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BLACK HILLS PIONEER PINE BEETLE SERIES

Opinion

October - November 2011

news@bhpioneer.com

Forest Service pushing to mitigate pine beetle damage South 'akota offers a backdrop of magnificent vistas for Americans to enjoy. Amid that scenery is the Black Hills National Forest, which provides more than B00 miles of trails, 1B,000 acres of wilderness and, like all national forests, serves as an economic lifeblood to rural communities. Unfortunately, the mountain pine beetle has reached epidemic levels in some or most of the ponderosa pine stands on about 400,000 acres of the 1.G million-acre national forest. Let me assure you that we take this infestation seriously and have been working with local, state and other community leaders to address this situation. Since the bark beetle epidemic began in 1JJ8, the Forest Service has aggressively planned and implemented effective projects to mitigate the damaging effects of the bark beetle on the Black Hills National Forest. Those efforts include removing individual trees to improve the health of the remaining stand in high value areas and cutting and dropping thousands of infested trees to reduce actual or anticipated spread of the beetle. While the size and scope of the bark beetle epidemic is beyond all our abilities to stop, significant effects are being made to mitigate its impacts. In the last five years, the Forest Service has commercially thinned more than 100,000 acres of the Black Hills National Forest, improved forest vegetation and wildlife habitat, reduced fuels on 400,000 acres and marked more than 1P0,000 trees to kill beetle larvae in more isolated

beetle-infested areas. These treatments have been effecSome have offered procedural shortcuts as the answer, tive in the areas implemented. but our experience shows that an adaptive management In addition, this past September the Forest Service, approach will enable us to move quickly to address hot along with Gov. 'ennis 'augaard, announced RB million spots and the highest priority areas. In the interim, as the in cooperative federal grants for community assistance. project comes fully onboard, we are using all our availThat money will pay for a variety of high priorable resources and have projects in various ity projects, including hazardous fuels reducstages of planning and environmental reviews tion, state fire assistance, hazard assessments, to stay fully engaged. Longer term, the agency insect and disease surveys and monitoring syshas a broader bark beetle strategy for the West, tems, and promotion of active management which will ensure the agency has the wheretechniques that all address the beetle infestation withal to address the ongoing threat. and lead to a healthy forest. I know there is a lot at stake, both for the This past October, the Black Hills National forest and for those South 'akotans who rely Forest sold more than GP million board feet of upon a healthy forest for their livelihood. beetle-killed trees and is marking additional South 'akota is a land rich in resources and beetle-killed trees in active timber sales area. history. The Forest Service will continue its Over the next several months, forest land manefforts to protect the Black Hills and other beeTom agers will enter newly infested areas to mark tle-infested areas throughout the West because Vilsack more trees for sale, which once removed, will healthy forests are critical to the well-being of help reduce bark beetle threats and ensure that our country's health and welfare. The Forest local sawmills have a continuous supply of timber. Service is working diligently with partners to ensure And we aren't done yet. As evidenced by the continuing South 'akotans and all Americans will enjoy the State's devastation caused by the tiny, prolific pest, we don't have precious natural resources for generations to come. years for the normal process of mitigating forest problems. That's why we proactively developed the Mountain !o# %ilsack is ,-e /ni,e1 2,a,es 2ecre,ar4 o5 Pine Beetle Response Project, which is an innovative, 67ric8l,8re9 “break the mold� approach that will allow a timely, effective response to new outbreaks.

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