Thanks to Frank Carroll for this guest post! Here’s some background on him. He is another retiree who worked on the Black Hills. Note: this discussion (and the previous thread on the report, and perhaps The Smokey Wire itself) should make you wary about any claims that “Forest Service employees think” or “Forest Service retirees think”. It’s interesting that we managed to live with each other and get along, for the most part, with our range of views.
Frank questions whether the report itself (on LTSY) can entirely answer the question “what, where and when should timber be cut on the Black Hills.” This is the first of two guest posts by Frank.
Russ (Graham), Mike (Battaglia), and Theresa (Jain) have done their usual stellar job as scientists in reviewing the record, compiling appropriate data, applying expert analysis, and disclosing their conclusions and answers to a set of specific questions about maintaining a nondeclining even flow of timber and sustained yield of timber over time. These great scientists were asked how much timber is growing across the forest, how much is available for harvest, and how do those answers line up with the current allowable sale quantity and current timber management plans. They answered fully and to the best of their ability.
They were not asked to assess what the timber market has in store in terms of innovation, new technologies, new wood processing equipment and techniques, the pluses and minuses of various levels of timber industry outputs, or personal and personnel factors, market factors, or political factors that would inform strong direction to the industry from the Forest Service as everyone tries to navigate the future.
As we would hope and expect, our scientists did a solid job of answering a specific set of questions based on a specific set of expectations and assumptions, and did not swan off into territory beyond their training and understanding.
Black Hills Timber Growth and Yield is a solid piece of work and the authors are to be congratulated.
Black Hills Timber Growth and Yield does not comprehensively enlighten our understanding about how to move forward with the timber industry in the Black Hills.
Anecdotal data and our experience show that our timber industry can and will successfully negotiate the challenges of the future and maintain a strong and vibrant presence in the Hills.
The FIA data suggests, because it is not a one-for-one inventory of trees, that our forest is dying faster than it is growing and that the current ASQ is not sustainable.
The timber industry argues that we know we can cut trees and keep a viable forest industry going. We don’t know that we’re actually running out of trees. It’s theoretical. It’s a model. It’s imperfect science, the thinking goes.
In any event, there is not sufficient data and no comprehensive answers to many related questions about factors that influence the success of our timber program that would settle the unsettled question; are we overcutting the Black Hills?
Our choices are to substantially revise our allowable sale quantity to line up with Russ’ report, or to choose the status quo and see what the future brings.
In any event the Forest will abide. Either it will continue to meet the demand for trees or it won’t. We’ll either continue to have a viable and healthy timber industry or we won’t.
The principal players won’t change and the report won’t change their minds. The biological forest is cooperating as it always has and seems destined to continue to grow trees. We don’t know what fires and bugs are planning but it doesn’t matter. It’s a self-regulating system. As the nature and form of forest structure changes, the industry will adapt and change to find new opportunities. The Forest Service must not stand in the way of this natural process of various forces experimenting, testing, and finding a way forward.
We are not in the equivalent of a natural pandemic where we must decide to crash our industry. We can and will maintain as much of the status quo as we can and see what’s in store for us all. We need our industry, our industry needs us, and those are factors Russ, Mike, and Theresa could not assess.
All of this is, or course, my humble opinion having participated in the politics and practice of forestry for many decades.
I am reminded of old photos of the Black Hills at the turn of the last Century. The hills and ridges are denuded of timber as far as the human eye can see, or the camera record. And, yet, here we are.
Congratulations on a report well done.
Frank Carroll is managing partner of Professional Forest Management, LLC, PFMc, a full service forestry and grassland consultancy. Frank and partner Van Elsbernd have been working since 2012 to understand and help shape wildland fire policy. Frank is the principal author of the wildfire impact analysis for the Mount Rushmore Independence Day Environmental Assessment. PFMc has helped over 600 clients recover almost $600 million in damages from wildfires across the West. www.wildfirepros.com firstname.lastname@example.org