Letter: Plan to deforest portions of Hoosier National Forest lacks public input

I am writing as a concerned citizen regarding the proposed Buffalo Springs Restoration Project.

An initial request for public comment was set for thirty days to end on November 15th. I am very concerned that there was insufficient notification to the public affected by this large project that will have a direct impact on the quality of life for persons living in and near the Hoosier National Forest.
With at least 5124 acres of the Forest in counties south of Monroe, including Orange, Crawford and Dubois counties being slated for harvest, (some of it clear-cutting) nearly 15,100 acres were identified for possible prescribed burn, 771 acres of chemical treatment with herbicides/pesticides and in addition the creation or recreation of 19 miles of roads in the Hoosier National Forest, the potential impact on the health and well being of those of us living in or near the Forest is tremendous.

Here is an overview of the project.

Speaking for myself and based on my discussions with others in Orange County that are highly invested in the preservation of our Forest, there has not been sufficient notice provided in order to solicit input on the proposal. People in this area are by and large completely unaware that this proposal has been made. There was no press release issued.

I read the proposal itself, and it is clear in that proposal that all the “community input” referenced in the proposal is more than twenty years old. The culture, economy, population, and people living in the areas affected by this project have changed tremendously in the past 20 to 26 years (the timeframe in which input was solicited).

The lack of notification and input of people who live here NOW, and would be affected by this action now, would ethically require that the comment period be extended significantly past the November 15th deadline. Especially if, as the proposal indicates, failure to comment in this initial period would disqualify us from comment/participation in later stages of the project, failing to notify the public and solicit commentary from those affected by the project is negligent in the extreme.

I live directly across the road from the Hoosier National Forest in Southern Orange County. A portion of my front yard was actually a part of the Forest and was only recently deeded back to us. At no time were my husband or I notified about this proposal. The area immediately across the road from us is slated, “to be determined”, however, we are surrounded on three sides by areas designated for logging, burning, and oil and gas exploration.

We have significant breathing-related issues and autoimmune health problems that would make this large-scale burning and use of pesticides or herbicides very dangerous to our health.

When you factor in how the runoff from these operations will go into the Patoka watershed where we obtain our drinking water (as do most of the people in this area), the negative environmental impact on us and our neighbors is even higher.

The residents of Orange and Crawford Counties are by and large living in significantly greater poverty than most of the state. For that reason, the Environmental Justice Executive Order 12898 would be especially relevant in this area. The damage to the quality of our air and drinking water has not been sufficiently studied, especially in light of the fact that many of the people here have limited resources and education to defend their own best interests. It is the opposite of Environmental Justice to impose these kinds of potential harm on people who have not been given sufficient notice or opportunity to voice their concerns.

It is also very concerning that in addition to community input being seriously outdated, the forest and climate science on which this proposal is based is outdated. The most recent research cited is from 2006. At more than 15 years ago, this research is not likely to have incorporated the most recent relevant research on the environmental impact of these proposed actions in terms of climate science and global warming.

A proposal of this scope and impact should at a minimum be relying on more current science, involve adequate notification of the community that will be impacted with an extended period for commentary, and be mindful of federal legislation mandating that people in impoverished areas not be targeted for actions that compromise their health and well-being by poisoning the environment where they live.

The proposal states, “The management direction provided in the Forest Plan will be subject to periodic and timely change as new information comes to light and then the public demonstrates a desire for a changed focus in management. Amendments will be proposed when the need for change is evident and the public will be involved in those changes.” Newer, more relevant research is available, we the public are demonstrating our desire for a changed focus in management, and we are now asking for an extended period for commentary until December 31st instead of ending November 15th so that amendments to this plan may be proposed.

Please contact the DNR at and ask them to do the right thing and extend the period for commentary on this project by current residents, instead of relying on comments from more than twenty years ago, issue press releases on the proposed project, and hold open forums in which residents who live here now can participate. It is the only ethical and just action that can be taken at this juncture.
If you wish to submit a comment, you may send it to:
Kevin Amick Hoosier National Forest All Units 811 Constitution Avenue Bedford, Indiana 47421 or email it to: kevin.amick@usda.gov

You may also contact your elected officials to ask them to delay the start of this project and extend the period for receiving comments from the public.

Rosemary Parke, Orange County

The public may also share information by email at Marion.mason@usda.gov or by fax to 812-279-3423, or mail to Attn:  Public Affairs, Hoosier National Forest, 811 Constitution Ave., Bedford, IN 47562.  For further information please contact the Forest toll-free at 866-302-4173.

5 Comments

  1. dear friends
    please contact the Forest Service to stop the largest and most destructive project in the history of the Hoosier National Forest

    here are the email addresses to which it should be sent
    michael.chaveas@usda.gov
    christopher.thornton@usda.gov
    kevin.amick@usda.gov
    with copies to the following
    gina.owens@usda.gov
    randy.moore@usda.gov
    contact@toddyoungin.com
    contact@braun.senate.gov
    jonathan.pearce@mail.house.gov
    ____________________________________________________________
    To whom it may concern:
    I am writing to offer comments regarding the deeply flawed Buffalo Springs Restoration (sic) Project which is in fact dozens of separate and largely unrelated projects spread over more than 15,000 acres of the Hoosier National Forest and adjacent lands in the southern portions of Orange County Indiana.
    1. The comment period must be extended
    These are public lands. The Forest Service is employed by the American people to protect the forest from harm and preserve it for future generations. The Forest Service is acting arbitrarily and capriciously and in bad faith by offering only a thirty day comment period for what is the most complex, confusing, extensive and potentially catastrophic project in the history of the Hoosier National Forest.
    2. The Buffalo Springs Restoration (sic) Project must be withdrawn
    This project is an abuse of the discretion granted to the Forest Service by the American people. It represents a recent and radical departure from past practice on the Hoosier National Forest by combining literally dozens of individual and discrete projects into one giant complex project over a large geographic area (in this case representing 5% of the entire Hoosier National Forest) with only cursory attention to site specific impacts, project-wide cumulative impacts, or the impacts to adjacent private lands and surrounding communities.
    3. The 2006 Forest Plan is outdated and must be replaced
    As the key role healthy, diverse, older forests play in mitigating the impacts of catastrophic climate change becomes clearer and better understood, so must the role of the Hoosier National Forest be reassessed. Deforestation and large scale logging as proposed in this project are now widely recognized as being key drivers of numerous threats to planetary well-being, including loss of biodiversity, the extinction crisis and accelerated planetary warming. The 2006 Forest Plan for the Hoosier National Forest is tragically out of date and increasingly irrelevant. It is also not in compliance with the provisions of the National Forest Management Act of 1976 which requires that a new plan be prepared every ten years and not more than every fifteen years. It must be withdrawn and a new plan prepared.
    The Forest Service’s own website says that the 2006 Forest Plan on which the Buffalo Springs project is based “Needs revision,” yet instead of revising the Plan as they are required by law, they are trying to push through the largest project in the history of the Hoosier National Forest with little public notice and only a 30 day comment period.
    When then Regional Forester, Randy Moore (now Forest Service Chief) approved the plan, he said in his Record of Decision: ” The management direction provided in the Forest Plan will be subject to periodic and timely change as new information comes to light and when the public demonstrates a desire for a changed focus in management. ”
    That time is now.

  2. Many thanks to Rosemary and Andy for bringing this to the attention of our community and providing the comments and contact emails. I have sent comments to all the email addresses listed by Andy. This does not sound like good forest management to me. I have a degree in biology with an ecology focus, so I have some understanding of the issues. I have also spent more than a little time hiking and enjoying our local forests. The results of this project will impact the area for generations. At the very least, this deserves careful and thoughtful deliberation with community involvement!

  3. I am very glad I found your letter Rosemary, this is an issue that deserves attention from people who have more than a handful of basic words to type. The area in question is too big and means too much to just allow a couple basic people to alter it for their own gain.
    A few years ago the Indiana Governor allowed some logging to go ahead in the Yellowwood (sp?) Forest
    (a state property I believe), which a lot of people spoke out against. Is there any information about what the effects of that have been?
    Thanks again to you, and to Andy, for writing I plan to follow up and talk it up!

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