Forest Service issues decision on Houston South project


A final Supplemental Environmental Assessment and draft decision notice for the Houston South Vegetation Management and Restoration Project are complete and available for public review at

According to the assessment, the purpose of the project is to “promote tree growth, reduce insect and disease levels and move the landscape toward desired conditions.”

The majority of the project area is in the northwest corner of Jackson County on the Brownstown Ranger District of the Hoosier National Forest, with a small portion overlapping into the northeast corner of Lawrence County.

“The long-term health of the forest ecosystem and its ability to provide the many things we expect and need from it including diverse wildlife habitat, carbon sequestration and storage, clean water, and sustainable recreational opportunities are at the core of my decision to propose this project move forward,” said Chris Thornton, district ranger for the Hoosier National Forest.

The Forest Service issued a news release about the final Supplemental Environmental Assessment and the draft decision on Friday morning.

The assessment states there is a need to reduce the amount of pine in the project area to provide more suitable habitat to a wider array of wildlife species. As maturing oaks and hickories age and die, they are being replaced by trees that do not provide crucial food sources for a wide array of wildlife.

“The project area is experiencing a steady decline in forest health as stressors such as overcrowding, more periods of drought, higher temperatures, and more storms with higher winds make trees more susceptible to pests and pathogens,” Forest Supervisor Mike Chaveas said. “The area has already suffered losses from ‘oak decline’ and there is a high likelihood that it will continue to kill more trees due to the continuing stress of drought and stands that are too dense.”

The Forest Service proposes to conduct approximately 1,104 acres of even-aged management, 2,405 acres of thinning in both pine stands and hardwoods, and 462 acres of selection harvest in hardwood stands, as stated in the assessment. Also, approximately 234 acres are proposed for midstory removal treatments.

While there have been a variety of opinions about the project aired at public meetings, Thorton said he is certain that the project is the best step forward for the area.

“We are confident that the actions proposed in this project will not cause harm to our water sources, wildlife, or any other resource,” Thornton said. “On the contrary, these actions are critical to the long-term well-being of the watershed as a whole and the wildlife that depend on the habitat within it.”

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