Independent panel stands by recommendation to halve logging in Black Hills – Dakota Free Press

In spring 2021, the USDA Forest Service released a study calling for a 50% reduction in logging in the Black Hills to give the forest time to recover from natural and man-made stresses. The timber industry hooted and roared after a review of this study. The USDA responded by convening a four-person independent panel to review the data. After reviewing the report and asking the researchers for clarification, the panel concluded that four of the seven industry claims lacked substance, while the other three can be resolved through corrections that clarify the researchers’ findings, but do not cancel:

In summary, the independent panel of four has carefully reviewed the information you have provided. The Panel has found no compelling evidence to support your request for withdrawal (withdrawal) from GTR-422, however, after full review and thorough consideration, the Panel has forwarded the above corrective actions to the Deputy Chief of Research and Development for the Forest Service. The Forest Service will issue an addendum or GTR revision to the claims that the panel has found to be substantive. The committee thanks you for drawing the forest service’s attention to your request [Witne Neil, acting data quality official, letter to Ben Wudtke providing determination in response to request for reconsideration, USDA Forest Service, 2022.11.01].

The loggers try to spin the independent verification as support for their argument:

Ben Wudtke of the Black Hills Forest Resource Association called for independent verification of the report as part of the Data Quality Act challenge. He said the response corrected mistakes calling for a 50 percent reduction in timber sales.

“In our eyes, it certainly dispels the myth underlying this discussion,” said Wudke. “We hope that the forest service can see the whole discussion and certainly the document in a different light. And open some doors for another conversation about what is really needed for a lumber sales program in the Black Hills.” [Lee Strubinger, “Independent Review Supports Drop in Black Hills Timber Sale,” SDPB, 2022.11.16].

But the report still says what it says: cut down fewer trees!

Dave Mertz, Black Hills National Forest’s retired resource officer, said the response does not change the content of the report, which suggests a reduction in timber sales volume.

“They say quite clearly that the GTR is in their answer because the basic analysis they did was correct in their view,” Mertz said [Strubinger, 2022.11.16].

So hey, why not give the forest a break and focus on straw bale building for a while?