Black Hills National Forest

Seth Tupper / SDPB

A divided advisory board on Wednesday rejected Forest Service research calling for less logging in the Black Hills National Forest and instead recommended more logging.

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.

Seth Tupper / SDPB

Soaring gold prices are fueling a rush for the next big discovery in the Black Hills, but gold miners and prospectors are encountering opposition.

One reason for the surging prices is the down economy. Some people see gold as a safe investment, so they scramble to buy it in times of economic uncertainty. That sends the price higher.

In August, the price hit $2,000 an ounce for the first time ever.

That’s motivated some investors to do more than just buy gold. Some are also investing in the search for places to mine it.

Seth Tupper / SDPB

A citizen panel wants Black Hills National Forest officials to write a new master plan.

The Black Hills National Forest Advisory Board unanimously approved the recommendation Wednesday. Drafting a new forest plan would require several years of research and public engagement.

Board member Greg Josten, who serves as South Dakota's state forester, hopes the Forest Service’s national office will ease the financial burden.

Seth Tupper / SDPB

Scattered around the Black Hills, tucked away in the forests and meadows, there’s a curiosity: privately owned vacation cabins on public land.

One of the oldest is the Durst cabin. A logging family built the cabin in a meadow along Flynn Creek around 1911.

Eight years later, Custer State Park was born. Its boundaries soon wrapped around the vintage cabin, with its dark wood walls, screened-in porch and outhouse. Today, the cabin still stands within the park.

Seth Tupper / SDPB

The Black Hills National Forest is littered with dead trees knocked down by vicious weather, but some of those trees damaged in recent storms could have new life as lumber. 

Ron Schell is one of the loggers making it happen. 

Seth Tupper / SDPB

A work group in the Black Hills is doing some math that could influence the long-term health of the Black Hills National Forest and its timber industry. 

The Timber Sustainability Work Group consists of six members from the 32-member Black Hills National Forest Advisory Board. 

Mineral Mountain Resources

A Black Hills group that advocates for clean water is suing the Forest Service

The Black Hills Clean Water Alliance wants information on exploratory gold drilling. The alliance filed a Freedom of Information Act request two years ago in 2018.  

Black Hills National Forest

The Black Hills timber industry is either logging itself to death, or logging sustainably.  

Both conclusions have been reached by opposing sides reading the same report.  

The report, written by Forest Service researchers, says there aren’t enough ponderosa pine trees in the forest to sustain current logging.  

BHNF Update

Apr 9, 2020

In The Moment ... April 9, 2020 Show 792 Hour 2

The Black Hills National Forest is at a crossroads. SDPB's Seth Tupper joins us with an update on the developing conversation around timber cuts and forest sustainability. 


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Seth Tupper/SDPB

New Forest Service research says the Black Hills National Forest could be depleted of trees suitable for logging in the next 30 years. 

Forestry Segment

Apr 2, 2020

In The Moment ... April 2, 2020 Show 787 Hour 2 Is the health of the Black Hills National Forest at a crossroads? Is the amount of timber being forested today sustainable in the wake of the pine beetle epidemic? What data do we have that helps us predict the future of the forest? Tomorrow the Forest Service Rocky Mountain Region hosts a formal stakeholder meeting and discussion to review data projections. SDPB's Seth Tupper will cover the meeting.

Bison Escape Again From Black Hills Pasture

Jan 10, 2020

  Some bison have escaped again from their mountain-meadow enclosure in the Black Hills. 


In The Moment ... December 19, 2019 Show 723 Hour 2

Mark Van Every has spent nearly four decades in the forestry business. Since August of 2016, he's been the supervisor for the Black Hills National Forest. Since his arrival, he's dealt with mountain beetles, new recreation trails, and an extended fire season, among other challenges.

Norbeck Society

A Black Hills forest advocate says the current scale and pace of logging in the forest is unsustainable.

In a letter to the forest service, the Norbeck Society says the pace of logging has stayed consistent, despite insect infestation and wildfire depleting the merchantable volume of timber.

The Norbeck Society is requesting the forest service put a pause on selling timber and asking for a collaberative meeting with forest service officials and the timber industry to work out a plan for 2020.

Chelsea Monks / Forest Service

The US Forest Service teamed up with the Boxelder Job Corps to install a new buck and rail fence in the Bearlodge District of the northern Black Hills.  The Job Corps is a training program through the US Department of Labor providing technical training to young people ages 16 to 24. 

More than a dozen students from the Boxelder Job Corps teamed up with the Forest Service to complete installation of the fence.

Twenty-One Mile Strugis Trail Network Open

Jul 1, 2019

A thirty-year vision for forest land south of the city of Sturgis is coming to fruition.

All twenty-one miles of the non-motorized Sturgis Trail system are complete and open for hiking. It’s part of an intergovernmental agreement between the city and the forest service.

The extensive, multi loop trail system winds through the area of Vanocker Canyon, Deadman Mountain and Veterans Peak south of Sturgis.

In The Moment ... November 6, 2018 Show 455 Hour 1

How has the Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota changed? Physically, yes but also the politics and laws surrounding it have changed too.

Bill Coburn is a forestry consultant. November 8th at noon, his speaking engagment is called "The Black Hills Forest: 1874 - 1908." This takes place at the Homestake Adams Research and Cultural Center in Deadwood.

Adria Botella

In The Moment ... July 31, 2018 Show 390 Hour 2

Last week the Black Hills Forest Service signed a post-Pine Beetle Epidemic initiative meant to strengthen the forest against future infestations and wildfires.

Black Hills National Forest Supervisor Mark Van Every says the Black Hills Resilient Landscape Project should prevent another infestation going forward.

SDPB's Lee Strubinger sat down with Van Every for a look at the project, and current forest health. 

In The Moment ... January 19, 2018 Show 259 Hour 1

This weekend marks the annual Burning of the Beetle in Custer, where residents take out their environmental frustrations on the man-made carcass of an enormous, fireworks-filled bug.

Hank Fridell and Paul Horsted are with Custer's Burning Beetle committee.

Charles Michael Ray / SDPB

Last summer’s Crow Peak wildfire near Spearfish resulted in a hub of information being released to the public about the fire’s status.

Fire officials used various strategies to get the word out to the public, but they say one particular approach worked especially well.  

Text message alerts sent to subscribers through the 211 Helpline ensured people received the latest news on the wildfire.

Spearfish Canyon Tours

UPDATE: Black Hills National Forest Service supervisor Mark Van Every issued the following statement in regards to earlier claims the state never reached out to the forest service about Spearfish Canyon.

Crow Peak Wildfire 100 Percent Contained

Jul 5, 2016
Robert Cota / Boxelder Job Corps Crew 15 Fire Program Manager

Officials say the Crow Peak Wildfire is contained. On Independence Day, crews achieved 100 percent containment. The fire burned around 2,700 acres but no structures were lost. Officials say that almost 530,000 gallons of water were dropped on the fire and personnel worked a total of 32,000 hours. All evacuations in the area have been lifted but parts of Higgins Gulch Road, Crow Peak Bench Road and Crow Creek Road remain closed.

Previous stories below

The Mickelson Trail cuts through the middle of the Black Hills. But it doesn’t connect to Mount Rushmore.

A new non-motorized path could change this. The Forest Service is taking public comments on the proposed Rushmore Connector Trail.

The path would zig-zag across national forest land, starting at Hill City and eventually ending at the Mount Rushmore parking lot.  

Officials say SD Game, Fish & Parks applied for a permit to construct the roughly 16 mile trail about three years ago.  

Fallen Firefighter Remembered In Rapid City

Aug 9, 2015
Charles Michael Ray

A large crowd gathered to remember fallen firefighter Dave Ruhl.  

Rapid City residents lined the streets for a procession and filed into a memorial service at the Civic Center.

Ruhl, was a former member of the Coast Guard who became a Forest Service Firefighter in the Black Hills. 

He was on assignment firefighting in California when he was killed on the Frog Fire in the Modoc National Forest.