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South Dakota Field Office
Release Date: 10/12/12
Contacts: Mark Jacobsen    
  (406) 233-2831    

BLM Timber Harvest Going Well

Belle Fourche, S.D. --- A BLM timber sale west of Deadwood near a partially developed subdivision is going smoothly, according to the South Dakota Field Office headquartered in Belle Fourche.

The Sugarloaf Mountain timber sale area encompasses scattered private land, culturally significant structures and part of the George S. Mickleson National Recreation Trail. The harvest objective is to remove ponderosa pine trees that are infested with mountain pine beetle; the tiny insect responsible for massive tree die-offs in conifer stands across the west.

The BLM operation is part of a wider effort to thwart the beetle epidemic in the Black Hills, the results of which are increasingly evident by the growing numbers of dead, rust-colored trees that stand in contrast among live ponderosas.

BLM staffers Biologist Chuck Berdan and Outdoor Recreation Planner Bitsy Stiller first made the determination to treat the Sugarloaf area in 2011. According to Stiller, the infested BLM acreage appeared to have last seen timber cutting activity 10 to 20 years ago. Subsequent to the initial inspection, the BLM determined that timing was critical to treat the area before the beetles flew again in the late summer of 2012.
“In addition to dense stands of ponderosa pine there were areas of pine regeneration under the large over story, as well as pine within predominately aspen and birch stands,” said Stiller.  “All areas had groups of green mountain pine beetle hit trees.”

Lawrence County crews were used to inventory and mark the green infested trees last winter utilizing invasive species funding to cover the costs.  Approximately 2,800 trees were recorded via GPS and identified for removal.
Due to the stand conditions, the BLM determined that the removal of additional live trees would help reduce stress, open the stands and inhibit beetle infestation in remaining trees.  Spacing and size goals for the stands were calculated and the cruise was completed in less than two weeks using BLM firefighters from Belle Fourche, Ekalaka and Camp Crook.

“The timber was offered for public sale on June 4, 2012,” said Stiller. “One bid was received and accepted and the first tree was felled June 12, 2012.”

As of Sept. 21 Neiman Timber Company from Hulett, Wyo. has cut approximately 80 percent of the 433 acres and removed over 12,000 tons of timber.

The mountain pine beetle was originally discovered in the Black Hills early in the 20th century and was given the moniker “Black Hills Beetle.” Afterwards, when it was determined that the insect was prevalent across the mountain west and one of a multitude of similar tree beetle types, it was given its present name. High-density tree stands with trees that are predominantly the same age with about 8 inch diameter or larger trunks seem to be the preferred hosts.

Beetles will typically attack in overwhelming numbers and the tree will futilely try to defend itself by over-producing resin. Once a tree has been infested it’s all over. The best recourse to stop the unwelcome residents from spreading is to remove the infected tree for processing or at least “chunking” into two-foot sections before the beetles take flight in late July or early August. Spraying uninfected trees and pheromone traps are chemical options that appear to have met with some success in other areas.

Multi-aged stands are less attractive to the beetles and therefore one of the side benefits of the Sugarloaf sale. The Black Hills is a combination of federal, state and private land; more than 500,000 acres have been impacted by pine beetles since 1997, according to the Black Hills Regional Mountain Pine Beetle Strategy, dated May 21, 2012.

Additional information on the Sugarloaf Mountain timber project can be obtained by calling the BLM South Dakota Field Office at 605.892.7000.

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The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM's mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. In Fiscal Year 2015, the BLM generated $4.1 billion in receipts from activities occurring on public lands.

South Dakota Field Office   310 Roundup St.      Belle Fourche, SD 57717  

Last updated: 10-12-2012