RAPID CITY, S.D. – The governors of South Dakota and Wyoming want the supervisor of the Black Hills National Forest to rework a set of draft assessments for the forest’s plan.
In a letter to the supervisor, Jeff Tomac, Governors Kristi Noem and Mark Gordon wrote: “We request that the Forest Service produce another set of draft assessments with a public comment period, that those assessments include citations for factual statements, and that they contain discussion of why one authority was relied upon over another.”
The letter was prompted by the decline of timber mills in the Black Hills. Current timber sale levels were set during the late 90s. A mountain pine beetle epidemic and three of the largest fires in Black Hills’ recorded history have occurred since then, taking with it suitable sawtimber. One report suggests inventory needs to double to maintain current harvest levels.
“The mills in our region are critical infrastructure, and our states have already experienced several mill closures,” wrote Noem. “We have seen the ramifications in other states after they lost their mill infrastructure and we do not want to suffer similar fates.
The governors claim the Forest Service used flawed statements “not backed by scientific material” in its revisions. They pointed to what they believe are errors in analysis and assumptions in timber sustainability.
An independent review recommended several corrections to the report. However, it found no compelling evidence to support requests to withdraw the report.
The Forest Service is currently revising its forest plan. Once finalized, the plan will guide forest management for the next fifteen years.