Black Hills loggers help combat Mountain Pine Beetle - KOTA Territory News

Black Hills loggers help combat Mountain Pine Beetle

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The clock is ticking for 250,000 acres of Black Hills forest land in danger of being infected with the Mountain Pine Beetle.

But now a new Black Hills Pine Beetle response task force is working toward the swift containment of the beetle and a reduction in the hazardous forest fuels that can result.

"The beetles were here in these trees, but they're gone now," said Dave Thom, Coordinator of the Black Hills Regional Mountain Pine Beetle Working Group.
The beetles may be gone in one forest area outside Custer, but the damage they've left behind is keeping many in business.
"We do between 500-1,500 beetle trees in this area per week," said Brad Maciejewski, Contract Logger.
"There is an estimated 30,000 acres of infested forest in 2012. It's continuing to grow," said Thom. 
Thirty percent of all trees cut down by loggers in the Black Hills National Forest are infested with the Mountain Pine Beetle.
That's where loggers like Brad Maciejewski come in.
"They thin the forest and create a more open forest that has grasses. Forest industry is critical. They employ 1300 people directly," said Thom.
And while it's a good deal for loggers for now, the Pine Beetle may limit their business to come.
"Usually we come back in a sale like this, in 15-20 years and re-cut. But with the beetles were taking more lumber so we probably won't be back in this area again ever," said Maciejewski.
And there is a lot of red tape to untangle before for things to run smoothly and quickly
All the paperwork you have to do to cut a tree in the national forest anymore is such a long process. Sometimes it takes too long to get the paperwork done so the bugs move to another area," said Maciejewski.
"The Forest Service's budget is $3.5 million short of their ability to fully treat all land they can handle for timber sale operations," said Thom.
But those fighting the pest say they're getting more help, and they're seeing results.
"The more we can do it, the faster, better we can be," said Maciejewski.

Out of 155 National Forests, the Black Hills National Forest sells the largest amount of timber.

Since 1996, the Mountain Pine Beetle has infested 416,000 acres in the Black Hills.

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