Thursday, January 11, 2018

Beetle returning to normal levels after clearing Black Hills pine overgrowth

During a recent meeting of the Black Hills National Forest Advisory Board entomologist Kurt Allen said the mountain pine beetle has returned to endemic, very low levels or about one tree per acre.

Ponderosa pine is not native to the Black Hills. When the Custer Expedition came through the region bringing invasive cheatgrass for their horses stands of ponderosa pine were sparse and scattered but a century and a half of poor management practices have created an unnatural overstory best controlled by the mountain pine beetle, prescribed fires and periodic wildfires.

The southern Black Hills are greener and vistas more spectacular after the mountain pine beetle opened view sheds and increased water supplies. Wind Cave National Park is greenest in its history after a prescribed burn took even more invasive grasses than was planned. Most areas affected by the recent Legion Lake Fire are expected to recover to pre-settlement conditions.

For several decade spruce beetles have been working to restore aspen habitat and helping to recharge water supplies in the northern Black Hills likely moving on logging equipment from other western states.

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