Wyoming Senators John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis, along with South Dakota Senators Mike Rounds and John Thune sent a letter to U.S. Forest Service Chief Randy Moore criticizing the Biden administration for its forest management policies in the Black Hills National Forest that are reducing the amount of trees available to harvest forcing saw mills to close and timber workers to lose their jobs.

The senators are requesting the Biden administration open more of the National Forest for timber harvesting and, as stated from Barrasso, "toss a lifeline to the Wyoming and South Dakota saw mills and workers who have seen their livelihoods threatened by the radical policies coming out of Washington."

Since 2020, more than 20 mills near national forests have been forced to curtail production or close altogether.

"While the timber industry faces its own unique market pressures, the recent layoffs are a direct result of reductions to the U.S. Forest Service’s timber sale program,” wrote the senators.

"Across Wyoming and South Dakota, we are experiencing the impacts from this administration’s extreme climate obsession, resulting in efforts to lock up public lands and restrict multiple use mandates, regardless of the local

The senators are demanding answers to the following questions by June 28:

1. What is the Forest Service doing to increase timber harvest levels on the Black Hills National Forest?

2. What are the main drivers of the timber target shortfalls since 2018?

3. What resources does the agency need to increase timber harvest levels on the Black Hills National Forest? If the agency needs additional funding, please provide a specific amount and breakdown of how it will be used to increase timber harvest levels above 63,000 CCF.

4. How many years will it take for the agency to ramp up to harvest levels to meet the collaboratively identified 120,000 CCF target?

5. Will the agency commit to preventing further economic harm to the forest products industry by providing a consistent supply of timber?

Read the full letter here.

In 2021, a South Dakota lumber mill owned by a Wyoming family was forced to close due to shortages in available timber.

“The mills here in South Dakota and across the West are facing what appear to be some tough times,” said the National Forest's supervisor Shawn Cochran in April. “It’s not necessarily tied to just the timber supply chain, because we’re seeing the same things happen all throughout the West with mill closures.”

Companies are saying outdated facilities, labor and housing shortages, rising costs, and plummeting lumber prices are also problematic.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ producer price index for softwood lumber has fallen by 56% since 2021. The “softwood” description includes the Black Hills’ predominant tree species, ponderosa pine.

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