Buffalo Springs public information meeting notes

Protect Our Woods and Save Hoosier National Forest groups held a public meeting on June 10, 2022, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the Orange County 4-H Building, 293 W. Daniel Lane, Paoli, In.

The meeting was held to inform the public of the Forest Service’s Buffalo Springs “Restoration” Project and how they can provide their opinion to the Forest Service on the project.

A crowd of over 50 concerned citizens gathered on Friday evening, June 10 in Paoli, Indiana in anticipation of the release of a draft Environment Assessment by the US Forest Service for their proposed Buffalo Springs Project. The USFS is required by law to prepare an Environmental Assessment for the proposed “restoration” project. When that happens, a 30-day public comment period is started. The Forest Service has said this will be the last opportunity for the public to voice their concerns to them about their proposal to log, burn and chemically treat over 20,000 acres in the public Hoosier National Forest of Orange and Crawford counties which lies in the Patoka Lake water shed. Related work in the project will include road building/rebuilding to provide access for logging equipment through this forest preserve.

Representatives from the US Forest Service were invited to attend this public information question and answer gathering as well as a meeting last November following the release of a Scoping notice but declined the invitation to both events.  Residents met to learn more and share their perspectives at these meetings. A wide variety of concerns about the project proposal were voiced by those that call the HNF their home. Contact information was given to those in attendance to make their voices heard, including the website www.savehoosiernationalforest.com. 

After identifying themselves, each person made a statement.  Soon it was clear that this diverse group of people, equally male and female, and all age groups, had a common commitment: save and protect the beautiful Hoosier National Forest.

Common comments regarding the US Forest Service’s plan included: 

  • The need to preserve the forest for the next generations to enjoy hiking, horseback riding, and hunting, 
  • Protect the area for its important historic value around the Buffalo Trace,
  • Protect the native wildlife and plant life,
  • The role mature tree stands have on air quality and climate change, 
  • The importance of preserving the water quality of Patoka Lake and Springs Valley (Tucker) Lake,
  • and the fact that the HNF is public land. 

Many were additionally concerned about the negative effects on the water quality for residents in the Patoka Lake Water and Sewer district, as at least 90% of the Buffalo Springs project area lies in the Patoka Lake watershed.  The overwhelming public response voiced was one of disagreement with using this treasured forest for timber sales and profit.

This meeting also included a PowerPoint presentation displaying photos of the damage already done by earlier clear-cuts in the HNF by the forest service.  In addition, Andy Mahler, Protect Our Woods, and Steven Stewart, Save Hoosier National Forest, gave an overview of Forest Service actions and responses to date from concerned citizens and groups.

Concerned individuals and groups are advocating for a new Land and Resource Management Plan.  Also known as the Forest Plan, the current planning document was written in 2006 and is 2 years out of date as stated by law.  POW is spearheading an effort to write a Citizens Alternative Forest Plan.

A group of local musicians entertained the gathering as the meeting wrapped up.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.