Black Hills Timber Industry Wins Appeal to US Forest Service for GTR Review

The Black Hills local timber industry received some welcome news last week when a formal review of the findings from a critical general technical report (GTR) found flaws in the methodology used to determine its conclusion.

The Rocky Mountain Research Station located in Fort Collins, Colorado, issued GTR-422 in February 2021. The GTR forecasted an ominous situation in the Black Hills National Forest, which led the US Forest Service to announce a three-year reduction plan that reduced the allowable timber sales from 18.1 million cubic feet (CF) to 12.4 million CF, then to 9.1 CF in 2022 and 8.86 CF by 2023. Those announced reductions have already directly affected the Black Hills timber industry, with the closure of Rushmore Forest Products in Hill City in March 2021 one of the casualties.

In November 2021, the Black Hills Forest Resources Association (BHFRA) filed a formal request for a correction of information against several claims found in GTR-422 through the Data Quality Act. That request was reviewed and denied by the Rocky Mountain Research station in March 2022. The BHFRA then filed a request for reconsideration with an interagency review panel in April. That review panel was comprised of three timber and statistical modeling experts from the Bureau of Land Management and one research forester from the Forest Service.

That panel’s response said, “Of the 7 claims, the panel finds that claims 1, 2, and 7 were substantiated as not adequately addressed in the initial response.” The Forest Service, however, has said it does not enact policy changes based on any one piece of data, its timber sale reduction plan aligns with the findings of the GTR, largely based on the now debunked timber volume assessment.

Now that the basis for that recommendation has been formally acknowledged as flawed, the question remains whether it will affect how much timber sales the Forest Service will allow in the Black Hills.

This does not necessarily mean timber sales will be increased.

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