Norbeck Society says stop timber sales, temporarily

BLACK HILLS NATIONAL FOREST, S.D. (KOTA TV) - Norbeck Society says too much timber is being cut down and is asking for the Black Hills National Forest to temporarily stop.

Norbeck Society, a land conservation organization, sent a letter to the Black Hills National Forest Service days ago to ask them to temporarily stop timber sales.

"Hit the pause button on sales of timber until there's a chance for the interested parties to convene and talk about how to bring the stable quantity into alignment with the current state of the forest," Norbeck Sociey Vice President Mary Zimmerman said.

The letter laid out the concerns the organization has about timber volume being harvested in the forest.

Zimmerman said though she is not trying to eliminate logging she fears too much of it will hurt the environment.

"More than 1,200 other plants that grow naturally in the forest and this system of depressing them to grow more pine is just kind of the culture method in play right now. We believe those plants need to be offered a place to live. And having those supports all of our wildlife," Zimmerman said.

However, Scott Jacobson with the Black Hills National Forest Service, says cutting down trees was necessary to tackle the mountain pine beetle epidemic.

"We had an accelerated timber harvest to thin the forest in advance of the mountain pine beetle to treat the forest. So that helped with reducing the amount of trees for the bugs to eat," Jacobson said.

He said the forest service is instructed to cut down 197,000 Ccf (cunit) of timber next year, which he said is a lot.

Taking note of harvest numbers, the forest service asked for an accelerated analysis process. It's normally a study conducted every seven years, but the forest service asked to have one at the end of three years.

In the analysis, several plots of land are counted to gauge the health of the forest. Scientists count every tree in a plot, compare it to the last analysis, to measure growth of trees, number of trees that died from bug infestations and other potential scenarios. Based on those results they will adjust if need be.

However, Jacobson said people just have different ideas on how to maintain the forest.

"So we do respect the Norbeck Society and their position and we will certainly keep them as one of our partners moving forward and analyzing and taking a look at what's out there ahead of us," Jacobson said.

The analysis report will be available in December. Afterwards, Jacobson plans to sit down with community partners like Norbeck Society, county and state officials to go over the report and decide what to do next for the forest.