February 24, 2021
The Indiana Society of American Foresters (ISAF) recognizes the values and benefits Indiana's wetlands provide to Indiana’s citizens, including by those “isolated” wetlands not under federal jurisdiction. ISAF supports continued state-level regulatory oversight of these “isolated” wetlands to ensure these values and benefits serve Indiana’s citizens as a “common good”.
There have been repeated state-legislative attempts to repeal the Isolated Wetlands Law (Indiana Code 13-18-22). This law addresses the potential development-related impacts to wetlands not under federal jurisdiction. These “isolated wetlands” currently require State Isolated Wetlands permits from the Indiana Dept. of Environmental Management (IDEM). There are many exemptions to the Isolated Wetland Law (such as for farming, or activities that will impact smaller areas of wetlands), but the Law has helped to ensure that critical wetland habitats have some protection.
The federal Navigable Waters Protection Rule of 2019 & 2020 stripped more than half of the US wetlands of federal protection. While major water bodies remain protected, there is no longer a federal requirement for a permit to drain or discharge pollution into ephemeral streams and “isolated” wetlands - those that don’t have a regular surface connection to a larger, protected water body. Many of these ephemeral and isolated wetlands play critical roles in watersheds and in habitat provision. “Isolated” is a bit of misleading term - while these wetlands may not have clear surface connections (“navigable’) they are often linked to other water bodies through the water table. Isolated wetlands are considered Waters of the State and are regulated under Indiana’s Isolated Wetlands Law. IDEM estimates that more than one-third of the state’s 800,000 acres of wetlands may be classified as “isolated”.1 Indiana has lost over 85% or 4.7 million acres of the approximately 5.6 million acres of wetlands that existed in the state c.1780. Among the 50 states, Indiana ranks 4th (tied with Missouri) in proportion of wetland acreage lost.2 Wetlands are critically important. In Indiana, more than 60 wetland-dependent animal species are of special conservation concern, while more than 120 species of wetland plants in Indiana are considered to be endangered, threatened, or rare.3 The Indiana Native Plant Society estimates that over one-third of Indiana’s flora, an estimated 888 species, grow in wetlands, showing the critical importance of this habitat.4
Wetlands also play key roles in the hydrologic and biogeochemical cycles, providing incredibly valuable ecosystem services which directly impact human health and economics. They play a major role in maintaining water quality, removing or retaining excess organic and inorganic nutrients (for example from septic system runoff and fertilizers), trapping pollutants (including some heavy metals), and filtering sediments. Wetlands with emergent plants can remove up to 95% of the sediments from floodwaters.5
Wetlands play a role in atmospheric maintenance and help to moderate global climatic conditions by absorbing carbon dioxide while the clearing, draining and filling of wetlands releases carbon dioxide. Forested wetlands are especially important in absorbing atmospheric carbon dioxide and sequestering carbon in living and fallen trees.
Wetlands also play a vital role in floodwater storage, protecting human health and safety and reducing costs associated with flood damage and stormwater management. There is an understanding that wetlands absorb excess stormwater, but uncertainty about how much additional flooding will result from the loss of this law or where that flooding will be. There is an understanding that wetlands recharge groundwater, but uncertainty about how much groundwater recharge will be reduced, or where reductions will occur, if this law is repealed. This crucially important service will become increasingly valuable. Since 1895, average annual precipitation in Indiana has increased by about 15%. This trend is projected to continue, while heavy precipitation events are expected to intensify as temperatures rise as a result of a changing climate.6
1 Wetlands at Risk – Imperiled Treasures, National Wildlife Federation (2008)
2 Wetland losses in the United States, 1780s to 1980s, Dahl, T.E. (1990)
3 The Status of Wetlands in Indiana (1996)
4 Indiana Native Species List, The Indiana Native Plant Society (2001)
5 The Status of Wetlands in Indiana (1996)
6 Indiana’s Past & Future Climate: A Report from the Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment, Purdue University (2018)
It is the Indiana Society of American Foresters (ISAF) position that the current disturbance regime (natural and prescribed fires, windstorms and harvesting activities) levels on the Hoosier National Forest (HNF) are insufficient to maintain the diversity of forest age classes and cover types that are essential for ecosystem sustainability. As a result, plant and animal communities that rely on the early forest successional vegetation communities and the oak-hickory forest cover type, will continue to diminish on the HNF landscape for the decades to come.
Therefore, the ISAF supports:
Reducing the loss of the oak-hickory forest cover type by incorporating even-aged management on those sites most appropriate for the regeneration of shade intolerant endemic oak species. This best meets one of the current HNF’s Forest Plan desired conditions: "to reduce the loss of oak-hickory habitat".
Utilizing prescribed fire as a means to increase both horizontal and vertical vegetation structural diversity, early forest successional habitat and, on appropriate sites, encourage the reproduction of oak species.
Developing a more even distribution of forest age classes over the landscape, while still increasing the proportion of the oldest age class over the current forest conditions. This is an important consideration in the management of forest ecosystems on both temporal and spatial scales.
Permitting resource professionals the broadest range of management strategies to maintain watershed health while also increasing the oak-hickory forest cover type, forest structural diversity, and associated wildlife habitats, on the HNF landscape over future decades. This will also improve other recreational uses of the forest such as birdwatching, hunting, and hiking.
Current best management practices for controlling existing non-native invasive plant species (even in natural areas). The use of herbicides, under the most current EPA regulations, is essential in increasing the odds of containing this threat. Furthermore, current research has shown that herbicides can play an important role in increasing the recruitment success of oak reproduction under the shelterwood harvest system.
The Indiana Society of American Foresters recognizes the values and benefits that Indiana's citizens derive from the management of Indiana's private and public forestlands for multiple objectives. Professional management of forestland based on the objectives of the owner, or owner groups, and the biological potential of the area can help make forestlands vital and productive for their intended uses. Trees and forests are readily renewable resources that, if managed sustainably, can provide many benefits now and in decades to come. Timber harvesting can be an important tool in managing forestland for multiple uses. Both public and private forests can benefit from professional management aimed at producing multiple benefits on a sustainable basis. The option to harvest trees and manage for multiple forest benefits should be maintained on both public and private forests in Indiana.
Demands on forest lands for goods and services are increasing rapidly and are expected to increase still faster in the future. Conflicts in use have become accentuated in recent years by requests to state and/or national administrative, legislative and judicial bodies to influence and regulate management on public and private forestlands. Such conflicts are especially sharp where groups believe that the use demands of other interest groups compete with their own.
Historical Status of Indiana's Forests
At the time of European settlement, 87 percent (20 million acres) of Indiana was forested. In the late 1800's and early half of the 20 th century more than 90 percent of this native forest was cleared for cropland and livestock pasture. Forest clearing probably reached its peak during 1910-1920 with only 1.5 million acres of forestland remaining. Many marginal farms were abandoned during the Great Depression and many wooded pastures and abandoned fields began reverting back to forest1. In 1967 there were 4.1 million acres of forestland in the state. Today there are over 4.4 million acres2. As a result, except for a very few scattered original remnants, Indiana's forests are primarily second and third growth forests arising from natural regeneration and reforestation efforts on land previously disturbed by human activities. Forestland area in Indiana has been increasing and the annual tree growth volume is more than double the loss and removals from natural mortality and harvest, respectively3.
Diversity of Use Demands on Forestlands
Forests receive, store and make available most of the nation's useable water. They satisfy the nations requirements for wood - a major, renewable, and highly versatile raw material. Forest vegetation stabilizes soil, has a moderating effect on local climate, reduces sound and air pollutants, and helps maintain atmospheric oxygen-carbon dioxide balances. Recreation, encompassing a wide variety of individual and group activities, has become a major use of forestlands. Forests, and the streams and lakes they help sustain, provide the habitat for wildlife and fish, which are also major, renewable resources.
What Multiple-Use Is
Increasing demands on limited forestlands can be met with coordination of uses on specific areas. Foresters have developed and applied the concept of multiple-use whereby land is managed for a variety of purposes that utilize, without impairment, the capabilities of the land to meet different demands simultaneously. Properly implemented, multiple-use sustains production of the desired benefits and avoids environmental deterioration. The multiple-use strategy takes effective advantage of capabilities of diverse portions of a forest to meet both current and projected demands. Many benefits accrue on a forest regardless of the management strategy employed. For example,a forest managed exclusively for recreation can provide water, climatic and wildlife benefits. Similarly, one managed exclusively for wood products can provide water, climatic, wildlife, and recreation benefits. It is extremely difficult to visualize any exclusive use that does not also provide other benefits. The supply of forestlands is inadequate to meet all demands simultaneously, but the multiple-use strategy normally provides the largest sum of social,economic and spiritual benefits.
Who Plans and Manages for Multiple-Use?
Use and management of forestland and forest resources are determined in large measure by the objectives, policies, and means of the landowner, whether the people of a political unit, shareholders of a corporations, or an individual. Uses should be professionally planned, and all planning should consider all potential capabilities to meet demands on a sustained basis; compatibility among uses; and costs and benefits of different use combinations over a period of time. Forestry professionals have special education and experience to determine the net benefits that forests are capable of producing - information that is basic to the planning of uses. Plans should incorporate the landowners' objectives and should be based on accurate information about the resources involved. When plans have been decided on, forestry professionals should implement them by prescribing and supervising the necessary specific practices - including timber harvesting.
How Multiple-Use Is Implemented
In application, the multiple-use concept involves managing a specific forest area for various benefits and may result in (1) exclusive use on some portions, (2) the emergence of primary and secondary uses on other portions, and (3) a general-use category where no one specific use justifies specific designation. In Indiana, much of the forestland managed under the multiple-use concept is a general-use category, because compatibility at existing levels of demand does not require the designation of primary or exclusive use. These forests provide watershed protection, wildlife habitat, recreation and wood product production, often simultaneously on the same area. Timber harvesting, under the direction of professional foresters, can serve as a tool to realize many of these benefits. Harvests can provide useful materials demanded by society, income to forest owners, jobs for communities related to the primary and secondary manufacturing and sale of wood products, management of fire and disease risk, and maintenance for the health and vigor of the forest environment. Young, healthy forests serve as reservoirs of carbon dioxide uptake from the atmosphere, and trees processed into long-term products, like housing and furniture, store that carbon for long periods of time. Harvesting also provides a means to economically manage for species diversity and specialized wildlife habitat needs across the forest landscape.
The Indiana Society of American Foresters recognizes the value and benefits of actively managing Indiana's forestland for multiple objectives and uses - as determined by the landowners' objectives. It recommends that the option to harvest trees should be maintained on both public and private lands in order to realize many of these benefits that accrue to Indiana's citizens.
1Forest Policy Issues in Indiana, Purdue University, Cooperative Extension Service (1994)
2Forests of Indiana: An Overview 1998, USDA Forest Service. and IDNR Division of Forestry (2000)
3Forests of Indiana: An Overview 1998, USDA Forest Service and IDNR Division of Forestry (2000)
This position statement is also in pdf format. If you are unable to read pdf files, then click on the pdf logo, and download Adobe Acrobat Reader. Read the complete paper here.
Indiana's forests are an integral but often overlooked component of many communities. Many residents recognize forests as green space that improves the quality of their lives and increases the value of their property. Less understood is the role of the forest in providing environmental benefits and economic value. Trees are a renewable natural resource that can easily be managed on a sustainable basis into perpetuity.
Forests provide habitat for many species of plants and animals. They improve water quality by serving as ground water recharge areas, and buffer and cleansing zones for the flow of surface runoff into streams. Forests and small woodlands also provide noise-reducing buffers and visual screens from certain sounds and activity not normally associated with residential lifestyles. Trees in their growing processes consume carbon dioxide and give off oxygen, thus being major contributors to improved air quality.
Indiana's forests are also economically very important. They increase the value of land for development and recreation. They are the foundation of recreation and tourism in many communities, along with local parks and other non-commercial forested areas.
The wood products industry is a major contributor to the economic foundation of many Indiana communities. Although primary manufacturing, such as sawmills and veneer mills, may not be located in every county, secondary processing and other value-added types of manufacturing facilities, such as millwork and cabinet shops, are common in most communities. They are important sources of employment and revenue generation, and are heavy contributors to the local tax base. Indiana's wood-using industry is a major player in the global market, sending products to markets all over the world.
Statewide total acreage of forest land is increasing due to over one hundred years of governmental programs promoting good forest management and intensification of production agriculture. Existing forests typically contain trees in a wide range of age classes as the result of past sustainable harvesting practices, but most new timberland tracts are on reclaimed old fields. These new forestlands will take many decades to resemble mature hardwood forests. Although they are future forests, they currently do not replace established mature forests in terms of value and function.
Forestlands containing mature trees are often envisioned by prospective buyers as the preferred home sites, but in reality they probably are not the best wooded sites for development. The mature trees are usually less responsive to disturbance, and because of their size, are more difficult to remove later if they die or need to be removed for some reason.
Development is important to Indiana's economy and the well-being of its citizens. However, development's overall contribution can be enhanced by good planning that considers the needs of a community and the overall impacts of alternative development patterns. Whether development takes place on forestland, farmland, or other open space should be an informed decision based on all the pros and cons of the tradeoffs involved.
The Indiana Society of American Foresters supports planning that minimizes the fragmentation of forest parcels. Development on forestland should consider the economic and environmental benefits provided by each parcel of forestland. Development should focus on parcels with existing or planned infrastructure. The largest negative impacts result from developments scattered across the landscape with no consideration given to future needs for infrastructure or forest integrity. Development that supports the renewal of urban areas, older suburban areas, brownfields, historic districts, etc., should be of higher priority than new development in areas without supporting infrastructure.
Each planning jurisdiction should examine the current balance of land uses within its borders. The contributions of each use to the well-being of its citizens should be evaluated. Future development should be targeted to those tracts which can best accommodate it with minimal harm to the environment and the current land use. We support the conversion of underutilized acreage to more natural conditions within the matrix of developed land to provide environmental and other benefits. Development that concentrates houses and leaves as large a portion of the original tract as possible undisturbed should be encouraged, especially when large tracts of forestland are involved.
The forestry profession can assist in the planning process by being a source of technical information for planners and the citizens they serve. Foresters can help identify areas where forestlands should be maintained as working forests so they will continue to serve desirable environmental needs and at the same time provide a timber supply base for the valuable resource needs.
Foresters can also assist developers by suggesting ways to preserve the beauty and serenity of the forest, so important to prospective home buyers. They can explain to developers and landowners the importance of continued forest management to the health of the forest. Healthy forests minimize the dangers to homeowners from potential storm damage and wildfire. Foresters are trained to work with other natural resource professionals on issues related to soil erosion, water quality, wildlife habitat management, and other important concerns. Initial contact with either a private consulting forester or a public forester can be made by contacting the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Division of Forestry; or the Purdue Cooperative Extension office in your county.