Pine beetle defense combo good for homeowners, but not BHNF - KOTA Territory News

Pine beetle defense combo good for homeowners, but not BHNF

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Mountain pine beetles made their first appearance in the Black Hills near Sturgis in 1997. Since then, the bugs have devastated massive swaths of forest throughout KOTA Territory.

The process is too expensive for large-scale use, but homeowners are seeing relief with a combination of tactics.

It's a combination of spraying and thinning trees.
 
"It's working beautifully," said forest expert Frank Carroll.
 
Neither of the techniques is exactly new. What is new is the kind of thinning being done.
 
"What we've been teasing each other about really is we need a lawnmower," Carroll said.
 
Instead they got more of a mulcher. It grinds new pine trees back into the soil to prevent future overcrowding.
 
"We have acres [in the BHNF] that are 10,000 trees growing on a single acre where there should be 60."
 
That kind of thinning is even more effective, Carroll said, when you combine it with spraying trees with beetle-resistant chemicals.
 
"It's one tree at a time," said Kyle Taylor of Timberline Tree Spraying, "with one applicator at a time."
 
That's why Taylor recommends the process for homeowners, not the whole of the BHNF.
 
"The technology is there," he said, "but the funding is not there, because it would take a massive army of tree sprayers."
 
Dave Mertz with the BHNF agrees.

The BHNF does spray some trees -- mostly at campgrounds -- but it's way too cost prohibitive on a large scale.

Timberline charges roughly $12 per tree.

"This epidemic is totally unprecedented in the western United States," Taylor said.

But with just a few dozen trees, there's little stopping most homeowners from protecting their property -- and their property value.
 
"People need to do someone before the beetles get there, because if you don't," said Carroll, "it's too late. 

To thin trees with the mulcher, Carroll said it costs about $150 an hour.

The combination of thinning and spraying on properties isn't 100 percent effective, but with trees in surrounding areas 80 percent infested some say it's a step in the right direction.

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