U.S. Forest Service, forest conservationists square off over pine beetle management in South Dakota's Black Hills as critic calls Forest Service plan 'needlessly meddlesome'

LOS ANGELES , November 21, 2011 () – The U.S. Forest Service and environmentalists are battling over how to manage the mountain pine beetle in western South Dakota, with one side saying active approaches such commercial logging are needed, while opponents want to allow natural forest processes to operate, the Argus Leader reported Nov. 19.

Of the 1.5 million acres of public and privately owned forest in the region, the beetle has already attacked 405,000 acres.

Despite the numerous stakeholders, including industry, weighing in on the debate, the final say may come through the new farm bill and forest service budget emerging from Congress, the Argus Leader reported.

Forest Service managers have put forward a beetle management plan for 325,000 acres of the 1.2 million-acre Black Hills National Forest, involving commercial logging, prescribed burns and noncommercial forest thinning.

Critic Brian Brademeyer responded that the logging plan is “needlessly meddlesome” and will cause many times more problems than the beetles would. He pushed for allowing natural forest responses instead, the Argus Leader reported.

These range from woodpeckers that nest in snags and eat mature beetles, to fungi that compete with beetle larvae, said Brademeyer, representing Friends of the Norbeck, Native Ecosystems Council and Defenders of the Black Hills.

U.S. Forest Service spokesperson Frank Carroll said the management plan focuses on controlling bark beetles and wildfires in the heavily populated region. A main tactic is to encourage timber stands with more variety in tree age, size and species, with more space.

The Forest Service is considered more likely to be granted greater power to create more timber sales than to receive more funding.

The primary source of this article is the Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on Nov. 19, 2011.

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