STATEHOUSE – State Rep. Chris May (R-Bedford) authored legislation that would designate old-growth forest areas in a portion of all of Indiana’s state forests for preservation.
The bill would require the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to designate at least one undivided area of each state forest as an old forest area by the end of 2022. That portion must be at least 10% of the state forest and 500 acres or more if possible.
An old forest area designation means the state cannot harvest timber from that section. Hunting and fishing, as well as recreation including hiking and camping, is permitted there.
“Preserving old-growth forests is essential to sustaining Indiana’s arboricultural heritage,” May said. “Some of our state’s trees are hundreds of years old, dating back to the Revolutionary War. That history, along with maintaining natural habitat, is crucial for a healthy environment. These nature preserves also provide recreational opportunities for all Hoosiers and a living-learning lab of our natural world.”
According to the DNR, Indiana originally had 20 million acres of forest. Now there are less than 2,000 acres of old-growth forest, much of which is protected as nature preserves.
May’s legislation would direct the DNR to use specific guidelines when designating old forest areas. Those include areas with trees that have age classes covering the entire natural lifespan of Indiana’s native trees, providing habitat for forest-dependent wildlife species, and protecting water resources and ecologically sensitive or unique areas.