YELLOWWOOD STATE FOREST — With a backdrop of thick mist rising off Yellowwood Lake Thursday morning, the state sold off 1,733 old-forest trees — ranging from a single bitternut hickory to 417 chestnut oaks.
About 200 protesters chanted “Stop the Sale! Stop the Sale!” in an attempt to keep the logging plan from proceeding. But there was no last-minute reprieve from the governor, who was focused instead on Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to Indianapolis on Thursday.
The high bid for the timber, $108,785, came from Hamilton Logging based in Martinsville. That averages out to $63 per tree. Three other bids from area lumber companies ranged from $70,160 to $91,345.89.
Logging on the 299-acre remote wilderness tract in Yellowwood State Forest in northwestern Brown County has drawn much interest and concern. Those against the plan cite the Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ 1981 designation of the area as “back country,” a place free of roads and other manmade improvements, intended to remain in its primitive state. The trees, environmentalists say, were to be left alone to grow.
They were. Until August, when the state marked mature trees to be cut, some 200 years old, and announced the timber auction.
The Indiana Forest Alliance launched an attack against the plan and asked Gov. Eric Holcomb to call it off.
Holcomb also received a letter signed by 228 Hoosier scientists and academics outlining the benefits of preserving old-growth forests, pointing out that current state policies allow for logging on 95 percent of state-owned land.