Lifted from Paul Horsted's Facebook page the two photos were taken 145 years apart but the same fire-charred snags appear in both. Check out the infestation of ponderosa pine in this portion of the Black Hills where it hasn’t been a natural forest since 1863 when a nearly Hills-wide fire (possibly set by humans hoping to clear pine) opened grazing for distinct historic ungulates.
In 1874 when the Custer Expedition came through the Black Hills bringing invasive cheatgrass for their horses stands of ponderosa pine were sparsely scattered but a century and a half of poor ranching and land management practices have created an unnatural overstory best controlled by the mountain pine beetle, prescribed fires and periodic wildfires. After a century of destructive agricultural practices exotic grasses infest most of western South Dakota.
The absence of prescribed burns and the persistence of cheatgrass on the Black Hills National Forest and on other federal and state ground are just more examples of the intense lobbying efforts of Neiman Enterprises and from welfare ranchers addicted to cheap grazing fees. Instead of allowing native aspen to be restored, stands of doghair ponderosa pine, ladder fuels that feed wildfires, cover much of upper Castle Creek. Ponderosa pine only reached the Black Hills less than four thousand years ago yet spurred by the Neimans the Black Hills National Forest is still planting it in the Jasper Fire area.
$20 bucks says the black bears, wolves, and moose sighted in the Black Hills are migrating from the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming down the Tongue River across the Powder to the Pumpkin Buttes where the Cheyenne and Belle Fourche Rivers begin then go up Beaver Creek near Newcastle into upper Castle Creek and down Rapid Creek to the Black Fox/Rochford area.
The Rocky Mountain Complex and the Black Hills have been home to a much larger aspen community in the fairly recent past. Ponderosa pine sucks millions of gallons from aquifer recharges, needles absorb heat and accelerate snow melt. Clear the second growth ponderosa pine, conduct fuel treatments, restore aspen and other native hardwoods, build wildlife corridors and approximate Pleistocene rewilding using bison and cervids.
Fire suppression continues to ravage historic Black Hills ecosystems https://t.co/Ve3fEym0ea— interested party (@larry_kurtz) March 25, 2019
Because of earth hater #sdsen John Thune the cost of prescribed fire has soared to over $2000 an acre putting the @BlackHillsNF @CusterNF @USFSNebraska and @WindCaveNPS in harm's way. https://t.co/ddJkcCTu91 https://t.co/0LnP5q77lK— interested party (@larry_kurtz) April 27, 2019
Tree ring research shows that aggressive fire suppression in the 20th century led to changes in tree density and species. https://t.co/z3kD71vEaP pic.twitter.com/0a6IwsQVaK— USDA Forest Service (@forestservice) April 29, 2019
If You Love Forests, Let Them Burn | William F. Shughart II https://t.co/YzN0f4XPEa— interested party (@larry_kurtz) April 29, 2019