South Dakota logging operation underway after park wildfire


RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — One of the largest operations to salvage timber in South Dakota's Custer State Park is underway following a wildfire that thinned the forest in December.

About 15 contractors will log nearly 6,200 acres of charred Ponderosa pines over the next six to 12 weeks, the Rapid City Journal reported . The Legion Lake Fire ripped through about 85 square miles in Custer State Park, Wind Cave National Park and private land last month.

"We'll be dealing with this fire for the next five to ten years," said Mark Hendrix, the park's resource program manager. Hendrix said the longest operations will include erosion control and weed spraying, but logging is the focus for the next few months.

Forester Amanda Morrison said logging improves safety for visitors and aids the forest floor. She said there will be higher than normal grass and shrubbery growth this spring and summer.

The fire's timing is helpful to foresters because winter weather delays the number of insects that tunnel and feed under the bark in living wood, which destroys water and sap conducting tissues.

Morrison has been working with contractors to determine which trees will remain and which will be removed.

Morrison said a tree's crown is used as a barometer. Trees without needles and trees scorched red and yellow between 70 percent and 100 percent will be removed. Trees with even 30 percent of a green crown have a 50 percent survival rate.
Logging companies were awarded bids between $1 per ton of timber to $4 per ton. Morrison said she hopes the timber sale will help the park break even.