Forestry officials: Corner turned on pine beetle epidemic

CUSTER, S.D. (KOTA TV) - The U.S. Forest Service, South Dakota Department of Agriculture (SDDA) and Wyoming State Forestry Division have released the results of the 2017 forest health survey on the Black Hills National Forest and surrounding lands.

Aerial surveys conducted last fall indicate that approximately 4,700 acres were affected by the pine beetle epidemic last year, while approximately 2,500 acres were affected in the year prior.

In total, over 450,000 acres have been affected since the epidemic began 20 years ago. While officials have called the epidemic over, the mountain pine beetle continues to be a native insect in the Black Hills National Forest. As such, trees or groups of trees will continue to be killed each year, which is natural and expected.

Black Hills National Forest Supervisor Mark Van Every explains, "we will continue landscape scale treatments to ensure our forest is more resilient to future insect epidemics and catastrophic wildfire.”

As a native species, the mountain pine beetle has always been a part of the Black Hills forest ecosystem, with periodic epidemics. The first recorded epidemic in the Black Hills occurred from the late 1890's through the early 1900's. Epidemics also occurred in the 1930's, 1940's, 1960's and 1970's, each lasting 8-13 years.

"While we have turned the corner on the current beetle epidemic, we still have serious forest health problems that we need to continue to work together on for our forests in the future," said Bill Crapser, Wyoming State Forester.

The complete survey results for the Rocky Mountain Region, including Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming are available here.

Additional information on Mountain Pine Beetles can be found here.