With spring in full swing, Lawrence County’s offensive against the mountain pine beetle has, for most part, ended for the season.

About 102,000 trees were cut on U.S. Forest Service land in Lawrence County from Sept. 1, 2011, to April 1 as part of two different programs. About 60,000 were cut as part of a Forest Service sanitation program that cost the county nothing. About 42,000 were cut as part of the county’s cut-and-chunk program, which was funded by a combination of county dollars and donations.

Another 12,000 trees were cut on private property, although Dave Heck, Lawrence County Invasive Species Management supervisor, said that number will climb as work continues on private lands.

Of the 55,000 acres identified for the cut-and-chunk program, crews were able to cover only 34,000 acres. Of the 63,500 trees reconnaissance crews determined should be cut, only about 42,000 were felled before time ran out. Crews worked a total of 7,600 hours in the program.

The chunking program itself cost about $702,000; extra labor costs brought the project total to $859,000.

The $702,000 came from county funds and donations. Much of it was allocated to specific areas, such as the $350,000 for Spearfish Canyon and $90,000 for Spearfish Peak.

The county did not spend all of the money it had allocated for pine beetle eradication, nor did it spend every dime donated over the season. Much of that money will remain until next year, to pick up where the program left off.

Since money was allocated to specific project areas, it could not be transferred from one project area to another. For instance, $828 remaining in the Spearfish Canyon account could not be transferred to another project area.

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The total leftover balance was $181,000. The bulk of that is from the $129,000 remaining in the county’s Impact and Economic Mountain Pine Beetle account.

Heck would have preferred to spend that $129,000 down to $60,000, he said Tuesday. But since the county was spending close to $60,000 a day, he decided to shut the program off before the account was drained, in order to save money for the lethal baiting project.

“We’re in the process of setting up lethal baiting stations,” Heck said Tuesday at a regular county commission meeting.

In lethal baiting, select trees are sprayed with a pheromone that attracts pine beetles. When the beetles come into contact with the tree, they die. Heck has previously likened the process to a bug zapper.

County commissioners praised Heck’s efforts over the season on Tuesday, commending him for his work.

“I think this was worthwhile, very worthwhile,” Commission Chairman Bob Ewing said.

Contact Aaron Orlowski at 484-7069 or aaron.orlowski@rapidcityjournal.com

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