U.S. Forest Service officials want public input on a plan to make the Black Hills more resilient in the future.
The goal of the Black Hills Resilient Landscapes Project is to make the forest ready for a changing climate. That includes challenges like the pine beetle epidemic and a potential for increased forest fires.
Forest service officials say much of the Black Hills has moved away from the desired conditions described in a Management Plan created 20 years ago.
Officials place blame on primarily on pine beetles and forest fires.
Jerry Krueger is a deputy supervisor with the Black Hills National Forest. He says the plan is to make the forest more resistant to insect infestation and other natural disturbances, alongside reducing the risk of wildfires… He says this could mean more prescribed burning, as well as more timber harvesting and non-commercial thinning.
“We’re trying to get the forest, for lack of a better phrase, perhaps, back in balance with what we predicted the forest needed to be the most resilient.”
Part of that resiliency is reducing the level of downed timber. Krueger says there are 10,000 piles of dead trees and debris in the forest at any given moment. Krueger says a piece of the Black Hills Resiliency Landscape Project is also preparing the forest for climate change…
“Fortunately we’re working with a landscape that’s pretty pliable with regards to climate change. Ponderosa pine, Ponderosa pine forests and the plants associated with that forest are fairly responsive to what we’re forecasting in terms of climate change, which is extended warm seasons and additional precip in the spring and fall.”
The forest service is taking public comments for a month. They hope to have a final plan in place by 2018 that can govern management decisions for the next decade.