INDIANAPOLIS – The Monroe County government and two Indiana environmental groups announced a lawsuit Thursday against the U.S. Forest Service over the plan to log, burn and apply herbicides to part of the Hoosier National Forest.
The lawsuit alleges the U.S. Forest Service’s plan will “pollute streams that flow into Lake Monroe.” It also states the plan could disrupt recreation along the Knobstone Trail, Indiana’s longest footpath.
The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in New Albany, Indiana by the Monroe County Board of Commissioners, the Hoosier Environmental Council and the Indiana Forest Alliance.
“After nearly 18 months of commenting, asking for key reports, and objecting to this project and the U.S. Forest Service’s dismissal of all the important concerns, Monroe County and the plaintiffs were left with no other recourse but to file this suit,” said Monroe County Commissioner Julie Thomas. “We are taking this action to protect our forest and the sole source of drinking water for 140,000 citizens in our region.”
In a separate move, the groups also sent a letter to the federal agency of their intent to sue over the Endangered Species Act. They say the plan fails to account for the endangered Indiana bat and the threatened northern long-eared bat.
“The U.S Forest Service has seemed hell-bent on doing this project regardless of its dramatic impact on people, wildlife and the forest ecosystem in general,” said Jeff Stant, executive director of the Indiana Forest Alliance. “We’re taking a stand to show that refusing to consider alternatives is against the law.”
The lawsuit calls for the court to stop the project and have the U.S. Forest Service analyze its impact more.
The U.S. Forest Service declined comment on the lawsuit.