Former deputy Forest Service Chief: Neiman will close Spearditch sawmill

As Jim Neiman threatens to close his sawmill in Spearditch timber harvesters in other states are converting the kilns that dry lumber to biochar production. 

Jim Furnish was deputy chief of the US Forest Service from 1999 to 2002.
Now the battle is on. Industry and SD and WY Reps and Govs are going nuts. [Neiman Enterprises] had 3 mills; closed Hill City last Spring and another closure will likely follow soon. And they blame the FS after modernizing to expand capacity and improve efficiency. Color me outraged. The vast majority of BHNF harvest is with Nieman [sic]. Maybe smaller mills will step into the void if they leave. I get that BHNF may have been over a barrel with Trump and Sonny Perdue at USDA … but now?? Stop the madness. [Furnish]
The Black Hills have been "beat to hell" after the Neimans pressured the Black Hills National Forest to overlog but in my home state of South Dakota Lawrence County, where Jim Neiman owns a sawmill, has so far been deprioritized in the BHNF's revised plan.
With the relatively low precipitation rate the Northern Hills has been seeing this winter, many residents are concerned about what the fire season will bring this summer; but according to Chris Stover, fire and fuels specialist with the U.S. Forest Service, the lack of snow is the more immediate threat. The Black Hills is a diverse forest system, which sits in an area where weather patterns can flip from year-to-year creating new challenges for its management. Stover said it’s vital for the health of our forest and the continued well-being of the people who live here that everyone do their part to meet those challenges whatever the weather. [Black Hills Pioneer]
Ponderosa pine sucks billions of gallons from aquifer recharges, needles absorb heat and accelerate snow melt while aspen leaves reflect sunlight in the summer months and hold snowpacks in winter. Insects like the mountain pine beetle and spruce bud worm can help promote drought- and fire-tolerant species like aspen.

The Black Hills hasn’t been a natural forest since probably 1863 when a nearly Hills-wide fire likely set by Lakota people hoping to clear pine opened grazing for distinct historic ungulates. The collapse of the Black Hills hydrologic region was forecast in 2002 even as the mountain pine beetle fights to save Paha Sapa water supplies.
With the increasing frequency and severity of altered disturbance regimes in dry, western U.S. forests, treatments promoting resilience have become a management objective but have been difficult to define or operationalize. Many reconstruction studies of these forests when they had active fire regimes have documented very low tree densities before the onset of fire suppression. Building on ecological theory and recent studies, we suggest that this historic forest structure promoted resilience by minimizing competition which in turn supported vigorous tree growth. Creating stands largely free of competition would require a fundamental rethinking of how frequent-fire forests can be managed for resilience. [Operational resilience in western US frequent-fire forests]
Blaine Cook and Dave Mertz are just two former Forest Service employees concerned about the 13,000 acre Bull Springs Timber Sale in Custer County. According to Mertz there haven't been any litigators to sue the Forest Service allowing Republicans to infiltrate management of the Black Hills National Forest. 

Lodgepole pine and Douglas fir have been extirpated from the Black Hills for nearly a century, the oldest aspen was logged out during European settlement; yet, tiny stands of old-growth ponderosa pine can still be found in the Hills. Ponderosa pine contains a much higher level of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) than many other cone-bearing trees and tends to be more explosive in wildfire conditions especially when under drought stress. Beetle-affected trees are pockmarked with ‘pitchouts’ that burst into flames during wildfires and torch more readily.

Overstory removal can work because conscientious land managers have learned that where fire is introduced after mechanical harvest emerging aspen and other hardwoods add the biodiversity necessary to sustain healthy ecosystems while sequestering carbon. 

New Mexico has been home to much larger aspen communities in the fairly recent past. Because it reproduces clonally underground from adult trees aspen (Populus tremuloides) is one of the first plants to reestablish after fire. Fuel treatments on the Santa Fe National Forest helped contain the Medio Fire in 2020. 

Neiman is currently logging within the Sioux Ranger District on a national forest named for a war criminal and has stepped up harvest on the Bighorn National Forest in Wyoming where there are still stands of Douglas fir to feed their sawmill in Hulett which is expected to remain operational.

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