The Black Hills:They’ve Got it Figured Out II

Black Hills FACA Committee: key to success?
Black Hills FACA Committee: key to success?

Here is some information that was given to me by Blaine Cook, Forest Silviculturist on the Black Hills National Forest.

1) Per 1997 Forest Plan (Preface-9) “The Black Hills are unique in that there are few other uplifted geologic formations completely surrounded by prairies. Furthermore, the Black Hills and its surrounding plains probably were never glaciated. The nearest glaciation occurred in the Big Horn Mountains to the west as a result of the Wisconsin ice advances to the east. The closest glaciation to the east would have run approximately parallel with the Missouri River, about 150 miles from the Black Hills, and occurred about 13,000 years ago during the late Pleistocene.” So, the question remains how the Black Hills (Island in the Plains) got very small portions of trees and plants. The Forest blends north to south to east to west.

2) Attached are forest health report on rcsc_02_13-Harney_Limber_2012 and rcsc_02_12_blackhillslodgepole.

3) White spruce is approximately 5% of the Forest.

4) As for statements on forest volume, the number stated of 6.5 billion bd.ft. is an exaggeration. In year 1999, the FIA report stated 6.1 billion bd.ft (Int.1/4 rule). Since year 2000 there has been large wildfires, tree mortality from insects and timber harvests contributing to removals of the Forest. My opinion of forest volume is around 5.1 billion bd.ft. The Forest is realizing more aspen through wildfires, pine tree mortality and hardwood enhancements by removing pine.

If you’re curious about the black backed woodpecker and other bird monitoring you might want to check out this link. Bird monitoring is done in partnership with the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory.

The Forest Monitoring Report has a section on black backed woodpecker as well as other MIS (management indicator species). The link is here.

Information on the FACA committee can be found here, as well as their recommendations since 2003, when they were established. Here’s their recommendation on the MPB project from 2012:

Mountain Pine Beetle Response Project
The Board reviewed the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Mountain Pine Beetle Response Project and recommended the Black Hills National Forest Supervisor make the following determination:
1) The proposed activities and alternatives address the issues, respond to national policy, guidance and law and Forest Plan direction, and meet the purpose of and need of action in the Mountain Pine Beetle Response Project Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
2) The information in the analysis is sufficient to implement proposed activities.
3) Alternative C of the Mountain Pine Beetle Response Project be adopted as the Preferred Alternative in the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Project.
4) There is a need for a one-time, site specific amendment to existing Forest Plan direction to address the public’s concerns about Spearfish Canyon.

58 thoughts on “The Black Hills:They’ve Got it Figured Out II”

  1. Take a look at page 41 of the Rocky Mountain Observatory Report and page 122 of the Black Hills monitoring report.

    Here are some highlights from page 122:

    The black-backed woodpecker is distributed in low densities throughout most of the Black Hills.

    This species’ Forest-wide population trend is likely to decline in the future as vegetation management efforts to reduce the fire-hazard and insect-risk continue.

    • Little Bird: These questions (in slightly altered forms) came up during a black backed woodpecker presentation by Chad Hanson at the 5th (15th year) Association of Fire Ecology Congress in Portland, Oregon last December:

      How many black backed woodpeckers now live in the Black Hills (“baseline data”)?

      What is their current range in North America?

      Approximately how many black backed woodpeckers currently live in North America?

      I’m interested in any numbers you can provide, but please cite your references. Thanks for any help on this.

    • Dear Little Bird, you left out a lot of that section that leads to a different conclusion as it does not mention the current “irruption” caused by MPB.


      The black-backed woodpecker is distributed in low densities throughout most of the Black Hills. Where numerous wildfires and insect outbreaks have recently occurred, the species has been observed much more frequently and in higher densities.

      The Forest-wide relative density for this species is probably higher than “normal” given the current habitat conditions. Black-backed woodpecker populations are ‘eruptive” as reflected in their densities in burned habitat. This pattern of rapid colonization and subsequent decline is consistent with findings of other studies (Anderson 2003). This species’ Forest-wide population trend is likely to decline in the future as vegetation management efforts to reduce the fire-hazard and insect-risk continue.

      Overall, habitat for this species is being provided consistent with Objective 238b, Objective 221 and Objective 11.03 (see Monitoring Item #12). The “aging” of large burned areas, such as the Jasper Fire, into habitat less suitable for black-backed woodpeckers is likely being offset by the increasing acreage of insect-infested timber stands and the stable acreage of large diameter, older pine trees. Though additional time is needed to grow more of structural stage 5.

      So if you have fires and MPB, they will be more dense, but the species is distributed throughout the Hills. Well, my question is “how many do you need”? And who decides how “dense” is enough? If they are distributed in low densities throughout, are they really endangered?
      On the RMBO chart..Is .186 units occupied “enough” or “not enough”?

      • I never stated a conclusion, I pointed out facts that are important.

        When you cut through all the B.S. in that evaluation the bottom line is that “this species’ Forest-wide population trend is likely to decline in the future as vegetation management efforts to reduce fire-hazard and insect-risk continue.

        How many do you need? Enough to maintain a viable population.

        The listing petition from pages 98 onward speaks to this issue and forest management on the Black Hills.

        Do the Black Hills really have it “figured out”?

        • Little Bird: I asked for some “facts” which are also important, but you have ignored. Birds fly and can readily relocate to more favorable circumstances. Their populations fluctuate through time. Why does it seem so important to you to try and maintain “habitat” of dead and dying forests for these critters in deference to occupation and uses by people? So far as I can recall, they are a fairly common bird throughout their range. The recent outbreak of beetle-kill and wildfire is not the “norm” in any way shape or form. Why try and encourage the retention of these conditions? Just to keep local bird numbers at an artificially high level?

          • I didn’t mean to neglect you Bob. I’m sorry.

            Birds can fly, yes. My question to you is what happens when they are no longer able to “readily relocate to more favorable circumstances” because there is no more habitat available? Is it possible that is occurring in the Black Hills? I believe the listing petition asks the FWS to consider the Black Hills as a distinct population segment, which may mean they are isolated from other populations and more favorable circumstances are not available.

            Woodpecker populations do fluctuate throughout time, although I think you’ll agree with me that there is not much in the way of fluctuation once a population is extinct.

            Your next line I’m having a little trouble with. Personally, I prefer not to think of beetle infested forests as dead and dying. They are actually quite alive with life, although maybe not at the macro level that some of us would prefer. And then you get into the black. Walking into a burned over forest is amazing! Succession is such a spectacular thing to observe. Watching as plants recolonize over time is something to behold.

            With that being said, it seems there is a balance to be struck between the needs and desires of humans and those of your feathered friends. I fear that in the Black Hills, the balance may have tipped too far. That does not mean that I want to stop all timber sales, but perhaps we should all step back and re-evaluate the sustainability of the current paradigm.

            The current Forest Plan has eliminated the standards that were in the old one. Most of what is left are non-binding guidelines and objectives. Do we really want to continue going down a path with an insatiable appetite? I honestly hope this isn’t a repeat of the Northern Spotted Owl saga.

            In terms of their occurrence, the listing petition states that the woodpeckers are listed as a “Sensitive Species” in U.S. Forest Service Region 2, which includes the Black Hills. Evidently a “Sensitive” designation has less to do with their feelings and more to do with a concern for the population viability of the species in the region.

            The listing petition claims that the BHNF is the only national forest in Region 2 that has a resident woodpecker population. Maybe someone else can verify that? Page 49 of the RMBO states that the woodpeckers are designated as an “RC”, “SGCN”, “R2S2”, and “MIS”. What a mouthful. It probably means they are important.

            In your next line, you state that “[t]he recent outbreak of beetle-kill and wildfire is not the “norm” in any way shape or form.” Has there been a recent outbreak in wildfire in the Black Hills. The monitoring reports seem to indicate otherwise. And then there are salvage sales. Do you think the birds would take issue with the “salvage” word-choice”?

            And supposedly the local timber company is handing out bumper stickers saying Beetles are Enemy Number 1. What does that mean for the woodpeckers in the Black Hills?
            Well, according to the Forest Service it means that “this species’ Forest-wide population trend is likely to decline in the future as vegetation management efforts to reduce fire-hazard and insect-risk continue.”


          • Hi Little Bird: Thanks for the long and thoughtful response. Those weren’t my questions, though. Please look back to my first post on this string.

            Your writings are very interesting and helpful in that they reveal we have major disagreements in perspectives that probably can’t be resolved on a blog, if at all. And there is no real reason to.

            Yes, I have been in a lot of burned out forests — and spent a summer in the Black Hills during the year and time of the big flood — that has been the basis of my research and much of my employment for nearly 50 years (slightly more if you count my hour of student tree planting and one deer season of hunting in the Tillamook Burn). I think they are mostly ugly, dangerous places and you get covered with yucky soot when you move through them. Horrible places to camp, with a few exceptions that come to mind. Compared to their former condition, I think they look seriously damaged and sometimes foreboding (night is usually the worst) and the deep chirping sound of irrupting beetle populations can even be a little intimidating at times. I just like people and deer and healthy green trees a whole lot more than I like bugs and blackbirds and snags. And that is almost the entire foundation of our differing perspectives, so near as I can tell.

            Burns (including those created by wildfires and human ignited prescribed fires) are great locations for hunting deer and picking native blackberries within a few years of being created, though, and there are usually a lot of wildflowers, songbirds, and bugs in the mix, too. So I don’t think they are bad necessarily (especially human ignited prescribed fires), but our nation certainly has a superabundance of these habitats with no short-term end in sight, and one of my questions had to do with the range of black backed woodpeckers in North America. It’s an important point.

            I posted something on spotted owls in this blog a while back that probably mirrors my thoughts on black back woodpeckers:

            I’d be interested in your thoughts on those questions, too.

        • OK, so how many do you think it takes to maintain a viable population? On what basis?

          The problem with CBD’s logic is that fires and bbs are rising. So if vegetation management rises at the same rate, the pops will stay the same. So climate change tells us that fires will rise from x acres from fires plus y increment in fires from climate change =z acres burned in the future.

          If climate change is causing more bugs and worse bug damage, then similarly a bugs, plus b increment from climate change yields c acres from bugs in the future.

          Now if habitat now is (x + a) , and habitat then is (z + c), then even if the vegetation management increases, as long it increases proportionally to the increases in acres, the area available to the bird would be the same.

          Of course in reality, CBD doesn’t know y or b, nor does anyone. Nor, actually do they know the projected acres managed. Neither does anyone else. It appears that if they paint a scary picture of the future, they will get a great negotiation position to have the land managed the way they want. Nevertheless, this particular future is clearly unknown by all, including any scientists.

          • Are fires and black-backed woodpeckers rising on the Black Hills N.F.? There have been fires since 2000, sure, but as has been pointed out, summer wildfire and other snag habitat decreases in value for the species after a few years. So in the past couple years, have summer wildfires been “rising” on this forest? I’d like to see a map showing that, if anyone has one. Where is the data that the woodpeckers are also rising, especially on the Black Hills? They are a Region 2 sensitive species with a downward trend.

            The 1982 NFMA regulations defined a viable population. The 1997 Revised Plan and 2005 Amended Plan used the 1982 regulations (at least according to the Records of Decision).

            “Fish and wildlife habitat shall be managed to maintain viable populations of existing native and desired non-native vertebrate species in the planning area. For planning purposes, a viable population shall be regarded as one which has the estimated numbers and distribution of reproductive individuals to insure its continued existence is well distributed in the planning area. In order to insure that viable populations will be maintained, habitat must be provided to support, at least, a minimum number of reproductive individuals and that habitat must be well distributed so that those individuals can interact with others in the planning area.”

            Apparently the last forest plan amendment did not figure out the necessary number of reproductive individuals and habitat distribution to support that number, despite purporting to use the 1982 regulations. That’s part of the ongoing dilemma.

          • Marten, you are talking about the legal term, I was talking about actual biological “viable population.” I think that’s one of the most confusing things about using terms with biological meaning in the law.
            I could have missed it but where is the evidence the species is declining?

            I am fairly aware of the NFMA 1982 regulation definition. But if we use the legal definition, we still get back to “the minimum number of reproductive individuals?”

            Seems like 411 pairs (although petitions to list are not necessarily objective sources of information) would be that. And there are snag protection requirements in the vegetation projects. So I’m not sure your point. Summer wildfires vs. other? What about bark beetles that BBWs also like?

          • Is the legal term inaccurate biologically? Why would Region 2 list the woodpecker as a “sensitive species” if it wasn’t on a “downward trend”? A “seems like” endorsement of 411 pairs as enough doesn’t instill a lot of confidence, either. The Black Hills comprise over a million acres. Is 411 pairs over that area enough for genetic diversity and viability in the long-term to prevent extirpation, given the area’s isolation from other populations and ongoing removal of high-value habitat or measures to prevent high-value habitat development? That’s partly why the FWS is reviewing the petition further and undertaking its own examination of the issue. Rota’s research shows the woodpeckers definitely prefer summer wildfire-created snags over MPB snags.

  2. You might want to check this out too. It’s a Rocky Mountain Research Station study that shows that MPB killed trees are fine habitat for Black Backed Woodpeckers. Just as good as burned habitat. Do you suppose it qualifies as “best available science?”

    As usual, the petition to list the BB woodpecker has nothing to do with the woodpecker, it has everything to do with deep ecologists wanting to let it burn. “re-wilding” is it called? Good luck with that.

      • Yes. I think this piece is interesting

        The scale and intensity of two currently proposed massive logging projects, the MPB
        (Mountain Pine Beetle) Response Project and the Vestal Project (as well as other similar
        smaller projects currently proposed) represent a forest-wide effort to largely eliminate
        suitable Black-backed Woodpecker habitat from the Black Hills National Forest. These
        projects, covering several hundred thousand acres, would intensively log most of the
        forested acreage in the entire BHNF, including most of, or the great majority of, the
        stands that currently provide suitable Black-backed Woodpecker habitat (dense stands
        wherein many/most trees are affected by beetles), as well as targeting denser (in terms of
        basal area) pine stands that would otherwise offer the best potential for future Blackbacked
        Woodpecker habitat across the forest ( [follow
        link for “Land & Resources Management”, and then “Projects”]).

        Now, if the MBPR project is so bad, why wouldn’t CBD simply litigate that? It seems like listing would give you a bigger bite at the apple than project by project. Certainly life appears to be more complicated than “if you only collaborated, and did larger areas in your NEPA, the FS wouldn’t have a problem.”

      • Oddly enough, the petition doesn’t talk at all about the birds life-cycle and habits. The birds are necessarily nomadic, as their habitat becomes nonviable for them, during their 8 year lifespan. Their habitat lasts just 6 years. If the previous 60 years of salvage policies (little to zero snags left, in projects) haven’t killed off the birds, why should we think that modern BBW-mitigated salvage projects are going to “harm” the birds? The habitat has a shelf-life and no amount of mitigation will make it last longer than six years. Currently, there is no lack of snags in our western forests. Most fire salvage projects leave snags both inside and outside of salvage cutting units. It seems to me that the BBW is being used to change or eliminate salvage logging, mainly on private lands. However, Hanson takes it as far as it can go, preferring zero cutting of trees, forever. Yes, he has stated that on his website.

        • Larry, you made me curious about the snag retention provisions of the “massive” MPB Response Project. Here is what I found:

          Conifer snags Retention Guidelines:
          • Conifer Snags over 20 inches dbh and those with cavities would be cut only for safety reasons.
          – Standard 2301a
          • Conifer snags under 20 inches dbh would be cut only for safety reasons or when necessary for construction of roads, skid trails, firelines, and log landings.
          • Retain all hardwood snags except for those that are considered a safety hazard – Standard

          Hmm. Wouldn’t snags have to be cut to “eliminate habitat” if their habitat is snags? All very confusing. Easy to assert, hard to defend, unless it is a tiny part of the overall listing decision and doesn’t get adequate attention.

          I’m hoping that the scientific information related to this case will be available for public review and discussion.

          • Sharon: I’m beginning to think that the greatest good this blog might perform — and which all of the Type A males and other commenters of all perspectives seem to be in full agreement — is to promote full and open transparency of all scientific information and processes used to make policies and management decisions regarding federal forests and grasslands. One function might be to operate as an independent clearing house designed to make full disclosure of all such information via stable, easy to navigate, Internet formats — maybe on contract to the USFS, BLM, Sierra Club, or some such coalition.

          • On my last salvage project, 8 years ago, we saved snags in clumps within the cutting units, away from roads and landings. We also saved ALL snags away from roads outside of the cutting units, but still inside the project boundaries. We also excluded snags that could have been included inside the project. We also excluded snags within protected areas, which could not have been cut, under any plan. So, it is very clear that the BBWs won’t go extinct, due to logging in their habitat. How much habitat does a small population need, when that habitat becomes unusable in 6 years?

          • Is “safety reason” or “safety hazard” defined? If not, who decides what is a safety reason or hazard or when cutting a snag is “necessary” for road construction, skid trails, or log landings? Is there a snag density standard? Are all the snags equally valuable to black-backed woodpeckers? Rota’s research indicates summer wildfire produces the best habitat.

          • Most projects actually define what constitutes a “hazard tree”. There is also a provision within the Timber Sale Contract that mandates removal of “hazard trees”. There are many variables to weigh in determining what is “unstable”. Sometimes, a simple thump on the trunk with a hardhat reveals just how hollow that tree is. However, most dead trees that can reach the road should be cut. For most projects, if a dead or unstable tree leans away from a road, or other improvement, it is to be left in place. Region 6 has an actual hazard tree certification course, and I wonder why other Regions don’t mandate them, as well.

            Yes, it is the person with the paintgun who decides what is a hazard, and what is not. However, with your work so easily viewed, along roads, it is best to keep to the guidelines. More than once I have told my boss to mark the tree, if he wants it marked. If it met the guidelines, I surely would have marked it.

    • Based on five years of Black Hills research, Rota’s dissertation and briefing points at this link found the value of fall prescribed burns as habitat for black-backed woodpeckers to be relatively low, while MPB snags to be fair, with summer wildfire-created snags to be the most valuable habitat for black-backed woodpeckers. Rota provided these as comments on the black-backed woodpecker petition.!documentDetail;D=FWS-R8-ES-2013-0034-0016

      • There is a very finite amount of snags needed by BBW’s, depending upon current populations. Additionally, those snags only last 6 years, as habitat. Usually, huge areas of steep ground and lower tree densities are left outside of salvage cutting units. Even during the 70’s and 80’s, when 2 or 3 snags per UNIT were thought to be sufficient for “wildlife”, you would think that these birds would have “went extinct”, going so many years without BBW-friendly “protections” in place.

        While we are at it, just how many dead trees can be utilized by 100 pairs of BBW’s, in 6 years?? It appears that the largest snags are being left to the birds, and I would agree that such snags last the longest. It really doesn’t matter how the tree was killed.

  3. The state’s wildlife ‘management’ agency sells numerous licenses to hunt and exercises some political footsie with Mr. Bobzien who sells grazing permits: snags are potential liabilities, a potential for lawsuits.

      • Exactly, Sharon: revenues drive the politics of the Black Hills, an ecosystem off most radar screens and the cost of litigation is going up by aforementioned GOP attorneys general will make fighting for critical habitat even harder than it is now.

        Interesting aside to this discussion is that morels (Morchella augusticeps) fruit after wildfires in mixed pine/aspen just as the beetle is emerging and the woodpeckers are feasting in burned areas: just another variable altered by fire suppression.

        Mycologists report disruption in the fungal communities associated with aspen: the oyster mushroom, Pleurotus osteatus, v. populinus, is in steep decline on the Black Hills National Forest. The saprophytic mushrooms often associated with human consumption are the most important bioremediators of toxins presenting on the Forest. Morels fruit after fires in mixed pine/aspen habitat to entice animals to deposit organic material; bison and elk will crawl on their knees and loll their long tongues for morels growing under dead-fallen pine trees. The suppression of fire threatens that
        relationship, too.

        Boletus edulis, once prolific on the Forest and growing in mixed aspen/ponderosa pine are all but extirpated.

          • In dry forests, I tend to think that fuels will burn long before branches and tree trunks can “turn into soil”. Sterilized soil also affects fungal diversity, too, methinks. We need to look at likely realities, instead of longing for pre-Man forests.

          • Opinions are like recta: everybody has one. As someone proposing the Greater Missouri Basin National Wildlife Refuge longing for pre-Man forests is my reality, thank you very much.

          • And, what does that have to do with the Black Hills? You cannot take today’s humans out of our public lands. Since that is true, you cannot take humans’ impacts out of our public lands, either. We have to deal with realities.

          • Larry K.: My suspicion is that you have very little idea what a “pre-man” forest looks like. In North America, depending where you are, the pre-man forest was at least 12,000 years ago in many areas, with some evidence of people occupying some areas as many as 35,000 to 40,000 or more years ago. The climate was way different in those times — mostly colder, with glaciers still covering much of the landscape. And there were saber-toothed tigers and mammoths wandering the ecosystems.

            If you are actually talking about “pre-white man” forests, then you are expressing the very racist concepts that underlie our Wilderness Act, the ESA, and much of our forestry legislation the past 50 years. Otherwise, there will be mound builders and their tended crops in your proposal.

            The real problem I have with the vast majority of enviro statements is the concept that pre-white Indians “walked lightly” on the land and lived in harmony with the “native” plants and animals that shared their environments — i.e., inconsequential inhabitants of a “naturally functioning ecosystem.” It is only since the white man came that forests were “destroyed” and the earth became “fragile” and in danger of “tipping” somewhere or another. Talking about pulling something out of their collective recta! Be careful — I’m guessing your proposal may be built from a foundation of racial intolerance and misinformation.

          • White Republicans are inferior, that much is certain.

            Paha Sapa (“hills that are black” may have been a reference to burnt timber instead of the accepted, “seen from a distance”) 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. Aspen shoots are favorite browse for elk and bison. Brown and Sieg have noted at least 77 instances of human-induced wildfire on the pre-settlement Hills.


          • Larry K: this is the second time you have posted a racially-charged political statement here and I am going to follow Larry H’s lead and suggest we should stop printing your stuff completely if you don’t stop with the stupid (check the dictionary) political statements. This is not the right forum for those types of off-topic (and stupid) pronouncements and will get you bounced if you are unable to control yourself.

            I did like the woodpecker video however, and the fleeting observation that these animals are also found in green forests helps to explain their persistence in the environment when there is a lack of snags. Of course, we have a super abundance of that habitat-type now, so was also impressed by the brief discussion of trade-offs with the animals that prefer those types of environments. Some of the adjectives being used tip the hand of the biases of the producers, but that just makes the presented material easier to interpret

          • Congress certainly knows how to be racist when it wants to be (see all the abrogrations of numerous treaties with tribes and other legislation divesting Native Americans of land). The Wilderness Act and ESA embrace values you might not share, such as letting natural processes (mostly) prevail in certain landscapes, or the inherent vibrancy of the full spectrum of native species, but it’s a stretch to say they’re “racist” because they acknowledge much of the country has been altered and many species are already lost or at risk.

            How many Native Americans were living in North America before Europeans arrived? Is there an estimated number available based on research? Could we really compare human impacts in the past century to the impacts that would be expected from Native Americans’ traditional uses of the land (agriculture, hunting, burning, etc.)? The human population has grown immensely since colonization, as have natural resource extraction and alteration of landscapes and waters.

          • Hi Marten: Precolumbian North American human populations were estimated as being as high (or higher) than 100 million people. Bonnicksen (Ancient Forests of North America) has good references and is a good starting point. When you say “letting natural processes prevail” I’m assuming you mean “non-human processes.” When you go into a Wilderness quite often there is obvious evidence (in the forms of huckleberry fields, camas prairies, beargrass meadows, lithic scatters, rock art, etc.) that people have been the keystone species and dominant forms of disturbance in those places for thousands of years. To ignore that fact and write legislation as if Indian actions were limited and/or inconsequential gives us all the wrong answers regarding “where man is a visitor that does not remain” or creating “critical habitat” with the idea that: a) Indians had little, if any, impact on local “wildlife habitat” patterns, and b) by creating such anomalies, then targeted single species will increase in populations can be readily seen as racist. Indian technical skills and presence is totally ignored, and white actions are characterized as “destructive” is what I mean by racist. Two races, two entirely different treatments (check out Mississippi Moundbuilders, Anasazzi cliffhouse and aqueducts, and Mayan ruins as a good starting point in this regard).

            When whites occupied North America the Indian influence was ignored just as soundly — despite documentary evidence to the contrary. This is the same rationale that was used by white settlers and the US government in the 1800s to justify stealing their land, breaking written treaties, and killing tens of thousands of people in the process; and (probably tens) of millions more via introduced disease. These were still common assumptions in the 1960s and 1970s when Wilderness and ESA legislation was written. That was 40 or 50 years ago, and we have learned a lot about pre-white human impacts since that time. But continue to ignore that reality. This is based on the idea that pre-white Indians were inept chuckleheads living in small, isolated populations, and conquering white populations were evil and driven by greed and killing off numerous native species in the process. I’d recommend Kat Anderson masterpieces Before the Wilderness, and Tend The Wild as good starting points. Kat is specific to California, but her findings and conclusions are relevant to most of North America.

            Yes, it is fairly easy to compare white disturbance patterns during the past couple of centuries with precontact Indian disturbance patterns of 500 to 1000 years ago. Anywhere. But to ignore both in a fantasized rationale for making legislation is a good start to understanding why so many of our plans based upon erroneous assumptions (based on race) are so easy to predict failure. Wildfires, habitat pattern descriptions, invasive species, hoot owl populations, and other (usually unstated) assumptions that drive these predictive models and policies are often DOA from the beginning for ignoring Indians and trivializing their influences. If they can’t predict the past (they can’t), how can they possible predict a future. Answer: they can’t.

            Yes, the environment has been changed dramatically (again) in response to unprecedented human populations, modern resource values, and sophisticated changes in technology — globally, not just in North America. So what? The important thing is how we keep current environments in desired conditions while managing for clean water, clean air, recreational opportunities, homes, jobs, critical resources and local industries: like Pinchot envisioned over a century ago. Certainly not by doing what we’ve done the past 20-40 years — that approach has been a complete failure by all accounts, but usually rationalized by propping up existing results by blaming their failures on climate change, restoring “natural” processes, other species, and several other related excuses. These are bad strategies because they are based on inaccurate information — and it is easy to predict their failures (which I and several other scientists clearly pointed out 20 and 30 years ago. You can’t get good results based on bad information, and that is why the results we did get are significantly different than what was predicted and what was promised. They used to call it GIGO (garbage in, garbage out) in the early days of computer modeling.

          • Mr. Fotoware and Mr. Sybok: apologizing for the Anthropocene one biome at a time.

            Rewild the West.

          • Larry K.: Very sophisticated humor there, dude. Your biggest problem is that you seem clueless about the actual history of the Black Hills. Your “rewilding” fantasies might be more interesting if they had some kind of basis in reality. Good luck with your efforts!

          • Someone here is promoting the myth that Black Hills land managers have something other than the interests of industry making decisions that protect their budgets.

            Missoulians taught me that everything east of the Continental Divide is North Dakota: Oregonians have their own part of the continent to worry about.

            Rep. Lummis (earth hater-WY) is pushing a bill to refund the Bush-era forest policies that her donors, the Neimans and the cattle lobby, enjoy while deeding more BHNF land to her state.

          • Larry K.: This may well be my last comment to you. Apparently your reading comprehension skills need some tweaking: My former in-laws have lived in the Black Hills for several generations and they remain closely related to my children. I lived there during the entire summer of the Rapid City Flood and my children lived there for several years each after that time. If the story of the Missoulian teachers is true, you need to get (far) better teachers. Your stupid “jokes” about mispelling my name, mocking Republicans, and characterizing Rep. Lummis as “earth-hater-WY” come across as juvenile trolling. I’m guessing your goofy “rewilding” plans have you as a self-promoter with no followers. Your arrogance in presuming to speak for the “aboriginal people” indicates your lack of actual capability, so your silly political statements have zero weight as a result.

            Your self-penned biography does seem to be accurate though: (e.g., “radicalized Democrat, rewilding advocate, woman is the hope of humankind, american football is a tool of fascism, commercial tv is the most dangerous gateway drug, facebook is malware, Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra”). Your website design seems pretty good. I did notice a map that includes Oregon and the mysterious observation “Good for Oregon while South Dakota languishes under the shadow of the Yellowstone supervolcano awaiting redemption,” prominently displayed on your homepage — along with lengthy excerpts from this blog.

            Finally, it’s the Black Hills NATIONAL Forest, Larry, not your private rewilding preserve. I’m not surprised that your biography also notes your interests in marijuana and mushrooms. Your writings come across as something produced during a drug-induced paranoid fantasy and I’m guessing don’t have much of an audience. And virtually no effect. Good luck.

  4. White Republicans are inferior, that much is certain.

    Paha Sapa (“hills that are black” may have been a reference to burnt timber instead of the accepted, “seen from a distance”) 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. Aspen shoots are favorite browse for elk and bison. Brown and Sieg have noted at least 77 instances of human-induced wildfire on the pre-settlement Hills.

    • I wholly support buying out the people living within the boundaries of BHNF then moving the managing agency into BIA Forestry and the Park Service to help settle the Black Hills Land Claim: a remnant of white supremacy.

      • Attorney Mario Gonzales has been litigating the “Black Hills Claim” for most of his life. He contends that the commission charged to make peace with tribes inserted language into the document signed in 1868 that Red Cloud had neither seen nor agreed to in negotiations.

        Ernestine Chasing Hawk, Native Sun News Managing Editor sent this story to the Missoula-based Buffalo Post:

        In 2008, during a campaign stop in Sioux Falls then Sen. Barak [sic] Obama gave Great Plains Indian tribes a ray of hope on the outcome of the century’s long legal battle over “theft of 48 million acres of their homeland.” However one of the key elements to resolving the issue is “bringing together all the different parties” and with each passing day their “window of opportunity” shrinks as time ticks away for the Obama-Biden administration.

        Anybody surprised? Ms. Chasing Hawk goes on to say:

        The 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty gave the Sioux 60 million acres of land west of the Missouri. Gonzalez points out that the Sioux were never militarily defeated by the U.S. and would never have signed the 1868 Treaty had they thought they were ceding any land to the U.S. Arriving at Fort Laramie via Cheyenne in November, the Commission under General W. T. Sherman was dismayed to find no Sioux to parley with as planned. Red Cloud refused to come in until the garrisons at Forts Reno, Phil Kearny and C. F. Smith were withdrawn. The Commission acceded and in March, 1868 the President ordered their abandonment.

        The legal battle over what has been referred to as Docket 74-A which began in 1922 is based on the argument that the Sioux never gave up any land and that the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty was treaty of peace, not a treaty of cession. In 1980 Supreme Court said the Sioux were entitled to a mere $40 million dollars (Docket 74-A) for the “ceded land’ and na-cu (using a Lakota lexicon, na is and, cu is dew) the government wanted money back for the rations and other annuities they gave the Sioux in the 1800’s. This government action attests to the origin of the cliché, “Indian givers.” In 1980, the Supreme Court also awarded the tribe $106 million dollars (Docket 74-B) on the ground the U.S. had taken the Black Hills and paid no just compensation in violation of the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment. As a result, the tribe realized almost none of the vast mineral wealth yielded by their stolen land.

        One paragraph really caught my eye:

        And according to Edward Lazarus during his last days in office, Democratic “Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle did a neat little favor for one of his corporate constituents. As a rider to the defense appropriation bill, he attached a provision granting absolute immunity to the Barrick Gold Company of Toronto for any liability arising from the 125-year operation of its Homestake Mine, a gold-bearing gash in the Black Hills of South Dakota.”

        Jodi Rave, in her blog Buffalo’s Fire, reports that Elouise Cobell spoke today at the University of Montana as she briefs tribes on the Claims Resolution Act of 2010:

        Historical Accounting Claims state that the federal government violated its trust duties by not providing a proper historical accounting relating to Individual Indian Money accounts and other trust assets. Trust Administration Claims that include fund and land administration claims state that the federal government violated its trust duties, mismanaged individual Indian trust funds and violated its trust responsibilities for management of land, oil, natural gas, mineral, timber, grazing and other resources.

        Tribes in South Dakota that have criticized the Cobell settlement are reexamining their stands.

        Montana’s Crow tribe recently voted to ratify the Crow Water Settlement Act of 2010:

        The act provides a quantified water right of 650,000 acre-feet per year from natural flow and storage with a priority date of 1868. Tribal executives also brought in high-level speakers to endorse its passage, including U.S. Sen. Jon Tester; Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Larry Echo Hawk, of the Department of Interior; and Michael Connor, Bureau of Reclamation commissioner.

    • Larry K.: Unless you are joking (and are obviously not a Republican), you are hurting your own cause by turning it into a partisan political issues. White Republicans and white Democrats are the same species. Are you inferring that white Democrats are somehow “superior” to their Republican brethren? Also, just because you introduce a Wikipedia phrase such as Paha Sapa, it is obvious you don’t know your history of the area. I’d suggest getting a book on the topic and starting in around 1818 — a time in which (I think) horses had already been introduced to the Tribes.

      Are you saying that the forests of the Black Hills were “natural” when Indians lived there, and somehow became unnatural with “settlement” when whites took over? Honestly, your perspectives seem to be fairly simplistic, mostly because they are heavily biased and based on limited information. The political commentary doesn’t help.

        • Derek and Little Bird (probably Brian Brademeyer) have told me what I need to know here but that you have provided a forum for me to build campaigns for Democrats running in the West is very gracious.

          Thank you.

          • While politics cannot be separated from public lands debates, partisan politics, from both sides, have their misconceptions, misinformations and rhetoric to achieve partisan goals, often outside of public land issues. I do know that Sharon will not let this blog descend into the blog hell of partisan rhetoric. I don’t have to approve comments I feel aren’t appropriate, although other admins might. I would never edit anyone’s comments but, I might remove something I know that Sharon wouldn’t allow. We would, however, like you to stay on-topic, Larry K. It does help in acquiring scientific credibility, here.

        • “Run your own planet” yourself, Larry. I have no idea what that means. Factoids are not history. And what Tribes occupied the Black Hills in 1742? When did the Lakota first arrive there? How could the forests still be “natural” with large herds of horses — an exotic species introduced by white people that immediately transformed the use of the landscape by native peoples — were being grazed over large areas of the land and used to hunt elk and bison, among other functions? And how about those packs of thousands of wolves that tailed bison migrations into historical time? Talohin sham, Larry.

      • It should be clear to you by now that I am striving to make BHNF part of a greater wildlife refuge connected with corridors to public, tribal, leased private land from the Pecos to the Yukon but until the political will moves it forward these lands must approximate pre-European invasion or the indigenous people will not support it.

        • Larry K.: I’m not sure how you became a spokesman for the “indigenous people,” or if Brian Brademeyer Little Bird wanted to be outed here, but I seriously doubt the “political will” you are looking for even exists. Sounds like a grandiose scheme without much actual support, politically or scientifically.

          My former father-in-law (a part Indian from the Marceau clan) built many of the homes on the Pine Ridge Reservation in the 1950s, and hundreds more homes through the Black Hills in following years. People these days seem to enjoy roofs over their heads, cars, television, and other amenities of modern life. What are you going to do about horses or highways, telephone poles and dams, and how many migrating bison does your plan call for? And how about those thousands of wolves (identical to Indian dogs according to one reliable account) trailing bison migrations? Personally, I think you are going to have a very difficult time getting “indigenous people” to accept your vision, much less Democrats trying to get elected. Signed, Timanawat.

    • Tourism drives the economies of the Black Hills and Rocky Mountains: Deadwood is full of foreign tourists yearning to experience The West in all its mythical forms. Tribal history is the biggest draw for the most curious.

      Each one of the posts in this blog has a common thread running through them and anyone believing politics is beneath his bother is living in a cave.


Leave a Comment