A dozen protesters bore witness to the Nov. 19 sale of logging rights to 3,082 trees on 306 acres of the Morgan-Monroe and the Yellowwood State Forests for an average of $51.14 a tree.
"We are here to protest the increased amount of commercial logging on Morgan-Monroe and Yellowwood State Forests," said David Haberman, president of the Indiana Forest Alliance (IFA) board of directors. "We believe that the state forests belong to the public and that the public should have a major voice in what happens to these forests."
Yellowwood Forest Property Manager Jim Allen said he was pleased with the amount of revenue earned by the sale of the logging rights. "These are nice bids," he said. "Lots of interest; these are good prices."
Altogether, 3,082 trees sold for $157, 618 on three parcels.
1,601 trees (314,906 board-feet) in Yellowwood State Forest sold for $58,00l -- price per tree: $36.23. 1,095 trees (233,808 board-feet) in Morgan-Monroe State Forest sold for $63,782 -- price per tree: $58.25. 386 trees (125,067 board-feet) in Yellowwood State Forest sold for $35,835 -- price per tree: $92.84.
All the bidders were Indiana residents representing Indiana businesses.
Allen said DNR employees will track the harvests. "We have ways to monitor how these trees are cut down," he said, "and we have ways of telling if more trees than we mark are cut down."
IFA Director Rhonda Baird said the protesters were not against loggers.
"No, not at all," she said. "In fact, from a permaculture perspective, we need people skilled in forestry who practice responsible logging, and we need them for our local and state economy. The difference in opinion here is that these are public lands. The difference in opinion here is how much logging should be done on these public lands."
Public opinion polls have consistently shown that the majority of the public want no commercial logging on the state forests, Haberman said.
But Joe Davis noted that Gov. Mitch Daniels's plan has been to quadruple the logging in state forests. "And it's all because a very small group of people is going to make a lot of money from public land," he said.
Jeff Atwood, Conservation Officer for the DNR, said he was at the event "to do my job and keep the peace. We don't mind the people being here and voicing their opinion. We just can't let them interfere with the decisions that have been and are being made."
Allen was asked if any decisions had been made on the harvesting procedures. "No clear-cutting," he said. "There will be selective cutting, and regenerative openings will be created."
It is size that matters, Allen explained. "A regenerative opening can be no more than 5-10 acres and is usually less than three acres."
Haberman asked Allen about the clearcutting that had recently occurred in Yellowwood State Forest.
"That is not logging, that is an experiment," Allen explained.
"What is the experiment, seeing if the trees will grow back?" asked Pam Raider, who was recording the proceedings for future broadcast on community radio WFHB.
"Clear-cutting is done to help the forest regenerate," Allen said, providing a DNR brochure titled "Sustainably Managing Our Forests - What Will Our Forests be Like in 100 Years?"
Chet Morgan, a resident of Brown County who bid but lost out, explained the difference in regrowth time as a result of regenerative opening procedures and clearcutting. "For regenerative growth openings it takes about 15 years," he said. "A clear-cut takes about 100 years."
Morgan pointed out that the area near the T. C. Steele State Historic Site in Brown County was clearcut in the early 1900s and that now massive trees grow there.
But Haberman called the level of commercial logging that is happening "extravagant," particularly on Morgan-Monroe. "Anyone who has not been out to the Morgan-Monroe State Forest recently should take a drive along the Main Forest Road to observe the dramatic changes that have taken place there," he said.
Sally Baldwin, who lives on Yellowwood Lake Road in Brown County, said, "In the last three years I have noticed a huge increase in logging. I am concerned for the Yellowwood Lake watershed and the watersheds in the other two segments of state forest that were sold today."
Carol Polsgrove was also concerned. "Indiana has so few trees now," she said. "Considering that we were once so heavily forested, we should keep the trees that we have on public land and not be cutting them down."
Allen politely took the time to talk to all who asked him about procedures for managing the logging in the state forests.
"We don't have any flat land," he explained when asked about topography. "It is all up and down to some extent. But we have modern ways of limiting erosion, including putting wooden slats on slopes ... especially on hiking trails and horse paths."
Maya Baird, age 8, asked, "Why don't they just listen to us and stop cutting trees down?"
David Stewart can be reached at email@example.com.