Officials with the Hoosier National Forest are drawing attention to an effort to preserve “forest openings.” These are pockets in the forest where older trees have been cut down to make way for younger trees, shrubs and grasses.
Hoosier National Forest Wildlife Technician Brian King says before humans started changing the landscape, these openings were created naturally through things like forest fires.
“So we’re trying to bring back this habitat that once was here and has now gone away because we as humans have kind of stopped that flow,” he says.
King says more than 4,000 acres of the Hoosier National Forest is set aside for these clearings, with the average size being about six acres. They’re good habitat for species like the ruffed grouse — which the state says is on track for extinction.
King says unlike clear cutting alone, adding things like mowing and controlled burns helps preserve forest openings longer.
But Rae Schnapp of the Indiana Forest Alliance says there are already acres dedicated to preserving grasslands in the state.
“Well we generally think that our national forests, our public forests, should be managed as forests,” she says.
Schnapp says what little forest land Indiana has should be preserved.
Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.