The following is the full text of a letter sent by southern Indiana environmental and timber groups to Gov. Joe Kernan opposing construction of Interstate 69. It was sent on Feb. 2 and was signed by representatives from Heartwood, Indiana Forest Alliance, Hoosier Environmental Council, Indiana Hardwood Lumbermen's Association, and Indiana Forest Industry Council.
Dear Governor Kernan,
Because of the grave threat posed to Indiana's forests and the wood products businesses that depend on these forests, the undersigned groups urge the State of Indiana and the Federal Highway Administration to reject INDOT's preferred alternative for the I-69 Highway Project, and instead choose the I-70/US 41 route as the preferred route.
Indiana's diverse and productive hardwood forests not only provide building materials, furniture and other products, but also provide valuable habitats for birds, mammals and other species, protect our watersheds, and clean our air. The new-terrain I-69 highway, and the development that follows it, will eliminate or dissect thousands of acres of private forestland, and would have a more deteriorating effect on the environment and the state's forestland base than other proposed routes and at a much higher cost to the state.
A new terrain I-69 will hasten the urban sprawl that is consuming about 100,000 acres a year of forest, farm and other undeveloped lands in Indiana (Indiana Land Resources Council). About nine-tenths of Indiana's remaining forestland is privately owned. Well-managed, these forests can provide wood products, not to mention a host of environmental benefits for generations to come. But they will be lost forever if paved over for highways and other development.
The Final EIS indicates that the preferred, new-terrain route from Indianapolis, through Bloomington, to Evansville will destroy 1,150 acres of forestland, and secondary development will eliminate up to 400 more acres. According to the 1998 Inventory of Indiana's Forests (USDA 2000), several of the counties along the new terrain route have already experienced forest declines in the last twelve years, including Greene, Daviess, Pike, and Morgan Counties.
The forest products industry is the fifth largest industry in Indiana, contributing $2.76 billion to Indiana's economy each year, with over 1,100 companies including logging firms, sawmills, lumber retailers and furniture manufacturers (Purdue University).
One-hundred-and-twenty-four different species of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians use Indiana's forests as their principal breeding habitat. Another 90 species use forest edge or reverting forest for breeding. These forest animals include game species such as whitetail deer, wild turkey and squirrel, migratory songbirds, waterfowl, and endangered wildlife such as the bobcat, Indiana bat and bald eagle (Indiana DNR). Forested watersheds produce clean water, and trees replenish the atmosphere's oxygen.
The undersigned groups agree that Indiana's private forestlands are a critically important resource for the people of Indiana, and should not be sacrificed for a new-terrain interstate highway when cheaper and less damaging alternatives are available.
Tim Maloney, Executive Director
Hoosier Environmental Council
Joanna Gras, Coordinator
Indiana Forest Alliance
PO Box 1074
Mike Feller, President
Indiana Forest Industry Council
Philip Fischer, President
Ray Moistner, Executive Director
Indiana Hardwood Lumbermen's Association
Senator Richard Lugar
Senator Evan Bayh
Kathleen Quinn, Federal Highway Administration
Lt. Governor Kathy Davis
Michael Grovak, Bernardin, Lochmueller & Associates
Burnell Fisher, Indiana DNR