Resource association challenges forest service report | Local news

NORTHERN HILLS – Timber sales in the Black Hills National Forest are expected to decline in the coming years, according to a plan proposed by the US Forest Service.

In an attempt to influence the Forest Service to reassess this plan, the Black Hills Forest Resource Association filed a formal challenge on November 19 against the General Technical Report (GTR), which recommended significant reductions in the amount of wood harvested from the Black Hills.

“What we really hope to accomplish is give the forest service the opportunity to look at the report, examine the missing data and make better decisions on a more complete picture,” said Ben Wudtke, director. Executive of Black Hills Forest. Resource association

Wudtke said that prior to the RWG’s final presentation, the association commissioned its own report compiled by independent consultants, which contained data regarding forest inventory and analysis as well as insect and tree mortality rates. diseases more specific to the Black Hills National Forest over the past 19 years. years.

Researchers at the Rocky Mountain Research Station based in Fort Collins, Colo., He said, omitted the data

“One of the key elements of the (association’s) report that we had is that the rate of growth of lumber in the Black Hills National Forest is considerably higher than the rate of growth used by the authors of the GTR, ”Wudtke said.

A tree must have reached a certain diameter to be considered as harvestable stock or “lumber”.

Wudtke said the research station authors included trees in the GTR that did not reach this diameter. This paints an unrealistic picture of growth rates in the forest due to the removal of smaller trees from the canopy of older and taller trees.

“We challenge the content of the RTM because we should be able to trust the science, and you can’t trust this document when they ignore their own data sources, use flawed analysis and assumptions,” he said.

Wudtke said the data ignored by the RWG showed a much higher growth rate among older and taller trees, which, if not harvested, would result in an overgrown forest similar to the The state the Black Hills National Forest was in 20 years ago, leading to an increase in wildfires and the mountain pine beetle epidemic.

The challenge follows a visit to Spearfish Forest Products by South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem and Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon where industry and state forestry officials met to discuss the issues potentials that both agencies may face if the proposed reduction in timber sales continues.

“If the Forest Service does not change course, we will be facing terrible decisions within the forest products industry,” said Wudtke.

The proposed three-year lumber sales program would reduce the allowable sale quantity (QMA) for timber sales in the forest to 124,000 cubic feet, or CCF, (100 cubic feet = 1 CCF), for fiscal year 2022; 91,000 CCF for the 2023 financial year; and 88,600 for fiscal year 2024. This represents a decrease compared to 172,818 CCF sold in 2019 and 125,416 CCF sold in 2020. (Final figures were not available for 2021) This downward trend has already caused the closure of the sawmill in Hill City earlier this year.

The factory was one of three owned by Neiman Enterprises.

Wudtke said if the trend continues, he anticipates the closure of another large forest products factory in the first six months of 2022.

“And if they keep cutting back on the program like they said, there will likely be more closures afterwards,” he said. “The forest products industry in the Black Hills is incredibly integrated. You not only have sawmills, but you also have a pellet industry that lives off the residues of those sawmills. You have a chipboard manufacturing plant in Rapid City that also makes a living on chips and residue from other companies. “

What state officials are proposing is working with the Forest Service to incorporate data collected from independent sources into the planning process for the Black Hills National Forest, a proposal that Noem says could be difficult given the political climate in Washington DC.

“This White House doesn’t care about me, in fact they get up every morning and try to destroy me,” she said during her visit to Spearfish.

Despite the political rhetoric Noem used while addressing the Biden administration, Wudtke said the goal of the challenge is to try to help the Forest Service collect the most accurate data possible from the Black Hills, so that the agency can make the best decision for the health of the forest and the communities there.

“The authors of the RWG are not at all associated with the Black Hills National Forest, and the Black Hills National Forest has long made it very clear that there is a clear line between the forest,… and the research side of agency and there’s a wall between them, ”Wudtke said. “It’s like telling my 12 year old son, ‘getting mad and having a bad attitude doesn’t solve any problem,’ and it’s the same here. We are always looking for ways to help the Forest Service and the states are doing the same. No one is trying to fight them, no one wants to fight them, but we want to help them, and we hope they will accept help.

The Pioneer contacted the office of Jeff Tomac, forestry supervisor of the Black Hills National Forest, who declined to comment on the RTM or the formal challenge filed against him except to say, “Forest supervisor Jeff Tomac has contacted the RTM. governor offices (South Dakota and Wyoming) to meet and discuss the state of the Black Hills National Forest and provide information on the 3-year outlook for the timber program.

Wudtke said the Forest Service has 60 days to respond to the challenge from its filing on November 19. Until then, he said that people could play an active role in participating in the planning of forest services.

“Black Hills National Forest is beginning a forest plan review process, which requires public participation. If there are people in the communities who are concerned about what is happening in the forest and what is happening to their communities, they should look for ways to get involved in this planning process and other projects that are happening. also in the planning stages on the forest ”, he mentioned.

The Forest Service welcomes comments

Extract from the Black Hills National Forest website: “With the help of partners and stakeholders, the forest begins the forest plan review process by asking how partners and stakeholders would like to be involved.

“It is essential that we get this right. If we bring the forest back to the conditions we had two decades ago, we are going to face another mountain pine beetle epidemic and an increase in wildfires in the forest and in our communities, ”said Wudtke. . “Of course, we don’t want to cut too much either, but we can’t lose sight of managing a healthy forest. “

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