News Release
Indiana Forest Alliance
Sustainable Earth

A statewide coalition of more than 20 religious, civic and environmental groups issued a renewed call on May 19 to state officials to halt all sales within the Backcountry Area of Morgan-Monroe and Yellowwood State Forests and to put this area under permanent protection. They sent their request to Gov. Mitch Daniels; Robert Carter, head of the Indiana Division of Natural Resources (DNR); and Jack Siefert, head of the Indiana Division of Forestry (DoF) within the DNR.

The groups include Indiana Forest Alliance (IFA), Hoosier Environmental Council (HEC), Heartwood, The City of Bloomington, EarthCharter Indianapolis, Sustainable Earth and other groups from around the state.

The groups sent the letter to the state officials and requested a meeting with Carter to talk about opportunities for the administration to protect this area of the state forest system from commercial timber sales.

"This is an opportunity for the DNR and citizen groups to work together toward common goals," stated Rhonda Baird, director of IFA.

"Sustainable Earth opposes any destruction of our ecological benchmarks, which the backcountry areas represent."- Steve Bonney, Sustainable Earth

The Division of Forestry repeatedly identified this area as valuable for its older growth and for its environmental sensitivity. In a 2009 audit by the Forest Stewardship Council, the DoF held the Backcountry Area out as a nominee for "High Conservation Value Forest in state ownership."

"The backcountry is special. Setting it aside for citizens to use recreationally will accomplish all of our goals," Baird said. "Logging it on a 20-year rotation will destroy its character, ruin it for the wilderness experience it continues to give citizens and set back its ecological communities."

Two of the groups, IFA and HEC, testified in February before the House Natural Resources Committee in support of proposed legislation offered by Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington, and Rep. Ralph Foley, R-Martinsville, that would formalize permanent protection of the area. Since that hearing, Rep. Phil Pflum, D-Milton, a member of the House Natural Resources Committee and chair of the House Agricultural Committee, joined as a co-author of the legislation. The proposal is set for hearings by the Natural Resources Committee during the summer study session.

"Proceeding with sales now, while there is legislation pending and so many groups are opposed to commercial logging on the Backcountry, would be inappropriate on the part of the Division of Forestry," added Baird.

"This is an opportunity for the DNR and citizen groups to work together toward common goals."- Rhonda Baird, Indiana Forest Alliance

"We hope that the DNR responds to the tremendous outpouring of concern over the future of the Backcountry Area in Morgan-Monroe and Yellowwood State Forests," said David Haberman, president of the IFA Board and professor of religious studies at Indiana University. "Very few places like this exist in southern Indiana where people can hike and backpack in a mature forest that is protected from logging. This is a time to be protecting more of our public forests, not cutting them down. Opening this area now to ongoing commercial logging would be a betrayal of those who set it aside 30 years ago, as well as future generations who deserve access to protected woods in our state forest system."

"Sustainable Earth opposes any destruction of our ecological benchmarks, which the backcountry areas represent," said Steve Bonney, president of the organization which is centered in West Lafayette. "These reference points are needed in order to compare and evaluate the effects of development activities that occur daily in our natural resource base."

For more information
Rhonda Baird, Indiana Forest Alliance, 812.332.4878.
Steve Bonney, Sustainable Earth, 765-463-9366


Full text of the letter to Gov. Daniels

May 19, 2009

Governor Mitch Daniels
Office of the Governor
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204-2797

Robert Carter, Director of the Dept. of Natural Resources
402 W. Washington St., Room 256
Indianapolis, IN 46204

John Seifert: State Forester
402 West Washington Street, Room W296
Indianapolis, IN 46204

We, the undersigned organizations, urge the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry to cancel the proposed logging of the Backcountry Area of Morgan-Monroe and Yellowwood State Forests.

This area has been protected from commercial logging operations for almost 30 years, and provides a unique recreational experience on the Indiana State Forest System. Commercial logging operations will severely damage the backcountry wilderness experience of hiking and camping in the Backcountry Area.

We urge the IDNR Division of Forestry to create a formal rule to permanently exclude this area from commercial logging operations.

Indiana Forest Alliance
Hoosier Environmental Council
Campaign for Sustainable Economics
Protect Our Woods
Indiana Public Interest Research Group
Caldwell Center for Culture and Ecology
Center for Sustainable Living
Bloomington City Council
Bloomington Environmental Commission
Sierra Club Winding Waters Group
Sierra Club Hoosier Chapter
Sassafras Audubon Society
Unitarian Universalist Church, Bloomington
Green Sanctuary Task Force
Deep Roots Sanctuary
Yellowwood Watershed Group
White Violet Center for Eco-Justice
Earth Charter Indianapolis
Sustainable Earth
Green Peace Indianapolis