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Board Advises Forest Service to Ignore Research, Harvest More Black Hills Pine

Back in March, the National Forest Service issued a draft technical report that said that current logging rates put us on pace to deplete the Black Hills of all sawtimber by 2054 and that if we want to sustain current logging levels in future decades, we need to significantly reduce logging for several years to give the ponderosa pine a chance to regrow.

The Forest Service Advisory Board voted 11–5 last week to increase logging in the Black Hills:

The board recommendations to forest leaders for a five-year pathway to sustainability includes: a total annual commercial sawtimber program of 181,000 CCF per year. This would consist of an annual ponderosa pine sawtimber program of 175,000 CCF per year and an annual white spruce sawtimber of 6,000 CCF per year. “The BHNF estimates 150,000 to 200,000 CCF of white spruce volume that needs to be removed to meet objectives. Therefore, the 6,000 CCF per year could fluctuate higher to help meet objectives,” the recommendation states, adding that the forest should look for additional opportunities on timberlands outside the board recommendation and utilize Farm Bill authorities where applicable and work with forest products companies to assess operability.

…The majority recommendation follows a suggested annual harvest of 181,000 CCF versus a recommended 70,000-115,000 CCF in the draft GTR that came out in March [Jaci Conrad Pearson, “Forest Advisory Board Recommends More Logging in Black Hills,” Black Hills Pioneer, 2020.10.24].

The working group empaneled by the board to come up with this recommendation says the Forest Service’s research is wrong:

Paul Pierson delivered the working group’s presentation. He works for Neiman Timber, the main sawmill company in the region.

Pierson said members of the working group disagreed with the research report’s findings. He said the real amount of sawtimber in the forest is higher than the estimate in the report. He said insufficient logging created the dense and overgrown forest that became a perfect breeding ground for mountain pine beetles and large wildfires during the past two decades. Now that those natural forces have thinned the forest, he said, logging should be used to maintain that condition.

“We are at a crossroads right now. We have a more resilient landscape than we’ve had in a long time here,” Pierson said. “And if we harvest too little, we allow stands to start increasing in density and volume, and we’ll follow the same trend that we followed in the past” [Seth Tupper, “Board Goes Against Researchers, Tells Forest Service to Increase Logging in Black Hills,” SDPB, 2020.10.21].

Logging puts $120 million and 1,400 jobs into the Black Hills economy each year. We can only hope the board’s recommendation is not another instance in South Dakota of government officials putting immediate gain over sustainable long-term practices.


  1. Debbo 2020-10-30 21:37

    Given the history of SD’s GOP government and resource extraction businesses, I can’t share your hope.

  2. JW 2020-10-30 22:16

    The Forest Advisory Board has never, in it’s lifetime, demonstrated any willingness to endorse science and ecological sustainability of anything. All one has to do is look at the timbersale reentry time lines over the past 60 years and the average dbh of saw logs in the sales and it should be plainly obvious what is driving logging…. Money and jobs…… has nothing to do with forest health. Using the Mt. Pine beetle as an excuse to maintain or increase harvest to avoid future outbreaks is nothing more than fear mongering……… The timber industry in South Dakota is just another element of vampire capitalism taking advantage of and in most cases, over-exploiting the publics resources.

  3. John Dale 2020-10-31 10:25

    If we harvest intelligently it will fix carbon in the structures we build. Otherwise, forrest fires will release the carbon into the atmosphere.

    It’s a no-brainer, and a great time to harvest given the conditions of the market.

  4. Donald Pay 2020-10-31 11:46

    Yeah, it’s the same old nonsense from our logging comrades. You can’t find a more corporate socialist enterprize than logging in Western forests. That’s not to disparage loggers who do hard work. It’s just that the logging companies need to be expropriated and cut out of the equation when considering forest health/management. These are national forests not the forests of corporate socialists.

    The timber industry creates the conditions for fires and bugs, then uses that as an excuse to cut mature forests. People who know how to manage sustainable forests realize how dangerously out of whack things are. There’s a way to properly manage the forest, but it can’t be done with the centuries old concepts that corporate socialist loggers favor.

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