Letter: I am a member of the Four Rivers Forestry Committee

I wanted to write this letter for several purposes, but foremost I wanted to introduce myself to Andy Mahler and his fellow Coalition members.  I feel like a recent letter to the editor from Andy was a bit harsh in his criticism of our well-thought-out letter to the editor and our Four Rivers Forestry Committee (FRFC). 

I thought it might be good for them to learn a little more about us.

My name is Philip Gramelspacher from Jasper, and I have been a member of the FRFC for 20 years.  I think you are aware of the Four Rivers Forestry Committee because we usually have a booth close to IFA’s at the Ferdinand Folk Festival held in September. The Four Rivers Forestry Committee supports the wise utilization and management of our forest resources, including the use of managed timber harvests, controlled burns (Prescribed Burns), invasive species control and timber stand improvement.

I have worked my whole life in the wood industry in Dubois County, basically in the Flat & Curved Decorative plywood and office furniture industry.  For many years, my grandfather ran a Rotary Veneer operation in Jasper. My family has been involved in other wood manufacturing businesses in the local area. I am not part of the Four Rivers Forestry Committee for the financial gain of getting timber cut on the Hoosier National Forest (Hoosier). 

Commonsense would tell most open-minded people that the value of the timber cut off the Hoosier is very small compared to the annual timber value cut in Indiana. I think of myself as a conservationist who wants our natural resources managed to their fullest, responsible potential. I am also a forest landowner who manages my land for timber, wildlife, and recreational value. For the past eight years, I have been self-employed doing Timber Stand Improvement (TSI) and Invasive work on my own land as well as private forest landowners, who contract with me to do the work. BOOTS on the ground as they say.

I have noticed, after reading the two recent letters from Andy Mahler and Steven Stewart, their need to attack people or organizations who have different points of view than theirs. I wish I could highlight in yellow the two letters to show those false accusations and misinformation you put out there, hoping people will bite. It is really a shame you find you have to do that to try to shut our opinions down.

Basically, they view the Hoosier in their way, while I, with other individuals and groups, view it in a different way. We believe in the more science-based approach to managing our natural resources on the Hoosier. We both want what we think is best for the Hoosier and the people who benefit from it. As public land, the Hoosier should be about multiple uses for all stakeholders. We feel active timber management is one way to have a healthy forest that will provide environments for recreation, bird watching, hunting, hikers, horseback riding and other activities. 

You know, the National Forest system was established to provide a source of timber for our young growing country that needed an ample supply of timber for lumber and other materials, but over time that mission has changed, but it is still a part of the overall management program for the forest. 

Your coalition of several groups seems to think you should have full control of how the Hoosier is managed because it is public land, and you own it. But please remember other members of the General Public have the right to see the Hoosier managed in a manner that covers their interests. I am not sure what gives you people the right to tell the Forest Service they need to do things the way you want! 

It seems misrepresentations of words to fit the narrative are a big part of your tactics. Words to instill FEAR among people is a ploy that a lot of people use in today’s world. I found it fascinating how using words intertwined in a statement is meant to cause an emotional reaction. Creative writing is a strong suit of the coalition. I just want the public to be aware of how certain words are used to create a reaction a certain group desires. Here are a few examples of terms used in the recent letters.

Catastrophic Clearcuts:  I wouldn’t say Clearcuts cause sudden and great damage to a forest.  To me, the wildfires out west where acres of forest burn, towns burn and lives are lost leans toward catastrophic as well as some of the damaging tornados and hurricanes we experience. Clearcuts are the way of life on the tops and steep hillsides of the Western Oregon and Washington landscape. It is their way of cutting the timber in that region of our country. It has worked for many years. Clearcuts are a tool used to create regeneration openings in the forest.  The beauty of a clearcut is the starting over of a site that gives wildlife, such as birds and mammals a whole new area to call home. Forest diversity benefits so many species of wildlife. I really enjoy watching a clearcut come back to life and grow.

Older Deep Forest:  Even though the Hoosier is 75 years old, most land purchased for the Hoosier National Forest probably goes back to the 50’s and 60’s.  My grandfather and father sold land to the Hoosier in the late 60’s for the Anderson River Watershed Project, which ended up being canceled. The Hoosier National Forest landscape is almost identical to most local privately held lands when it comes to composition and age. With many privately held land parcels scattered thought out the Hoosier, I am not sure this would qualify for a “Deep” Forest.

Clearcut and Burned:  just because there are some clear-cuts being made for regeneration purposes does not mean the Hoosier National Forest or Buffalo Springs Project will be wiped out by clear-cuts. Common sense tells us this is not true!  A burned area is really prescribed fire that generates low heat and flame to burn the understory of the forest. Throughout its history, the Hoosier has experienced fire caused by nature or human causes.  No heavy-duty chemicals are really used to start these prescribed fires/controlled burns.  Commonly used hand-held drip torches with a mixture of diesel and gasoline are the choice of use when igniting the burn line on a prescribed burn. 10 years ago, a neighbor’s fire escaped onto some of my woodlands and burned around 10 acres. In all honestly, a small prescribed burn was what this area needed, so some good came from it.

Oldest, Largest Merchantable trees: Again, most of the timber in the Hoosier is relatively young timber matching much of its neighboring forestland. When marking trees for a timber bid sale, which the Hoosier’s staff uses for their timber harvest, trees from all age groups and diameters are cut. Not just the largest.

I will say I hope people will do their due diligence in researching the Buffalo Springs Project before deciding if they are in favor of this project or not. It takes a little effort to do so, to have a responsible opinion, but it is the right thing to do. The Hoosier National Forest staff always has the “Hoosier’s” best interest at heart and, for the past 75 years been doing a good job. 

I have total faith in the proposed Buffalo Springs Project. 

I am sorry we cannot agree on the proper way the Forest Service staff should manage the Buffalo Springs Project for the enjoyment of the general public. I just believe the many years of forest management science and research used by the Professional Forest Service employees trumps yours.   

FOOD FOR THOUGHT………

Philip Gramelspacher, Jasper, proud member of the Four Rivers Forestry Committee

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