Legislators comment on final Forest Service General Technical Report

Legislators gave their two cents on the recent GTR that was released by the U.S. Forest Service.

 

RAPID CITY, S.D. — The final General Technical Report is in.

In the report, The U.S. Forest Service says that the current level of harvest among standing live sawtimber doesn’t support a sustainable timber program. The forest service looked at a total of 60 scenarios in the GTR in order to determine how much Ponderosa Pine could be sustainably harvested.

But, the timber industry says the maximum amount of harvesting operations should be maintained, through their own NFAB report.

The Black Hills Forest Resource Association says the potential economic impact, including job losses and even company closures, could be devastating.

“That number is roughly 1,400 people of direct employment,” said Ben Wudtke, the Executive Director of the Black Hills Forest Resource Association. “We would see roughly 80 to 90 percent of those jobs eliminated under the recommended numbers of the final GTR.”

Wudtke says that the report looks at roughly 60 percent of the acres that other reports look at and that the official report is a very similar to the initial draft.

Conservation groups, including retired Forest Service employees, say that the final forest service report answered many concerns from the draft report.

“The mortality rate, the growth rate and the amount of acres that they were analyzing and so they really strengthened this,” said Forest Service Retiree, Dave Mertz. “I think they did a pretty good job of explaining and defending all three of those.”

On Monday, Rushmore Forest Products, a sawmill in Hill City, announced that it will be closing in two months after being in business in the small Black Hills community for over 50-years.

Representative Dusty Johnson says that the recent mill closure in Hill City is heartbreaking, and situations like the closure could be averted if the Forest Service considered more options.

“My biggest concern is that they only analyzed the timber available in suitable timberlands and those are areas that have historically been harvested,” said Rep. Dusty Johnson. “We know we can unlock great new areas of the forest by creating new timber roads.”

Senator John Thune also released a statement saying,

“This is obviously terrible news for the employees and families whose loved ones will be out of work and for the community as a whole. During my time in Congress, I have consistently advocated for a robust, responsible timber program for the health of the forest—protecting communities against fires and preventing future pine beetle epidemics—and the health of the regional economy. Despite our efforts, the Forest Service has unfortunately been unable to appropriately balance various interests in the forest, and this seems to be an avoidable consequence of that failure. I will continue pressing the Forest Service to implement recommendations from local officials and stakeholders to proactively manage the Black Hills National Forest.”

NewsCenter1 reached out to the regional offices of the forest service but has not yet receive a response.

You can view the full GTR report by clicking below.

GTR REPORT

And HERE is a copy of the signed recommendation from the National Forest Advisory Board to the FS.

Categories: Local News, South Dakota News