VERMILLION, S.D. (AP) — Federal officials said they plan to cut down some white spruce trees in the Black Hills to help limit damage from wildfires and allow other tree species to grow.

The Spruce Vegetation Management Program covers over 20,000 acres for tree removal in the central and northern Black Hills.

Jerry Krueger, deputy supervisor of the Black Hills National Forest, said spruce stands create opportunities for wildfires to jump from one location to the next.

He added that removing white spruce will encourage aspen growth. Some opponents said the project would destroy the ecosystem of spruce stands.

Mary Zimmerman, vice president of the Norbeck Society, a conservation group in Rapid City, aid prescribed burns and removing small trees are better methods for preventing wildfires.