"Bayou Bill" Scifres
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Hoosier National Forest Land and Resource Management Proposals
Copyright © 2005 by Bill Scifres

Folks at the Hoosier National Forest have decided to revamp the plan for managing the roughly 200,000 aces of hardwood hills country with the notion of diversifying their tactics.

Shucks, they may even revive the age-old conservation concept of using the timber resource, a k a timber harvest, to create much-needed habitat for ruffed grouse, a gentlemanly game bird that has taken its lumps as tree cutting has been phased out to appease the tree-hugging contingent.

The Hoosier National (HN), by far the largest tract of public trust in Indiana, will stage three public meetings this week to introduce five proposals for revising its land and resource management plan.

The meetings are scheduled for Tuesday, May 10, at the Morgan County Fairgrounds, Martinsville; Wednesday, May 11, at the Orange County Community Center at Paoli, and Thursday, May 12, at the Fulton Hill Community Center at Troy (west of Tell City in Spencer County). Each of the meetings is scheduled for 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.

At these meetings, Hoosier National personnel will explain five proposed management plans for the federal holdings. There will be no recorder present to preserve vocal comments. The meetings are intended to provide information to help those who would like to make written comments on the proposed plans.

Those who can’t be present for the meetings will find the proposals at various public libraries around the state, or on the Forest Service website: www.fs.fed.us/r9hoosier/forestplaninfo.htm.

Comments on the plans must include the name and address of the person involved, and should be relevant to the proposed plans. They should be sent to Judi Perez, Hoosier National Forest, 811 Constitution Avenue, Bedford, IN 44721. 

Here is a thumbnail sketch for each of the five proposals as seen by a Ruffed Grouse Society biologist:

  • Proposal 1: Continue current (since 1991) operational and policy concepts. Currently only 33 percent of the Hoosier National is open to timbering and this is blamed by many conservationists for the rack and ruin of grouse populations. [It is interesting to note that from 1978 to 1985 the Hoosier National produced an average of nine-million board feet of lumber per year. From 1993 to 2003 HN produced an average of one-million board feet.]
  • Proposal 2: Represents a preservationist policy for the HN and would permit only custodial management necessary to provide for federally-threatened and endangered species.
  • Proposal 3: Would offer timbering on 55 percent of the HN and would include a 13,000-acre successional management unit (good habitat for ruffed grouse and numerous other wildlife species). This option would include development of an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) trail system.
  • Proposal 4: Similar to Proposal 3, but without the ATV trails.
  • Proposal 5: This is HN’s preferred plan. It is similar to the current management plan, but it includes the 13,000-acre early successional feature and would increase the area open to timbering to 41 percent. The early successional unit would be located in the Tell City area.
Bill Hunyadi, regional biologist for the Ruffed Grouse Society, likes Proposal 4 best, Proposal 3 second. He points out that the preferred plan usually is instituted, and suggests, among other things, that the timbering base be upped to 55 percent.

Incidentally, the nosedive of ruffed grouse populations in Indiana (for all practical purposes the HN), started in 1983, two years before the ill-starred management plan became effective,

Thus, lovers of Ole Ruff cannot place all of the blame for this darling of Hoosier game birds on provisions of the ‘85 management plan. The rise and fall of grouse populations is impacted by cyclic trends that are common to the species.

But while the resulting moratorium on timbering is not blamed for dwindling grouse populations, conservationists and biologists waste little time in blaming the management plan for not providing early successional habitat to help stem the collapse of the species.

Nearly all of the hardwood timbering in the HN since 1985 has been to salvage storm-damaged areas, conservationists say, adding that while such operations can/has created some grouse habitat, it a far cry from clear-cuts provided by timber sales.

“There hasn’t been a hardwood timber sale not associated with a salvage operation on the Hoosier National Forest for more than 20 years,” one conservationist told me as this column was being researched. “We can hope that a new management plan will include hardwood timber sales . . . “

Click on thubnail image for enlarged view.

grouse.jpg (30702 bytes)
The ruffed grouse, once plentiful in the Hoosier National Forest, is said by the DNR to be at its lowest ebb in 27 years in Indiana.  (Bayou Bill Photo)


All columns, essays, and photos are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Bill Scifres, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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