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South Dakota's Forestry Resources

When the early settlers moved west into South Dakota, they found very few trees. However, trees are a vital part of the prairie landscape, as well as a renewable resource for our state. In fact, there are several types of forests in South Dakota.

The Black Hills National Forest (BHNF) plays host to 2.5 million visitors each year. In 1897 President Grover Cleveland established the BHNF to protect the forest in South Dakota and Wyoming. There are 1.2 million acres of forested lands in the Black Hills of South Dakota. This forest is vast, covering an area 110 miles long by 70 miles wide. More than 200 species of wildlife make their homes in the stands of white spruce (commonly known as Black Hills spruce, the South Dakota state tree), junipers, aspen, birch, box elder, ash and ponderosa pine.

Despite thousands of wild animals, the BHNF still has room for agriculture. Twenty-two thousand cattle graze in the BHNF. While the other forests are mostly for outdoor recreation, the BHNF creates jobs and opportunities through the timber industry. It provides wood for lumber, windows, firewood and posts. The timber industry provides approximately 2,000 jobs and a $40 million annual payroll.

The native upland forest is found in southeastern South Dakota at Newton Hills State Park near Canton, SD. It consists of 188,000 acres of forest consisting mostly of oak and black walnut trees. This forest is home to white tail deer, wild turkey, birds and many fur bearing animals. Its purpose is mostly outdoor recreation including hunting and camping.

Another type of forest found in South Dakota is the remnant flood plain forest or the bottomland forest. This area is found 30 miles west of Yankton, SD at Running Water, SD. It's made up of 48,500 acres of trees. It's located on the flood plains and tributaries of the Missouri River. Eastern cottonwood, willow, green ash and elm trees are found here. The bottomland forest is ideal for wildlife. The trees here provide opportunities for outdoor recreation.

Urban forests account for the most acres in South Dakota. These are the trees in our communities, cities and towns across the state. Our urban forests reduce energy use by providing shade, reducing winds, increasing property value and decreasing noise in our neighborhoods. Homeowners are encouraged to plant trees in their communities, especially in April when we recognize Arbor Day on the last Friday of the month.

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