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Report calls for large cut in Black Hills timber production

March 24, 2021 GMT

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — Scientists are calling for a 50% to 60% reduction in timber production for the Black Hills National Forest over the next several decades, according to a report released Tuesday.

The 68-page report by the USDA Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station is based on forest census data taken over a two-year time frame and evaluates harvest level sustainability. The recommendation follows the mountain pine beetle infestation that killed nearly 9 million ponderosa pine trees in the Black Hills and an increase in the extent and severity of wildfires.

“Since 2000, the Black Hills National Forest has experienced several disturbances that have reduced standing live sawtimber volume which will affect future harvest levels,” the report states.

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The report said the current volume of standing live sawtimber does not support a sustainable timber program at recent rates of harvest, under a wide range of scenarios considering growth and mortality rates. It will be up to forest managers to make the final decision, the Rapid City Journal reported.

One day prior to the public release of the report, Nieman Enterprises announced it will permanently close its saw mill in Hill City, eliminating 120 jobs and 12 contract crews. The company cited a reduction in timber available in the Black Hills National Forest.