as the American beech and sugar maple to be part of a future stand.

One of the proposed actions to achieve the desired habitat conditions is the commercial harvest of timber. That also has the benefit of supporting local economies through the provision of sustainable forest products.

Under the current forest plan, just under 50% of the forest is identified as suitable for harvest, and in any given year, about 0.15% of Hoosier National Forest land is harvested for timber, according to the proposal.

Another possible action would be clear-cutting of selected areas, Crain said.

"People hear clear-cut and they get nervous," Crain said. "Not everything will be clear-cut, but some areas will, and there is a reason those areas have been chosen."

Timber sales will help finance improvements such as aquatic organism passages underneath roadways and moving trails in the forest to more sustainable locations, Crain said.

"So users of trails might be inconvenienced for a while," she said.

Some of the surveying work continues, including those involving archeological resources.

"This area has a long history of people," she said. "Some people say it’s natural, leave it natural. Well, this area hasn’t been natural for hundreds and hundreds of years."

Don Sitterding of Medora visited the open house with his wife, Donna, to better understand the project and came away satisfied.

"I think so," he said when asked if his questions and concerns had been addressed.

A second open house is set for 6 to 8 p.m. today at the Monroe County Public Library, 303 E. Kirkwood Ave., Bloomington.

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The deadline to submit comments is Aug. 26. Those comments may be submitted:

By mail to Michelle Paduani, district ranger, Attn: Houston South Management and Restoration Project, 811 Constitution Ave., Bedford, IN 47241

By fax at 812-279-3426, Attn: Houston South Management and Restoration Project

By email at [email protected]

Comments also may be hand delivered from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at the forest supervisor’s office, 811 Constitution Ave., Bedford.

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A copy of the draft environmental assessment is available online at


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