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
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,
Here is a thumbnail sketch for each of the five proposals as seen by
a Ruffed Grouse Society biologist:
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.
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
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.
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
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 . . . “
on thubnail image for enlarged view.
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