Agencies continue to combat Black Hills pine beetle epidemic - KOTA Territory News

Agencies continue to combat Black Hills pine beetle epidemic

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Local counties received $2 million for Governor Daugaard's Black Hills Mountain Pine Beetle initiative. Pennington County alone received $670,000 in grant funding to use for Mountain Pine Beetle programs. Different agencies are using that money to combat the pine beetle problem.

One by one these trees are being cut. It's all part of the cut and chunk program that's a method for treating mountain pine beetle infested trees.  

"The county has gone through the area and marked infested trees and now they have contractors cutting done those infested and cutting them into two foot lengths to kill the mountain pine beetles," said Greg Josten, of the South Dakota Forestry Division.

Different agencies, county, federal, and state, are partnering up to combat the problem.  

"We're happy to partner with the counties to get some of these infested trees that are adjacent to private land," said Scott Jacobson, Black Hills National Forest, Public Affairs Officer.

There are three phases of the Mountain Pine Beetle program through the Pennington County Weed and Pest Department. The first phase involves a 300 foot buffer on Forest Service property that is adjacent to private landowners.  

"The caveat is the private landowners got to be controlling the beetles on their side of the fence. Basically what it does is kind of alleviates the pressure of the pine beetles moving into the private land off the forest service land," said Scott Guffey, with Pennington County Weed and Pest.

The other phases include landscape treatments in upcoming timber sale areas and a focus on public safety along county and Forest Service roads.  There's a specific window of time to get this work done.  

"After March 1st it becomes less effective and you don't kill enough of the beetles to make it worthwhile," said Josten. 

Is the pine beetle problem getting better?   

"Some areas are worse than others. Some areas we're seeing the numbers drop. So it kind of depends where you are located in the Hills. But for the most part I think our buffers are working and that hopefully means we're making some impact," said Guffey.

Since October 1st state crews have identified over 100,000 infested trees on about 42,000 acres of state and private forest land.

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