2014 forest health survey released | TSLN.com

2014 forest health survey released

The U.S. Forest Service, South Dakota Department of Agriculture (SDDA) and Wyoming State Forestry Division released the results of the annual aerial forest health survey on the Black Hills National Forest. The analysis of the high resolution photography of the Black Hills of South Dakota and northeastern Wyoming reveals the mountain pine beetle epidemic is continuing.

The Mountain Pine Beetle has affected approximately 438,000 acres on the Black Hills National Forest since the outbreak began in 1996. There are signs the epidemic is slowing with approximately 16,500 acres identified last year compared to 34,000 acres in 2013.

"While we are still seeing mountain pine beetles throughout the Forest, this year's analysis showed beetle populations are declining, but there are still several areas of significant beetle activity," said Craig Bobzien, Black Hills National Forest Supervisor. "Working together is making a difference. We must continue working with our partners to put the right resources in the right places at the right time, ahead of the beetles, to keep the Forest green and resilient."

Mountain pine beetle brood surveys were conducted at 15 locations by U.S. Forest Service entomologists in July 2014. Results showed mostly static to decreasing populations. Additional ground surveys were conducted by the entomologists after the beetle flight period. Results also indicated that overall beetle populations are declining, but significant areas with high beetle activity were found west of Lead, west of Hill City, the west central part of the Hills near the South Dakota / Wyoming state line, and southeast of Custer.

Since 2012, South Dakota has dedicated $10 million to beat the beetle on private, state and federal lands. "The all lands approach has achieved a new level of cooperation between federal, state and county agencies, along with industry and private landowners," said Greg Josten, South Dakota State Forester.

Over the last four years, the state of Wyoming has invested approximately $5 million in mountain pine beetle detection, prevention and direct control in Crook and Weston counties. "The success that we are seeing with this collaborative effort speaks volumes of the dedicated people on the ground representing a variety of agencies and interests, coupled with the great support we have seen from the Legislature and the Governor's office," said Bill Crapser, Wyoming State Forester.

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Dave Thom, Black Hills Regional Mountain Pine Beetle Working Group Coordinator says, "In the last three years partners have treated infested trees on more than 500,000 acres and harvested high risk trees on more than 91,000 acres. The work is effective in reducing beetle infestations. It will take a continued, coordinated effort to continue this progress. The working group represents a comprehensive, all lands approach where Federal, State and County agencies are working with industry and private landowners to ensure treatments are at the right place at the right time. "We are focusing our work in locations where the epidemic continues to be most active," said Thom.

Thom also credits the federal congressional delegation, governors and state legislators from both South Dakota and Wyoming for their support in providing funds for the effort.

A variety of methods have been used to treat hundreds of thousands of trees including forest thinning, cut and chunk, prescribed fire and chemical spraying.

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

Insect mapping was a cooperative effort between Neiman Timber Company, South Dakota Division of Resource Conservation and Forestry, State of Wyoming Forestry Division, Weston Natural Resource Conservation District, Weston County Weed & Pest, USDI-Bureau of Land Management, and the USDA-Forest Service

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

–Black Hills National Forest