Logging Target Surpasses Researchers' Recommendation In Black Hills

Oct 19, 2020

Logging equipment at work in the Black Hills.
Credit Black Hills National Forest

Forest Service researchers spent the last several years studying the amount of timber in the Black Hills, and they concluded that logging should be reduced.

They said the sustainable annual range is a harvest of 70,000 to 115,000 CCF. One “CCF” is 100 cubic feet, which is a little less than a cord of firewood stacked 8 feet high, 4 feet long and 4 feet wide.

This fiscal year, the Forest Service plans to exceed the researchers’ recommended range.

That news came from Jerry Krueger. Until last week, he was the acting supervisor of the Black Hills National Forest. He spoke to the Black Hills National Forest Advisory Board during a virtual meeting Sept. 16.

“We have received our assignment from the regional forester for 2021,” Krueger said. “And our assigned target for 2021 is 175,000 CCF.”

Krueger did not respond to messages afterward. Friday, the Forest Service announced he’s been replaced as acting supervisor, and a new permanent supervisor will take over next month.

Meanwhile, members of the advisory board hold opposing views on the timber target.

Bob Burns is part of a local conservation group, the Norbeck Society. He said the timber target should be reduced, because wildfires and mountain pine beetles have killed millions of trees in the last 20 years.

“It’s put us in a position where we have half the volume that we did,” Burns said. “And it seems obvious that you’re going to have to cut back on the harvest.”

Burns said the Forest Service is under pressure from the timber industry to keep the target high.

Ben Wudtke represents the timber industry as executive director of the Black Hills Forest Resource Association. He said the forest can sustain more logging than Forest Service researchers say. He said the researchers are excluding from their analysis too many parts of the forest that they deem unsuitable for logging.

“So, if you only look at 60 percent of the area, no wonder you have less standing timber,” Wudtke said.

This fiscal year’s logging number is set, but a working group formed by the Black Hills National Forest Advisory Board is still analyzing the research. The working group and the board could recommend targets for the next several years.

For longer-term targets, steps are under way to draft a new forest master plan that would include a public-input process.

-Seth Tupper is SDPB’s business and economic development reporter.