New research is out on how much logging to allow in the Black Hills National Forest, and the findings are already caught up in a debate over the future of the region’s timber industry.
The Rocky Mountain Research Station report says years of damage from pine beetles and wildfires have changed the national forest. Researchers say logging should be reduced by at least 50 percent for the next several decades, from a maximum of 181,000 CCF to a range of 72,400 to 90,500 CCF (one “CCF” is 100 cubic feet of timber). Otherwise, they say the forest could run out of trees big enough for logging.
Bob Burns is a member of a local group called the Norbeck Society. He agrees with the report’s findings.
“We need to slow down timber sales,” Burns said, “if we want to get the forest back to where we can have that full production like we have in the past.”
The logging industry has a different view, said Ben Wudtke, who represents the industry as executive director of the Black Hills Forest Resource Association.
“The recommended timber-sale amounts would likely reduce forest-products employment and companies in the Black Hills by 80 to 90 percent,” Wudtke said, “and along with it, our ability to care for the forest.”
Earlier this week, Neiman Enterprises closed one of its three Black Hills sawmills. The company said it shut down its Hill City facility because of existing Forest Service logging restrictions.
The Forest Service has scheduled a public webinar April 7 to discuss the new research report. The report is a final version of a draft report released last year. A local forest advisory board conducted numerous public meetings about the draft report before deciding in October, on an 11-5 vote, to recommend against a reduction in logging.
-Contact reporter Seth Tupper by email.