Crews salvage Custer Park timber

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KELO: There’s an intense effort underway in Custer State Park to salvage as much timber as possible from the area burned by a massive wildfire in December.

There’s no time to stand around as timber is being cut in the central portions of Custer State Park, west of the Wildlife Loop.

There’s a clock running on this salvage operation. The loggers and timber cutters will have to get their work done by mid spring.

The reason, wood rot and bugs. 

“After a fire you only have a certain amount of time before we have a lot of the insects that come in, wood borer especially. We have a June 8th deadline to get the wood out; to get the wood borers start to fly and start to degrade the wood,” Resource Program Manager Mark Hendrix said

19 contractors with three or four man crews are working the salvage area. The wood cutters and loggers hope to bring down and haul out as much as 8,800 acres of timber.  

“Not all of it is salvageable because it’s too steep to get in there,” Hendrix said. 

Loggers from all over the Black Hills have been taken off timber sale cutting projects and diverted to the salvage effort in Custer State Park. Saw mills and manufacturing operations are taking as much of the salvage timber as they can handle. 

“We have four different mills it’s going to. Most of it will be going to Hill City for Neiman Timber Company. Some of the larger logs go to Hewlett in Wyoming. And then also Spearfish. We have post and poles going to Rapid City,” Service Forester James Canfield said.

While the Custer State Park fire was destructive, it will have regenerative effects for the grasslands and plant life. And the sale of timber may ironically help to support park operations. 

“This timber does have value and it’s important to the revenue stream for the Park. And so we wanted to capture some of the value,” Hendrix said. 

Park staff will also be cutting down many of those dead trees to create a layer of debris that hopefully will prevent erosion in the park.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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