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Sawmill Closure Eliminates 120 Jobs In Hill City

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A logging truck in the Black Hills National Forest.
A logging truck in the Black Hills National Forest.
CREDIT: Seth Tupper/SDPB

One hundred twenty people are out of work in Hill City, where a sawmill is closing down. 

Neiman Enterprises says it’s closing the facility after 53 years of operation. In a news release, the company blames the U.S. Forest Service for logging restrictions in the Black Hills. 

Company President Jim Neiman was not immediately available for an interview. In the news release, he said, “I never thought I would see the day when we would be out of options to keep all our facilities running.” 

The Forest Service did not respond to a request for comment. 

Neiman Enterprises is part of an industry group called the Black Hills Forest Resource Association. Ben Wudtke is the association’s executive director. 

“This has a tremendous impact on our capacity to manage and care for the forest,” Wudtke said, “and of course tremendous impact on our communities, as well, who rely on jobs and employment from the forest-products industry for the economic well-being of the communities in the Black Hills.” 

In addition to the Hill City operation, Neiman Enterprises has another sawmill in Spearfish and additional facilities in Wyoming, Colorado and Oregon. 

The U.S. Forest Service is assessing the sustainability of logging in the Black Hills National Forest. A draft research report recommends a drop in timber harvest to maintain trees suitable for logging. 

Bob Burns is a member of a conservation group called the Norbeck Society. He said the group has asked the Forest Service to reduce logging for several years. Burns said the damage to the forest may already be done. 

“We’ve warned that if the timber volumes get too low, we’ll be losing lumber mills, and apparently that’s what’s happened,” Burns said. 

The Forest Service’s final report on sustainable logging levels is expected soon. 

-Contact reporter Seth Tupper by email.