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Logging levels headed lower in Black Hills National Forest

Seth Tupper
Hell Canyon in the Black Hills National Forest.

This interview is from SDPB's daily public-affairs show, In the Moment, hosted by Lori Walsh.

The leaders of the Black Hills National Forest plan to reduce logging levels.

This comes after several years of debate about sustainability in the forest.

The Forest Service uses a unit called "CCF," which is equivalent to 100 cubic feet, to measure timber. For the past 11 years, loggers have taken an average of 191,000 CCF out of the Black Hills National Forest each year, according to Forest Supervisor Jeff Tomac.

But he said the Forest Service will reduce that number to about 124,000 CCF this year, and then maybe to an average of 90,000 or 100,000 CCF in subsequent years.

That's the proposal for now, anyway.

“I wouldn't say it's set in stone," Tomac said. "What we have talked about with industry and others is that those are the preliminary numbers that we’re coming up with for the next three years.”

Loggers and sawmill operators say that’s too drastic. One sawmill already closed earlier this year in Hill City. Industry officials say logging reductions could cause more mill closures.

Tomac hopes the timber industry stays healthy.

“I haven't talked to anybody that disagrees with the fact that we need industry as a partner on the Black Hills National Forest for current and future management," Tomac said.

Environmentalists and conservationists say forest managers have no choice but to reduce logging. They cite the Forest Service’s own research. It says recent logging levels are not sustainable. That’s because mountain pine beetles and wildfires have killed millions of trees during the past 20 years.

As the Forest Service adjusts logging levels for the next few years, it’s also trying to write a new master plan for the forest. That will take several years to draft. It could influence logging levels, hiking trails, campgrounds and all other aspects of the forest for the next 15 years.

Seth supervises SDPB's beat reporters and newscast team. He works at SDPB's Black Hills Studio in Rapid City.
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