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Action Alert! Contact Your Legislators To Protect Indiana’s Back Country Areas and Establish A State Wilderness Act

Action Alert! Contact Your Legislators To Protect Indiana’s Back Country Areas and Establish A State Wilderness Act

Two bills have been introduced in our General Assembly that would enact major protections for wild forest on Indiana’s public lands.  If they are to be seriously considered, much less passed, you must contact your state representative and senator now to ask them to support these bills.

House Bill 1179, offered by Representative Pierce, will stop logging, motorized access, or commercial activity in the Back Country Areas of our state forests.  There are three such areas, one in Yellowwood and Morgan Monroe State Forest (2,700 acres), another in Jackson Washington State Forest (2,500 acres) and a third one in Clark State Forest (2,000 acres).  While they amount to just 5% of our state forests, these areas comprise some of the wildest and oldest parts of these public forests, much of which have nearly reached old growth conditions.  The BCAs were set aside by Republican Governors Otis Bowen and Robert Orr as areas where protection of wilderness characteristics was to be prioritized over timbering.  Since 2002, however, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) has increased logging in our state forests by 1,000 percent and is now logging throughout the BCAs under a policy that makes every public use of our state forests secondary to timber production.  HB 1179 would stop the cutting and preserve the wild forests in these BCAs for public enjoyment, into perpetuity.

Senate Bill 398, “The Bicentennial Wilderness Act,” offered by Senator Stoops, will establish a state wilderness preservation system on state public lands.  SB 398 requires the IDNR (i.e., the “Department”) to undertake a review of all state lands and accept public input to nominate areas by August 1, 2015 to the Legislature suitable for designation as wilderness.  State wilderness areas must be at least 1,000 acres or “large enough to make the preservation of wilderness conditions on the tract of land practical.” Logging, energy development, motorized vehicles, and permanent structures such as roads or buildings will not be permitted in state wilderness areas.  The bill establishes a goal to set aside at least 15 percent of state public forest land as nature preserves or state wilderness areas, “allowed to revert to its natural, all-aged, old growth condition.”  The bill requires the Department to prepare and solicit public input on rules for the use of state wilderness areas that will maintain their wild character, to take effect by July 1, 2016.

Movement of these bills forward will send a strong message to Governor Pence and the IDNR that Hoosiers want less timbering in our state forests and the wilderness in them conserved for recreation and wildlife, but that will not happen without your help! Please ask your legislator as soon as possible to support these bills.  Ask them also to cosponsor them and to approach the chairs of the House Natural Resources (Representative Sean Eberhart, R-Shelbyville) and Senate Agriculture and Natural Resource (Senator Carlin Yoder, R-Elkhart) Committees to give these bills a hearing.

You can find your legislator at the following link: http://iga.in.gov/legislative/2014/legislators/ , or you can call or write to them at the phone numbers and addresses below:

Indiana House of Representatives
200 W. Washington Street
Indianapolis, IN 46204-2786
(317) 232-9600
(800) 382-9842

Indiana State Senate
200 W. Washington Street
Indianapolis, IN 46204-2785
(317) 232-9400
(800) 382-9467

The Committees must hear these bills in January or they will not be heard at all.  Please Act Today!