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Bleak future for Crown Hill Woods

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FLICKR/INDIANA FOREST ALLIANCE
  • Flickr/Indiana Forest Alliance
It doesn’t look good for the future of the historic old grove forest in Crown Hill cemetery.

A federal judge denied the Indiana Forest Alliance’s (IFA) request to halt the Department of Veteran’s Affairs’ (VA) plan to rip out the forest and build columbaria to house the remains of 25,000 veterans.

IFA had filed the lawsuit claiming the VA didn’t follow the guidelines set forth in the National Environmental Policy Act when acquiring the Crown Hill North Woods property. IFA officials had hoped U.S. District Court Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson would halt the project and demand the VA adhere to the law, including investigate and report on other possible alternative sites, hold a public hearing and other regulations the IFA feels the VA swept under the rug. However Magnus-Stinson rejected the argument that the VA did not conduct an adequate process, while admitting that the project would still cause “irreparable harm.”

“It’s a profoundly regrettable decision that makes a travesty of our environmental law,” said Jeff Stant, IFA executive director. “We are examining the ruling and next week will appeal the decision in U.S. Seventh Circuit District Court in Chicago. We do not believe the VA complied with the spirit or the letter of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).”
FLICKR/INDIANA FOREST ALLIANCE
  • Flickr/Indiana Forest Alliance
In the appeal, IFA will ask for the court to keep the project on hold while the appeal is pending as well as come to a decision as quickly as possible. The hold is a key part of preventing the destruction of the forest for a long as possible. The VA had planned to break ground on the project in November and is ready to proceed with the project.

The Laura Hare Charitable Trust has offered to purchase the property from the VA to hold the forest as a nature preserve, but the VA has never responded. The purchase offer included the price paid for the land as well as any related expenses.

RELATED: Charitable Trust offers to buy Crown Hill Woods

“These forests are irreplaceable, and as we continue to lose the last remnants, we are all impoverished,” said Lenore Tedesco, a spokesperson for the Hare Trust. “It’s unfortunate that the VA has chosen this destructive course when they have a viable partner to save this forest and also achieve their goals.”

 IFA will file an appeal as soon as possible.

A candlelight vigil will be held Monday, January 16 at 4 p.m. at the Crown Hill North Woods site.

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