By: Marc Ransford—
Muncie, IN—The next chapter for Indiana’s forests may be based on the need by Hoosiers for more outdoor space for recreation, says Ron Morris, a Ball State University history professor and co-editor with public historian Glory-June Greiff of a new book, “The History of Indiana State Forests.”
The hardback book, which contains 144 full-color photographs by Glory-June Greiff, is the first of its kind, examining the history of Indiana’s state forests. Its analysis draws upon interdisciplinary material from cultural geography, natural resources, and history.
“Indiana has 14 designated state forests with a wide variety of recreational activities,” said Morris, who has hiked trails across the state for decades. “At the height of the baby boom, Hoosiers were questioning whether we needed to log our forests or use them just for recreation. Today we are in the post-industrial age and our beliefs have really focused on how we develop our state forests to be used by all Hoosiers for recreation.”
The professor says the book presents the story of the development and mission of state forests as a whole, followed by in-depth chapters on each forest property.
“Readers who visit state forests tend to discover them property by property, rather than considering them as an administrative whole,” Morris says. “Individual chapters allow the reader to visit vicariously forests Morris believes the next chapter of Indiana’s forests has yet to be written that are old friends and to consider investigating forests they have not yet discovered.”
The book is a result of an immersive learning class consisting of now-graduated students from various majors in the university’s Honors College. The group met regularly throughout the 2016-17 school year and visited the forests around the state. Individual students wrote each chapter as a part of their Honors College senior thesis. Authors examined context, people, and locations as the state forests were created and developed, subject to the demands of the public from the beginning through today.
Morris believes the next chapter of Indiana’s forests has yet to be written.
“Indiana has come a long way over the decades,” the professor said. “At one point, we were close to stripping the forests because we were logging twice as many acres as we were planting. That was not sustainable, but state laws have changed to protect the forests.
“However, right now there are some people who still want to log the state forests as well as cut down the privately held wooded areas,” he said. “In the coming years, we will be looking at how the aging owners of these wooded areas handle their properties. Will they and their heirs sell to logging companies or hand the forested areas over to the state and other groups to be protected and enjoyed for generations to come?”