Contact: Nick Buggia, Upper Midwestern States Manager
On April 23, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) Upper Midwestern States Manager Nick Buggia joined the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) on a tour of Morgan Monroe and Yellowwood State Forests in Indiana.
The two forests are connected and managed as one unit totaling 50,000 acres, and is one of the largest sections of state forest in Indiana. The Indiana DNR has developed nearly 160,000 acres of diverse forest from reclaimed agricultural or industrial land in recent years.
Unfortunately, forest management in Indiana has become a point of contention between forest professionals and members of the public who believe forest management should not include prescribed fire, timber harvest, or thinning.
The purpose of the tour was to better understand how Indiana manages their state forests and to learn about the Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment (HEE), a 100-year study of forest management and its impact on plants and animals. The following discussion focused on the importance of proper management strategies to maintain a healthy forest and the promotion of the positive impacts the forest contributes to the entire ecosystem.
The Indiana DNR is very selective when it comes to harvesting trees in state forests, generally removing only 5 -7 trees per acre. The selected trees are determined based on their overall health and impact to the environment. The goal is to create a diverse habitat that can support an abundance and diversity of wildlife. Periodic thinning not only allows for a diversity of trees to grow, but it also helps prevent the spread of disease and devastating wildfires. Numerous wildlife species, including the timber rattlesnake, hooded warbler, worm-eating warbler, and the Indiana bat, all benefit from active forest management. The lack of young forests is also a concern for species like the ruffed grouse, which was once prevalent and are now only found in dangerously low numbers in Indiana.
During the 2019 legislative session, CSF worked with legislators, the DNR, and other hunting conservation and forestry groups to stop anti-forest management legislation in Indian, including:
- SB 610: would have stripped the DNR of management authority over state forests. CSF and other partners in the sportsmen’s community worked to make sure it was stopped in committee.
- SB 363 Amendments 1 and 3: Either designated land as unable to be managed or again took management authority away from the DNR. Both amendments failed.
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- Improve hunter and target shooter involvement in regulatory and legislative processes. (12.80%)
- Enact or expand temporary hunter education deferral programs (apprentice license programs, multiyear options, programs for all first-time hunters regardless of age, and programs promoting hunting of multiple game species). (10.40%)
- Offer shooting sports and hunter education as school activities and recreation programs. (61.60%)
- Link existing programming into family-oriented organizations (such as churches and home-school groups) where participants will have the social support to continue. (15.20%)