Forest usage up

Leslie Silverman

Hikers in the Black Hills National Forest might have noticed some changes to registration once needed to access the Black Elk Wilderness areas.

The area used to require hikers to register the number of people and stock in their party in addition to the trailhead of entry and exit.

According to Scott Jacobson, public affairs officer for the forest service, these forms have been eliminated — at least temporarily.

“The form being used to register people was an outdated form,” he said.

The forest supervisor ordered the service to stop using the form for now. No new forms have been put out yet.

New signs explaining that registration is no longer needed appear at popular wilderness entry points such as trail number 14 and trail number nine.

The Wilderness Act requires the Black Hills National Forest to monitor the number of people who access the Black Elk Wilderness area.

Jacobson says the forest can get that data without people signing in via trail counters that are inconspicuously placed.

More people are using the Black Hills National Forest than ever before. During the July through September period, the Black Hills National Forest saw a 20 percent increase in recreational facilities, including campgrounds and picnic areas.

And although there was a marked uptick in utilization of facilities this past summer, the forest service is still about 30 percent below utilization of facilities.

However the “cost of providing services is higher with an impact on wear and tear,” Jacobson said.

The forest service will get some monetary help in 2021 thanks to an executive order signed by President Trump in August.

The Great American Outdoors Act will help the forest service tackle maintenance on projects that have been deferred.

According to Jacobson, the Black Hills National Forest will use these funds to reconstruct Lakota Lake Road, including parking and gate repairs, perform deferred maintenance on Road 328 in the Southern Black Hills, reconstruct the boardwalk and fishing pier at Bismark Lake and restore the Hell Canyon log cabin and Tepee House.

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