The Forest Service is attempting to salvage the timber downed by a tornado that ripped through the Black Hills last month. The first salvage operation is underway in the northwestern Hills.
It’s one of the hardest areas to reach in the Black Hills, and it just so happens, it is also where a tornado touched down on June 29, leaving a 19 milelong area of destruction.
Here in Surprise Gulch, in the Wyoming Black Hills, George Meza and his crew are working in a timber sale area that had just recently been logged.
“This area is known for growing big trees and it’s the Bear Lodge. There’s some big wood in here,” said Meza.
The Forest Service calls this the Red Belly timber sale. The tornado pulled trees out of the ground and snapped off thousands of others. The Forest Service wants to save as much as it can.
“We estimate that, of the timber that’s down, usually about half of it is broken or shattered too much to make into logs so they’ll get about half of what was on the ground,” said Jake Jackson, with the Forest Service.
The timber cutters are working against the clock. The longer the trees lay on the ground, the more blue-stain fungus will begin to invade the wood. Jake Jackson says the invasion has already started in some areas and expects his crews to be busy all summer.
“We’re estimating right now, probably by the end of August, first week of September we should be done with the majority of the cleanup on the activities in all three of the sales that we’re going back into,” said Jackson.
The Forest Service has opened up three timber sale areas for salvage operations with seven crews cutting and hauling out the timber.