Controversy ensues over Black Hills National Forest sustainability, forest management

RAPID CITY, S.D. – Controversy tonight over a study of the commercial timber harvest in the Black Hills National Forest.

During the Regular Pennington County Commissioners meeting, Tuesday, Natural Resources Director, Scott Guffey shared the latest commercial timber harvest report from the federal government.

The General Technical Report conducted by the United States Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station says the current forest management plan is not sustainable.

Guffey disagrees.

“Can’t handle that much, well then it can’t handle that much,” says Guffey. “The problem a number of us have with the GTR is the assumptions that were made on what that future looks like and what the yield potentially could be. In our comments we make mention to mortality, we feel that mortality rate is pretty high and that takes in wildfires, Mt. Pine beetle and weather kill.”

The report says with current forest management practice – the forest will only be sustainable for the next 30 years.

One suggestion made by rocky mountain was to drastically reduce timber harvest.

“Obviously that’s concerning because it would effect our timber industry and forest products industry in the Black Hills, which is vital to maintaining the forest health and being able to manage the forest.”

Guffey claims the commercial timber industry contributes 120 million dollars to the local economy and supports 1400 jobs.

He says if the forest is not harvested as usual, it will be susceptible to mountain pine beetles and severe wildfires – arguably more damaging to the forests.

“Our latest Mt. Pine beetle epidemic would have been far worse, and more acres impacted if we didn’t have our current industry in place right now which has been a huge ally in this.”

Guffey’s recomendation to county commissioners was to submit comments to the forest service — explaining concerns with the report.

A stakeholders meeting regarding the general technical report is scheduled for May 1st.


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