Beetle Infestation Ends - Resiliency Project Begins in Black Hills
Gale Gire, Silviculturist for Black Hills National Forest. Photo: Hannah Hunsinger, Rapid City Journal
The Cohesive Strategy seeks to improve the resiliency across landscapes against not just the negative effects of wildfire fire but insects and disease as well. The rugged mountain pine beetle has devastated many landscapes across the west, including an epic, 20-year assault in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
The US Forest Service has officially declared that epidemic over with 2016's report that the number of beetle killed trees is less than in prior years - a solid sign that things are moving back to normal. Their latest effort is the Black Hills Resilient Landscapes Project which will address not only the millions of tree deaths during the beetle epidemic but also the reduction in high intensity fire risk. Current forest landscapes in the Black Hills are "out of whack," says Anne Davy of the US Forest Service. If the project is approved, forest managers will spend the next decade working to make the forest more resilient to beetles and wildfires. The work will vary, but it will include removing some dead trees, igniting controlled burns, thinning dense areas to act as breaks against wildfires, cutting encroaching pines out of aspen and oak stands and away from grassy meadows, and culling some old or young pines to encourage a healthier mix of tree ages.
Researchers have suggested it might be wiser and more cost-effective to focus less on reactionary beetle control efforts and more on the creation of forest conditions to limit the damage from future epidemics. Forest managers in the Black Hills agree that the beetle devastation has highlighted the need for proactive thinking. "We need to see some active forest management on the landscape, or we’re going to be having the same conversations with the same front-page headlines 20 years from now,” Ben Wudke of the Black Hills Forest Resource Association said, “with mountain pine beetles or catastrophic wildfires decimating the forest.” Cohesive Strategy's Western Region met with stakeholders from South Dakota in 2016 for a shared learning workshop that highlighted the need for addressing the beetle killed forests. it's great to see these efforts towards landscape resiliency moving forward!! Stay tuned! For the full article on the Black Hills Resiliency Project, click here.