U.S. Forest Service is hurrying to harvest fallen trees after July tornadoes

RAPID CITY, S.D. — Black Hills National Forest, U.S. Forest Service says they are harvesting hundreds of trees after tornadoes in early July decimated nearly 1,000 acres.

The Black Hills National Forest is 1.2 million acres of, mostly, Ponderosa Pine. The pine tree is used by timber product companies in a variety of ways, from poles to homes. The fallen trees have to be harvested as soon as possible before they dry up and begin to rot or become infested with insects.

Forest Service says they may be able to harvest 8,000 or 9,000 cercum cubic feet (CCF) of the fallen trees if they move quickly, that equals roughly 100 or more semi trucks, carrying timber.

“The biggest priority for us is by utilizing a timber sale what is it that we’re trying to accomplish out on the ground,” says acting BHNF forest supervisor, Jerry Krueger. “What ecological process are we attempting to accomplish.”

As they increase their harvesting right now to remove the trees from the forest floor, U.S. Forest Service is still working with timber industry stakeholders to ensure the sustainability of the forest long-term.

In March, Rocky Mountain Institute, as part of the USDA, drafted a report on the current state of timber harvest in the BHNF. They say the current business practice is not sustainable and may lead to forest depletion in the next few decades.

The current rate of sawed timber harvest is 153,534 centum cubic feet (1 CCF = 100 cubic feet). Rocky Mountain Institute says to continue allowable sale quantity of 181,000 CCF outlined in the BHNF plan 12 million CCF of standing trees are needed. The forest currently stands at less than 6 million CCF. In short, the Forest Service has to decrease their rate of harvest or risk having fewer and fewer harvestable trees in the next few decades.

On the other hand, the industry provides $120 million and 1,400 jobs to the local economy through the hundreds of jobs it provides and local products. Eighty percent of local timber is provided by the Black Hills.

“Ponderosa Pine being a disturbance driven ecosystem it really needs to be managed and we have some choices on how we manage it either through prescriptions that are developed through science and can do a lot of benefit on a land or nature and that’s a choice we can do,” says Ben Wudtke, Executive Director, Black Hills Forest Resource Administration. “A lot of folks don’t quite like the way nature manages it with mountain pine beetles or wildfires.”

Forest Service is working with stakeholders on a solution. The final report of the GTR will be published by the Rocky Mountain Institute sometime in August.

Black Hills Timber Growth and Yield Draft General Technical Report draft can be viewed, HERE.

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