Timber Harvest at Yellowwood State Forest

Yellowwood State Forest

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has transformed nearly 160,000 acres of once neglected and abandoned farm and forest land into the healthy and diverse forests that exist in Indiana today, including the Yellowwood State Forest’s backcountry.

Forest practice and research shows that periodic timber removal assists in maintaining the overall health of the forest, including managing for endangered species, soil and water protection, sustainable timber, and recreational activities. Learn more about timber harvesting in Indiana State Forests.

The periodic strategic removal of trees in managed harvests opens the forest floor to sunlight, allowing new trees  to develop. Logging by single-tree selection, which targets mostly stressed, diseased and declining trees, is part of managing for these conditions in the backcountry area.

DNR’s Division of Forestry is currently leading an effort to harvest select trees from the 299 acres of the Yellowwood State Forest’s backcountry. Single-tree selection will be used, as it has been used in the previous 13 harvests of the now Morgan-Monroe/Yellowwood State Forest backcountry area.

Five to seven trees per acre may be removed during this thinning. The DNR’s forestry division determines the trees to be removed dependent on each tree’s health and impact to the overall forest area.

Studies conducted by independent researchers working on State Forests show that species of conservation concern, such as the timber rattlesnake, hooded warbler, worm-eating warbler and Indiana bat can benefit from conditions created by periodic thinning of the areas like the backcountry’s current closed canopy.

Much inaccurate information has been distributed about the timber harvest in the Morgan-Monroe/Yellowwood State Forest's backcountry area. View maps of the area from 1939 and present.

There are many myths regarding the timber harvest in the Morgan-Monroe/Yellowwood State Forest's backcountry area. The following sets the record straight.

Videos about the Yellowwood timber harvest

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Select a myth below to reveal the truth about timber harvesting

  • Myth: The timber sale in Yellowwood State Forest “destroys” public land.

    Truth: Timber management on 299 acres involves single-tree selection of mature, damaged or diseased trees. This thinning leaves other trees, including big trees, untouched and less stressed from current overcrowding. Harvests today are conducted in accordance with long established backcountry harvest guidelines. Single-tree selection has been a common practice on State Forest properties for decades. In fact, selection harvests have already occurred throughout the backcountry area.

  • Myth: The backcountry area is a “pristine forest” whose “ecology has been determined by nature, not human beings.”

    Truth: When the state acquired this land in the 1950s, much of it was cutover woodland that had suffered soil loss. An additional 74 acres were fruit orchards and other portions were farm fields or young growth. Through “good husbandry” practices by DNR Forestry, the area has been restored and was added to the backcountry designation in 1981. Timber harvest have occurred in the backcountry area since the state acquired the land.

  • Myth: Loggers are going into the heart of the area.

    Truth: The harvest area is along the eastern edge of the backcountry area. The true heart of the backcountry area is a 320-acre state-dedicated nature preserve that is already permanently off limits to timber harvesting.

  • Myth: At least a few dozen to more than 40 or more trees will be cut on nearly every acre.

    Truth: Single-tree selection will be used. About 5 to 7 trees per acre have been selected for removal after inspection by DNR foresters.

  • Myth: Logging on steep slopes will erode soil and cause more silt to go into nearby Lake Lemon.

    Truth: Long-established guidelines for the Morgan-Monroe/Yellowwood Backcountry Area limit harvesting to single-tree selection and best management practices for erosion control will be used and monitored. These BMPs are commonly recommended by the Monroe County government and originally assembled by DNR Forestry in a cooperative effort with forestry and environmental communities.

  • Myth: The backcountry area contains many “endangered species” that will be harmed by the timber harvesting.

    Truth: Two species listed as “endangered” have been observed in the backcountry harvest area – Indiana bat (federally/state endangered) and timber rattlesnake (state endangered). Both of these species are found throughout Yellowwood and Morgan-Monroe State Forests and each have been the subject of intensive on-site research over much of the last decade. This on-site research supports the findings of studies conducted elsewhere that concluded selection harvesting is compatible with the maintenance of each species’ habitat. Additionally, several other species of conservation concern are found in the backcountry harvest area; for these, too, selection harvesting has been found compatible. For more detailed information on each of the species, see the Division of Forestry’s response to public comments received for this harvest.

  • Myth: This is a rushed decision that deserves more consideration.

    Truth: The DNR’s timber management practices in the Morgan-Monroe/Yellowwood backcountry area were outlined in 1981. In 2005, DNR stated publicly that timber management would occur in the backcountry area. The practice has been restated publicly on numerous occasions, including annual forestry open houses. DNR Forestry also has repeatedly responded to the topic during public comment periods on other proposed timber sales. The 2011 and 2013 timber harvests in the backcountry area has contributed to today’s healthier forest. The DNR announced a 30-day comment period on Aug. 4, consistent with Forestry policy used for all proposed timber sales.

  • Myth: Logging has increased 400 percent in Indiana’s State Forests.

    Truth: DNR Forestry has increased its annual harvest from 0.3 percent of merchantable trees to 1.2 percent. The amount is two trees for every 100. The increase is because of historically low harvest levels a decade ago, and the amount of forest recovery and growth under DNR Forestry management over the last century. Harvest levels are reviewed periodically against scientifically collected data to ensure long-term sustainability of state forests.