PIERRE | Gov. Dennis Daugaard has announced that more than 215,000 trees infested with mountain pine beetles have been treated since control operations began last fall in the Black Hills.

The total includes more than 115,000 trees on private lands and almost 100,000 trees in Custer State Park.

“Since we began the Black Hills Forest Initiative last year, we’ve been aggressive in attacking this epidemic,” Daugaard said. “The mountain pine beetle infestation continues to be a threat, but I’m committed to continuing our efforts to ‘beat the beetles’ over the next several years.”

Beginning last fall, almost 150,000 acres of state and private forestland were surveyed, and 285,000 infested trees were marked for removal. Final figures will be available later this summer on the total number of infested trees that were treated.

Treatment techniques include removing infested trees for use in sawmills, as well as the cut and chunk, cut and peel, and cut and chip disposal methods.

The South Dakota departments of Agriculture and Game Fish and Parks, as well as several conservation districts in the Black Hills, entered into a joint powers agreement allowing the districts to hire and supervise survey and marking crews. The districts hired 46 seasonal employees to keep ahead of tree-cutting operations.

Cutters included four crews from the South Dakota Wildland Fire Suppression Division (WFS), an inmate crew from the Department of Corrections (DOC), and nine private contractors. WFS and DOC crews were used primarily in the most rugged areas of Custer State Park, where steep topography limited access.

“The Wildland Fire and Department of Corrections crews did outstanding jobs in very difficult terrain,” said State Forester Ray Sowers, who manages the Governor’s pine beetle initiative. “We cut down every beetle-infested tree we could find in Custer State Park, and our efforts should result in fewer detections next year.”

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State agencies, counties and communities worked together to coordinate the assistance available to private landowners. Crews surveyed and marked infested trees on private property, and landowners could apply for reimbursements for removal costs. More than 110,000 acres of private land were surveyed during the effort.

Beetle flights have already begun this year, and landowner signup for the next season of surveying and marking will begin later this summer.

For more information about the state’s efforts to combat mountain pine beetles in the Black Hills, visit www.BeatTheBeetles.com

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