Why It Matters: Active forest management is an effective way of improving wildlife habitat and forest health, which in turn increases access and opportunity for outdoor pursuits of these healthier wildlife populations. Forest restoration projects such as the one proposed on the Hoosier National Forest are crucial to conservation and CSF’s mission of advancing the interests of sportsmen and women.
- In 2021, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) joined an amicus brief supporting a project proposed by the United States Forest Service (USFS) on the Hoosier National Forest.
- The proposal, dubbed the “Houston South Project,” would have utilized active forest management practices to improve the forest’s health and thereby support Indiana’s wildlife and hunting traditions.
- In a partial ruling, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana ruled in favor of the USFS on two of three claims, but remanded the case back to the USFS, finding that it did not fully evaluate how the Houston South Project would have impacted the water quality of a nearby lake.
- CSF submitted comments last week on the USFS’s Draft Supplemental Information Report which is intended to address the District Court’s water quality concerns. CSF maintains that the USFS properly considered impacts on water quality and the Houston South Project should be implemented.
The Hoosier National Forest is experiencing declining forest health for numerous reasons, including overstocked stands that are low in biodiversity. This has resulted in overall poor habitat for both game and nongame species of wildlife that inhabit the National Forest. To address these issues, the Houston South Vegetation Management and Restoration Project was proposed by the USFS in 2020 and would have utilized active forest management techniques such as timber harvest and prescribed burning to improve forest health and wildlife habitat.
To prevent these severely needed management actions, activist groups sued the USFS to stop the Houston South Project. In 2021, CSF joined partners in filing an amicus brief demonstrating the need for the Houston South Project and supporting its implementation. Following the District Court’s decision, the USFS accepted public comment on a Draft Supplemental Information Report, addressing the District Court’s water quality concerns. Last week, CSF submitted comments to the USFS in support of this report’s findings and urged the USFS to move forward with the Houston South project. CSF’s full comments can be found here.
Active forest management is necessary to maintain healthy forest ecosystems. Prescribed burning is a cost-effective way to improve wildlife habitat, reduce vegetation competition, combat the spread of disease, pests and insects, and reduce fuel loads to minimize the wildfire severity. Likewise, timber harvest can support local economies while benefiting the health and sustainability of the forest. This is possible because harvest operations create openings in the forest canopy that allow sunlight to reach the forest floor and support the regeneration of native vegetation. These actions also promote the regeneration of desirable tree species, or the next generation of the forest, while supporting the many wildlife species that require early successional habitats. CSF will continue to support plans that benefit wildlife species, because those are the same plans that benefit the dedicated sportsmen and women that pursue them.