Beetle infestation grows in the Black Hills - KOTA Territory News

Beetle infestation grows in the Black Hills

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The mountain pine beetle has spread to another 27,000 acres of the Black Hills in 2012; bringing the overall infestation to 416,000 acres, according to the annual aerial forest health survey for the Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming.

The mountain pine beetle epidemic was first spotted in 1996.  Today, forest managers are focused on public and employee safety as well as keeping the green forest alive for present and future generations.  Foresters continue to remove felled trees along roads and trails, thin densely populated stands of ponderosa pine, and sanitize where necessary to reduce the habitat necessary for the mountain pine beetle to spread.

Last December, Black Hills National Forest Supervisor Craig Bobzien signed his Record of Decision to implement the Mountain Pine Beetle Response project.  The project is focused at the forest landscape scale, with adaptive design features to more swiftly address the expanding beetle population and reduce hazardous fuels across the forest.

"Implementing the mountain pine beetle project is our top priority for 2013," Acting Forest Supervisor Dennis Jaeger said.  "This proactive approach will allow managers the ability to quickly respond to the changing conditions on the forest," said Jaeger.

Under the authority of the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003, the plan includes treatments on portions of 248,000 acres of ponderosa pine stands at high risk for MPB infestation.  The plan calls for landscape treatment in advance of the MPB infestation, thinning approximately 122,000 acres and up to 50 miles of new road construction over the next 5 to 7 years.

"It is critical that we manage our forest resources in a way that reduces the potential for severe large-scale wildfires and also reduces the mountain pine beetle infestation to preserve the land that we all enjoy, admire and use," said Jaeger.

To help prevent the spread of the bark beetle, private landowners, forest products industry, County officials, Conservation Districts, and State and Federal agencies developed a collaborative "all lands" strategy to combat the current MPB epidemic.  A variety of methods have been used to treat hundreds of thousands of trees including forest thinning, cut and chunk, cut and burn, prescribed fire and chemical spraying.Dave Thom, Black Hills Regional Mountain Pine Beetle Working Group Coordinator is encouraged from the support and response from all partners of the Group.  "The working group represents a comprehensive, all lands approach and through collaboration we are working together to make the most effective use of funding and treatment methods to slow the progression of the MPB in the Hills."  Thom also credits Federal and State Legislators, to include Governors from both South Dakota and Wyoming for their support in providing funds for the effort.  "There is a tremendous spirit of cooperation behind the work being accomplished," said Thom.

"Now more than ever it is important that we work across the entire landscape to ensure forests are more resilient for generations to come," said Dan Jirón, Regional Forester for the U.S. Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Region.  "A vibrant forest products industry, aggressive community actions, strong collaborative efforts and targeted high-priority projects will allow us to make progress to promote forests more suitable for an uncertain future climate."

The aerial forest health survey is accomplished through the use of aerial photography in cooperation between South Dakota's and Wyoming's Division of Forestry as well as the U.S. Forest Service.  Neiman Timber Company has been instrumental in leading the process of identifying and digitally mapping the extent of the mountain pine beetle epidemic.

The complete survey results for the Rocky Mountain Region, including Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming is available at http://www.fs.usda.gov/main/r2/forest-grasslandhealth.

Additional information on Mountain Pine Beetles can be found at:   http://www.beatthebeetles.com/.

For more information on the Black Hills National Forest, visit http://www.fs.usda.gov/blackhills

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