A Brief History of Efforts Made by Friends of White's Woods
White’s Woods Nature Center (WWNC), a 250 acre park, was purchased for White Township in 1968 with Project 70 money, which stipulates that the land be used for “recreation, conservation, and historic preservation.”
Friends of White’s Woods (FWW) was formed by citizens of White Township and Indiana Borough in 1995, in response to an attempt by the White Township Supervisors to log 650,000 board feet with an estimated value of $159,000 in the first phase of a multi-phase plan. However, our attorney brought to their attention Second Class Township coed section 1915, which states:
“Whenever the township supervisors deem it expedient to sell or leases any forest, or part thereof, or products therefrom, they shall so declare by an ordinance… No ordinance shall be effective in legalizing such alienation until it has been approved by a majority vote of the people…”
The Supervisors mailed a survey to voters, finding that 62% (1527 of the 2463 total respondents) did NOT want White’s Woods selectively timbered (31% approved of the timbering plan while 7% had no opinion).
The Supervisors voted not to timber on July 12, 1995.
In March 2007, the Supervisors entertained a proposal to remove 550,000 board feet (21% of the park) with an estimated value of $166,000, in response to a search they initiated in May of 2006. Over the ensuing year, FWW, with support from Indiana Borough, repeatedly approached the Supervisors, suggesting we work together to develop a mutually acceptable plan for the park. Our attempts were met with responses ranging from mild resistance to contempt.
Ultimately, in April 2008, the plan was halted by a ruling from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), which stated:
“The plan is not consistent with the Project 70 Land Acquisition and Borrowing Act… is not consistent with the definitions of recreation and conservation in the Act… The issue is not whether timber can be harvested on Project 70 land, but rather that the amount, as currently proposed, is excessive.”
DCNR requested the plan be revised to meet standards and resubmitted for approval before any further action. The Supervisors never submitted a revised plan.
On April 8, 2020, we observed trees in WWNC with green paint marks. Over the ensuing two months, as more and more trees were marked, we learned that the Supervisors have been planning a timbering project in secret since December, 2018. Most of the discussion and decisions occurred in closed session, so they were neither available to the taxpayers nor published in meeting minutes or the newspaper.
After pressure was exerted by FWW and DCNR, the township submitted a forestry stewardship plan to the Bureau of Forestry at DCNR. The community is awaiting word from DCNR regarding the quality of that plan. However, the plan (initial plan) that is available to the public is comprised of a series of confusing and apparently contradictory documents:
As with previous plans, the current one has been criticized by forestry experts as unsuitable for a park, and the proposed method of removing invasive species not only ineffective, but likely to cause further proliferation of invasives.