Couple wants to show effects of logging


FERDINAND — The Ferdinand State Forest looks very different to Natalie Combs these days. What she described as clear-cutting has wiped out a large area of trees on one side of the fire lane near her home, slicing a canopy that used to cover the path in half. Other areas of land that used to be filled with trees have been replaced with big, empty spaces. Now, Combs wants others to see how the forest is changing.

On July 16 at 3 p.m., she and her husband, Jeremy, will host a free hike through the forest that will double as a journey to inform participants of the recent logging in the area. She said participants can turn around at the half-mile point if they don’t want to walk the entirety of the trek, but expects the full hike to last between an hour and an hour-and-a-half.

Some proponents of Indiana forests argue the Indiana Department of Natural Resources is cutting forests at unprecedented rates, while others argue the IDNR is doing its job by managing the health of and valuable resources in the woodlands.

“I’m not trying to bash the Indiana DNR for doing the logging,” said Combs, who is the owner and manager of Jasper’s Green Thumb Garden Center. “I realize that they have reasons that they feel very strongly about. And I’m not trying to bash the local loggers that have done the work because they’re just doing their job. But, for it being state ground, my side of the story is that I feel like it should be left untouched.”

She added: “All we’re really looking for is to set aside at least 10 percent of the state forests and leave them uncut. Just 10 percent is all we’re really trying to get.”

Birdseye-area resident and former Indiana State Forest property manager Doug Brown said he wishes people would look at both sides of the issue instead of forming opinions by only looking at the forests and jumping to conclusions because the area doesn’t look pretty. He is currently a private consultant forester.

“State parks were started for preservation and recreation and the state forests were primarily set up to be working forests,” Brown said. “So basically, I think it’s the right thing to do to properly manage those forests.”

He explained that it frustrates him when people don’t look at the science behind cutting. He said Indiana forests have always been the product of disturbance, adding they have been manipulated by human beings since the glaciers melted and the forests grew.

“Some people don’t realize that,” he said. “They think they were pristine, primeval forests before the white settlers got here and we’ve just been systematically destroying them since then, and that’s just not true. I wish people would look at the science and see the value of management and disturbance.”

He acknowledged there are drawbacks to harvesting, but said management can help foster better biodiversity and habitat development.

Combs argued that mother nature has been around for millions of years and didn’t require logging to keep the woods healthy. She also questioned how effective logging is at increasing biodiversity and better habitats.

“I feel like as a Hoosier, you need to get out there and see what’s going on in these areas you’re paying tax money for,” Combs said.

Next month’s hike through the Ferdinand Forest will be hosted at the Combs’ house, 6464 S. Mentor Road South, Birdseye. Natalie encouraged attending guests to dress appropriately for walking in the woods — long, light colored clothing and close-toed shoes — and said she might host a bonfire following the journey.

Members of the Indiana Forest Alliance — a statewide nonprofit organization that advocates for the long-term health of Indiana’s native forests — will also be present at the event and will share information about how citizens can support the forest. According to WFYI, the IFA said there has been an unsustainable 400 percent increase in commercial logging in public forests since 2002.

“I just think it’s going to be really nice for people to be made aware,” Combs said.

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