Public comment due for draft assessments in Black Hills Forest Plan Revision
With more than a million acres of forest, the Black Hills is home to recreation, timber production, hiking, and mining - and everyone involved has a say in its operation.
BLACK HILLS NATIONAL FOREST, S.D. — A Forest Plan, much like a city’s comprehensive plan, guides the overall management direction of a forest. In the Black Hills, the same plan has been in use since 2006, and federal guidance says they should be updated every 15 years.
The process, which takes anywhere from three to five years, started last fall.
“It’s a three-part process,” said Forest Plan Revision Team Leader Lou Conroy. “The first phase is the assessment phase, which is what we’re in now. And then phase two is plan development, which we’ll put together a draft environmental impact statement at that time. And phase three is monitoring once a decision is signed.”
This assessment phase gives the U.S. Forest Service an overview of trends in different areas of focus, but there’s no decisions being made.
A Forest Plan helps guide land use and development and identify areas intended for specific uses. Balancing multiple uses is an important part of the planning process, and helps protect resources, maintain healthy ecosystems, and promote sustainable uses.
“It’s just merely gathering of information of the existing condition to help determine if there’s a potential need to change any of our guidance in the newly revised plan,” Conroy said.
With more than a million acres of forest, the Black Hills is home to recreation, timber production, hiking, and mining – and everyone involved has a say in its operation. The public comment period for the draft assessments in phase one closes Monday, August 1.
Forest plans are managed by a “responsible official,” the forest supervisor. For the Black Hills National Forest, that’s Jeff Tomac. Tomac manages the process and approves the final plan. They work with an interdisciplinary team to develop and revise the plan.
“Public collaboration…public participation is a big part of the process, and we welcome and invite all comments from the public,” Conroy said. “We’re looking forward to working with our stakeholders as we move through this process.”
Conroy and his team will then review the comments and reach out to address the authors concerns in an effort to have final assessments available later this fall. There will then be other opportunities for public comment once a revised plan and draft environmental impact statement are released further down the line.