U.S. Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota) today sent a letter to U.S. Forest Service (FS) Chief Tom Tidwell calling on the FS to increase its 2015 investment in the timber harvest program to help fight mountain pine beetle infestation and maintain forest health in the Black Hills National Forest (BHNF).
In January, the FS announced an additional $1.5 million for BHNF timber harvest in 2014. Thune’s letter notes that increased investment in the timber harvest program has received national acclaim and the Black Hills received the 2013 “Chief’s Award” as a result of the innovation and increased ability for the BHNF to reduce the spread of mountain pine beetle.
“The timber industry is vitally important to the Black Hills region and supports hundreds of local jobs,” said Thune. “Additional support for the timber harvest program will allow more timber to be harvested and sold, stimulating the local economy, decreasing the chance of devastating wildfires, and combatting the pine beetle epidemic.”
Thune also introduced legislation in March of 2013, the Emergency Forest Rehabilitation and Restoration Act (S. 661), that would require the U.S. Department of Agriculture to implement necessary procedures to thin more acres of federal forestland every year. The bill would also restrict the Forest Service from purchasing additional land for the next five years and redirect those funds to finance increased timber harvest.
The text of Thune’s letter follows:
October 23, 2014
Chief Tom Tidwell
U.S. Forest Service
1400 Independence Ave., SW
Washington, DC 20250
Dear Chief Tidwell:
I write today to thank you for your efforts to restore the health of our forests and request your continued support for the timber harvest program, particularly in Region 2 and the Black Hills National Forest (BHNF).
The timber harvest program has proven to be a successful management tool that has improved forest health, especially in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Although the Black Hills forestlands continue to face a significant threat from bark beetles, including the mountain pine beetle, the Black Hills remain much healthier than many forests in the Rocky Mountain Region due in large part to the active management and timber harvests on federal, state, and private land within the Black Hills.
In December 2012, the Forest Service announced it would begin implementing the Mountain Pine Beetle Response Project in the Black Hills National Forest. This plan included designating 250,000 acres of the forest as “high risk for mountain pine beetle infestation” and outlined the Forest Service’s intention to thin 122,000 acres over five to seven years. This project has received national acclaim and the Black Hills received the 2013 “Chief’s Award” as a result of the innovation and increased ability for the BHNF to reduce the spread of mountain pine beetle. Increased investment in the timber harvest program is vital to meeting the goals of this project and retaining forest health in the Black Hills.
Not only has the timber harvest program proven beneficial to forest health, it also has provided a major boost to the economy. The timber harvest program contributes $120 million to the economy in the Black Hills, and provides 1,500 jobs in the Black Hills area. Currently, ten forest products companies in the Black Hills region depend on adequate and consistent volume from the BHNF.
It is for these reasons the Forest Service must continue its support forest management through the timber harvest program. For the past 10 years, the Forest Service has made a significant investment in the timber harvest program. Region 2 has exceeded timber sale targets for the past 11 years, and will exceed 95% of its timber sale target for Fiscal Year 2014. I request that the Forest Service continue making necessary investments that would not only maintain but grow the timber harvest program, and ask that your timber target for the BHNF be increased to at least match the sold volume for Fiscal Year 2012.
Thank you for your consideration of this request, and I look forward to continuing to work with you to improve the health of our nation’s forests.Sincerely,