Gov. Dennis Daugaard announced Thursday that more than 240,000 acres have been surveyed for mountain pine beetle infestations since the Black Hills Forest Initiative began in August 2011.
As a result of the surveys, crews have “cut and chunked” or otherwise treated 335,000 trees on private and state land. Almost 1,900 landowners have participated in the initiative’s cost-share program.
“From the beginning, our focus has been on slowing this epidemic,” Gov. Daugaard said. “We have not yet ‘beat the beetles,’ but we will continue working to protect the Black Hills.”
The South Dakota Departments of Agriculture and Game, Fish and Parks have contracted with several Black Hills-area conservation districts to hire an average of 50 seasonal employees to keep ahead of cutting operations.
The total trees cut include almost 200,000 on private lands and 135,000 in Custer State Park and other state lands. Treatment techniques include removing infested trees for use in sawmills, as well as the cut and chunk, cut and peel, and cut and chip disposal methods.
Treatment efficiency rates remain high. More than 85 percent of infested trees marked were verified as treated, while only 3 percent were verified as untreated.
“Our crews are becoming exceptionally good at identifying and treating infested trees,” said State Forester Ray Sowers, who manages the Black Hills Forest Initiative. “I’m pleased with our efficiency rates this year, particularly in Custer State Park, where our crews cut 100 percent of the trees marked.”
Years of steady treatment in Custer State Park resulted in markedly fewer infested trees during the most recent cutting season. Crews treated more than 100,000 infested trees in the Park in 2011-2012, but only 35,000 in the 2012-2013 cutting season.
“It’s clear that our efforts have been successful in the Park,” Sowers said. “But there is still a lot of work left to do on private lands. We’re not out of this yet.”
Landowner signup for the 2013-2014 season of surveying and marking has begun and will run until Sept. 13, 2013. For more information about the state’s efforts to combat mountain pine beetles in the Black Hills, or to sign up for the cost-share program, visit www.BeatTheBeetles.com.