Rapid City, S. D. – The South Dakota Department of Agriculture (SDDA) has started identifying mountain pine beetle (MPB) control areas in the Black Hills and begun the process of drafting rules to address infestations on private lands.
SDDA is currently assisting Black Hills landowners with identifying beetle-infested trees and marking them for removal, having already found 30,000 infested trees on 7,500 acres. Establishing control areas and initiating the rulemaking process is the next step in assisting control efforts on private lands.
“We’ve been working to address the challenges of mountain pine beetles for nine years,” said Ray Sowers, State Forester and Director of the state’s Resource Conservation and Forestry Division. “With the U.S. Forest Service’s slow response on federal lands, areas such as Custer State Park have been the first line of defense against the spread of the beetles. Now this epidemic is impacting private lands.”
The small insects burrow into ponderosa pine trees to lay eggs, killing the trees. Symptoms of the beetle infestations include chewing-gum-like globs of pitch on the trunk or small piles of sawdust around the base. SDDA and the Department of Game, Fish and Parks have spent millions of dollars since 2002 on beetle control in Custer State Park. Control efforts have been successful in the park, and current beetle populations are less than half the level of 2008.
Recently, several counties in the Black Hills have declared the beetles a “public nuisance” and submitted official notices requesting state assistance in controlling spread of the pests on private lands. In response to those requests, SDDA is working to establish uniform procedures for administering state control efforts. The rulemaking process will address: 1) establishment of forest insect control areas, 2) procedures for landowner notification of mountain pine beetle infestations and timetables for control actions, 3) and establishment of uniform provisions to reimburse landowners for control costs.
“The beetle epidemic in the Black Hills is a growing problem,” Sowers said. “By declaring control areas, we establish a system for addressing this outbreak and open the door to additional funding sources to help defray control costs.”
Agriculture is South Dakota’s No. 1 industry, generating $21 billion in annual economic activity and employing over 143,000 South Dakotans. The South Dakota Department of Agriculture’s mission is to promote, protect, preserve and improve this industry for today and tomorrow. Visit us online at http://sdda.sd.gov/ or follow the department on Facebook.