All-lands approach ups ante in Black Hills National Forest pine beetle battle

At 30,000 acres, forest treatment levels continue to increase Hills-wide

By Jaci Conrad Pearson, Black Hills Pioneer

“Annually, 30,000 acres is what we’re treating,” said Craig Bobzien, supervisor of the Black Hills National Forest. “We’re trending up in acres thinned every year, steadily increasing based on our capabilities.”

With national legislators pushing for more and faster treatment for America’s drought- and pine beetle-compromised forests, local forest officials say they realized the value of a team approach years ago and use an “all-lands” approach to upping the ante on forest treatments.

“The forest service has really been interested for years in increasing the pace and scale of reforestation, ways to make the forest more resilient,” Bobzien said. “The Mountain Pine Beetle Response Program seeks to increase the areas available for treatment using an all-lands approach,”

As part of the all-lands approach, the Forest Service, South Dakota and Wyoming, timber industry, counties and private land owners in the Black Hills are working together to keep local forests as healthy as possible.

“In the Black Hills forest alone, we’ve treated close to 30,000 acres this year, thinning in advance of the pine beetles,” Bobzien said. “We’ve been moving from 18,000 to 20,000, then it was 22,000 to 24,000 annually, continuing to increase ahead of the pine beetle, making the forest more resistant to the pine beetle, as well as reducing hazardous fuel. It’s important for the forest and forest communities. We’re saying, ‘Where’s the very best place we can be right now, working at the right place, at the right time?”

Bobzien said that increased treatments have been successful and part of the mix, due to funding and assistance received from the states of South Dakota and Wyoming.

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