Contact: Nick Buggia, Upper Midwestern States Manager
On July 16, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) Upper Midwestern States Manager Nick Buggia testified in front of the Indiana Natural Resources Commission and advocated for keeping two state forests under the state forest management system.
The Commission held the meeting in response to a citizen’s petition that would re-designate the Salamonie River and Francis Slocum State Forests into small state parks. The petition language would prohibit the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) from properly managing these forested areas using scientific management practices and would also notably prohibit all hunting on the two properties.
CSF testified in opposition to adopting the petition for the following reasons:
- Actively managed forest lands are healthier and more resilient than forest lands that are not. Reclassifying state forest land as state park land would be to the detriment of the forest and the numerous disturbance-dependent species that depend upon active forest management. Proper management by the DNR is needed to prevent disease, wildfire, and invasive species. Forests that are properly managed are healthier, more diverse, support a diversity of wildlife, and are more resilient to forest threats.
- The majority of Indiana’s State Forests are classified as mature and the state is severely lacking early successional forest habitat that many wildlife species depend on. Indiana is home to many mature forests, and the DNR is working to incorporate early successional forest communities into these dense mature forests. Removing these managed lands from the State Forest System would have a dramatic effect on wildlife habitat in the area, many of which require early successional forests in order to persist. For example, Indiana has seen one of the sharpest declines of American woodcock of anywhere in their native region. Additionally, the ruffed grouse hunting season was suspended in 2015, and ruffed grouse are currently listed as a Species of Special Concern by the state. These declines are widely attributed to the loss of early successional forests due to forest maturation and a lack of disturbance.
- Reclassification of Salamonie River and Francis Slocum State Forests to State Parks would severely limit access for sportsmen and women, backcountry hikers, and campers. Sportsmen and women are one of the largest contributors to conservation efforts in Indiana and across the nation. In 2018, sportsmen and women in Indiana provided over $37.5 million to conservation of both game and non-game species in the state through the American System of Conservation Funding. Limiting access opportunities for sportsmen and women in a time when fish and wildlife agencies are faced with decreasing revenues will only exacerbate the problem.
After hearing testimony from both sides, the Commission decided to vote on the petition instead of tabling it for review until their next meeting. As a result of the work by CSF and other conservation and forestry groups, the Commission voted down the petition. This was a strong win for sportsmen and women in the state of Indiana and for the health of their forests and wildlife.
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