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Federal judge blocks planned burns in Hoosier National Forest

Trees in a forest stretch for miles in a protected national forest, May 14, 2021, in Hoosier National Forest, Indiana. (Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WISH) — A federal judge issued an injunction Wednesday barring the U.S. Forest Service from beginning planned burns in the Hoosier National Forest this weekend.

Monroe County commissioners and environmental groups, including the Hoosier Environmental Council and the Indiana Forest Alliance, sued the Forest Service, saying the work will occur near steep slopes that drain into Lake Monroe, which is a half-hour south of Bloomington and the source of drinking water for nearly 150,000 Hoosiers, according to court documents.

According to court documents, these planned burns will “significantly exacerbate the degradation of these waters and threaten public health safety and reactional interests in the Lake Monroe watershed.”

Judge Tanya Walton Pratt, who issued the order, says in court documents the Forest Serviced failed to take a “hard look” at the consequences of the planned burn.

The Forest Service plans to hold three burns covering 3,500 acres of the Hoosier National Forest this year, with up to 13,000 acres over a 10-to-15-year period.