Progress seen in pine beetle fight

Farm Forum

SPEARFISH (AP) — Officials in one South Dakota county said they’re gaining ground on the pine beetle battle in the Black Hills.

About 34,000 trees are marked to be cut this season in Lawrence County as officials continue an effort that first began in spring 2012, when 42,000 trees were cut. About 48,000 trees were cut in fall 2012.

Lawrence County Invasive Species Director Dave Heck told the Black Hills Pioneer that the treatment methods are working.

“The numbers are down, and we’re covering just as much ground as last year, in fact, more and the numbers are still down. It’s because we’ve been doing the treatment there, which is what we hoped to find,” Heck said.

Experts said that more than 430,000 acres of the Black Hills National Forest have been affected since the current mountain pine beetle epidemic began in 1997.

About 40 markers employed by Lawrence County began training for identifying bug trees and the marking process on Sept. 1, but the start date was pushed to November because of the government sequestration and shutdown.

This is the first year the beetle battle in Lawrence County will be funded by the state, rather than the county and private donations. The county employs the markers and private contractors provide the cutting services.

Eight crews with eight different units are cutting 14,000 infested trees that have been marked in the Burno Gulch and Tetro Rock areas near Spearfish for the next two weeks. Four more crews will return to Mount Roosevelt near Deadwood to cut 3,200 marked trees, Heck said.

“We’re working in areas that we cut two years ago,” Heck said. “For example, at Mount Roosevelt, three bug flights later, the numbers are down. We cut 8,900 trees up there the first flight, skipped the second flight and now, for the third flight, have 3,200. So numbers have dropped by two-thirds.”