BHNF has been broken for decades

Aspen, Rocky Mountain juniper, white spruce and bur oak were at least as abundant as ponderosa pine was in the Black Hills during pre-settlement times. 

As many readers are aware the first US Forest Service timber sale took place in the Black Hills near Nemo but only after nearly all the old growth of every native tree species had been cleared for mine timbers, railroad ties and construction. Native Douglas fir and lodgepole pine are virtually extirpated from the Hills.

After the wells for Ellsworth Air Force Base were drilled many aquifer recharges were no longer able to keep up with demand robbing scant groundwater for the numbers of second-growth pine that had been allowed to overrun the region promoting pine beetle outbreaks.

After a prescribed burn got away from the Forest Service in the 1980s a moratorium on non-mechanical fuel treatments just exacerbated the problem. Ronald Reagan was president in 1988 when wildfires in Yellowstone National Park burned nearly 800,000 acres and also during the arsonist caused Westberry Trails Fire that destroyed 15 homes, 45 outbuildings, 40 vehicles and burned almost 5,000 acres near Rapid City.

In 2002, the National Forest Protection Alliance (NFPA) named the Black Hills National Forest the third most endangered. In July of that year a power line owned by Black Hills Energy caused the Grizzly Gulch Fire that could have burned deep into Deadwood had the wind not switched. The Grizzly Gulch Fire opened nearly 13,000 acres of overgrown and beetle-killed ponderosa pine but invasive weeds and cheatgrass moved in because cars and hunters have killed off the elk, white-tailed and mule deer that control grasses.

Now, after closing his sawmill in Hill City, Jim Neiman admitted 80% of the timber he has taken comes from public lands owned by the Forest Service. I've known Hulett, Wyoming's Jim Neiman for nearly fifty years. He's a ruthless negotiator and committed capitalist who would log the Black Hills into the dirt since he controls the BHNF leadership and South Dakota's Republican congressional delegation. 

So, Republican South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem is correct when she said the BHNF has been poorly managed. I maintain that has been happening since 1899 and Forest Service Case Number One

The South Dakota Democratic Party should lobby the Biden administration to free Leonard Peltier, pay the tribes and settle the Black Hills Claim, dissolve the Black Hills National Forest, move management of the land from the US Department of Agriculture into the Department of Interior as a national monument in cooperation with the Bureau of Indian Affairs Division of Forestry and Wildfire Management. Mato Paha (Bear Butte), the associated national grasslands and the Sioux Ranger District of the Custer/Gallatin National Forest should be included in the move.

Photo: shot of 2002 Grizzly Gulch Fire from the '59 Deadwood burn. The spot fire is on Pillar Peak, at least a mile downwind of the main fire.

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