Southern Black Hills residents voice concern in forestry project

In the area of Elliot Drive, North Pole Road and Medicine Mountain Road, residents say they've seen the forest change around their home.

BLACK HILLS, S.D. — Residents in the Southern Black Hills are concerned about logging going on in their area.

In the area of Elliot Drive, North Pole Road and Medicine Mountain Road, residents say they’ve seen the forest change around their home.

“We love the privacy, everything that comes along with it. It’s awesome,” said Scott Bailey, a North Pole Road resident. “And then obviously this past year they just came and have started decimating the forest. They’ve literally just wiped it out.”

Mitch Paulsen is a rancher who lives down Medicine Mountain Road. He says that his cattle graze on U.S. Forest Service land during the summer and that the current changes to the forest could impact his herd.

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“These are wide open areas. There’s nothing coming in underneath these little teeny trees. There’s no grass, they’re so thick,” Paulsen said.

Paulsen also elaborated on how the lack of taller trees can help his cattle feed during the summer, due to more grass and water being available.

Although the Black Hills National Forest Rangers have heard complaints like these in the past, they sympathize with those impacted.

“I live in a neighborhood with nice big trees. I get it and really it comes down to we changed their landscape,” said Jerry Krueger, the Deputy Forest Supervisor of the Black Hills National Forest. “And they don’t like it, but I get it. I understand it. And what’s different here is it’s a highly trafficked area.”

The cutting is part of the Bull Spring Stewardship Timber sale, which is part of the Black Hills Resilient Landscape Project. That sale was put together in 2018. Work on the project began in 2020.

Residents claim that loggers are clear cutting, which leaves no trees growing on the area harvested. Clear cutting is something will only happen in specific scenarios in areas of the Black Hills, where areas need to have trees planted.

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However, Black Hills National Forest officials argue that the main type of forestry involved in the Bull Spring project is over-story removal, which takes out larger trees but leaves younger trees to eventually take their place as lumber that will be harvested in the future.

Forest Service officials say they’re trying to fix a problem that was created during the Mountain Pine Beetle infestation, when they had to cut trees aggressively to get ahead the infestation.

“When that was done, it created a series or a structure on the forest that was out of sync with our forest plan,” said Rob Hoelscher, the District Ranger for the Hell Canyon Ranger District.

In over-story removal, the goal is to create a healthier, more balanced forest.

“We’re trying to balance the amount and distribution of of different age classes, different size classes out on the landscape,” Krueger said.

For more information on the types of forest involved in the project, click here.

For more information on the Black Hills Resilient Landscape Project, click here. 

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