Letter: Forestry staff bear responsibility in pathogen spread

To the editor:

Bernie Fischer, former Indiana Department of Forestry head forester, stated upon leaving the job in 2004 that the biggest challenges facing the future of Indiana forestry were (1) the loss of habitat and (2) the invasion of alien species.

Jack Seifert, current head forester, has completely ignored this advice. As a result, he is now THE only person to blame for the recently-announced invasion of sudden oak death, a bacterial disease that will soon destroy our oak industry. (Although this disease mainly affects red oaks, it has more than 100 tree and shrub alternative hosts.)

This disease was first discovered in an Indiana nursery in 2008, 11 years ago. Other than two newspaper articles submitted during National Invasive Species Week in 2008 and 2016, no other public notice of this problem was given to Hoosiers by Seifert, who had previously helped to gut the Division of Entomology, and he subsequently failed to do anything proactive about the newly-emerging invasive threats to Indiana forests.

Meanwhile, he has been keeping his Hoosier public totally in the dark. He now has a history of ignoring invasives until it is too late (gypsy moth, emerald ash borer). He then “salvage”-logs the diseased species he had previously publicly ignored. Get ready for thousand canker walnut disease (2014) and Asian longhorn boring beetles (1996) soon, folks. They both have been previously found right here in Indiana, and Seifert has not yet told you about them.

During Seifert’s period of service, the dogwoods first disappeared, then the ashes. Soon, the red oaks will follow (sudden oak death). We will also lose our walnuts (thousand canker disease) maples, poplars, willows, buckeyes, and other assorted hardwoods (Asian longhorned beetle) due to his neglect and mismanagement. Mr. Seifert knows full well that these new invasives might well gut both our public and private forests, but he has kept us all in the dark about their previous presence in Indiana and their real danger until it’s probably too late. Why?

Knowing that these invasives currently threaten us, it is also disingenuous for him to brag about his 100-year hardwood oak growth experiment, knowing full well that it will become a fool’s errand (with nothing left to study) in 100 years.

Seifert should be immediately fired for continually deceiving the public about the presence of current invasives and also for not better preparing us to respond to these invasive threats. He should be held solely accountable for the cascading destruction of our state forests. What he did (and didn’t) do may not technically be illegal, but his lack of public accountability is immoral at best. Some hero in the law enforcement community, the media, the Republican Party, the DNR, or the state government needs to follow up on this story, as time is quickly running out for our increasingly poorly-managed state forests.

Mr. Seifert needs to face his Hoosier public to defend what is apparently an extensive history of inaction and incompetence.

From the heart of Yellowwood,

Charlie Cole, Brown County

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