US Forest Service releases Final Environmental Impact Statement for mountain pine beetle response project in Black Hills National Forest; project aims to combat beetle epidemic by pre-treating at-risk areas

CUSTER, South Dakota , September 20, 2012 (press release) – Black Hills National Forest Supervisor, Craig Bobzien, announces the release of a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Mountain Pine Beetle Response project.

“This is a collaborative, large scale environmental project that uses new approaches to address the mountain pine beetle epidemic” said Bobzien. Over the past fifteen years, the mountain pine beetle (MPB) has infested over 406,000 acres of the 1.2 million acres of land on the Black Hills National Forest and continues to expand. “It’s our most widespread public concern.” Recent projects have treated over one hundred thousand acres but new means are needed to keep our forests resilient. “This project identifies the areas we anticipate mountain pine beetles to occur, then allows us to act quickly using a variety of tools.”

This project proposes treatments on portions of approximately 242,000 acres of high risk forest that are predicted to be affected by MPB. This project would manage the vegetation to reduce the threat to ecosystem components from the existing MPB epidemic and to reduce hazardous fuels in order to minimize the potential for large-scale wildfires.

Three alternatives are considered in detail. Alternative A is the No Action Alternative. Alternative B is the proposed action. Integrated Pest Management techniques are proposed for areas at high risk and most susceptible to MPB infestation, with the objective of treating and removing infested trees before beetles can disperse. Alternative C responds to comments received during scoping. It includes treating in advance of the MPB, treating more areas, and addresses concerns about safety and access on roadways (ingress/egress). The preferred alternative is Alternative C with modifications which would include reducing new system road construction and focused treatments in portions of MA 4.2A located within Spearfish Canyon.

For more information on this project contact Craig Bobzien at (605) 673-9200. The MPBR Project FEIS is available on the Black Hills National Forest website at http://www.fs.usda.gov/projects/blackhills/landmanagement/projects

The Mountain Pine Beetle Response project is authorized by the Healthy Forest Restoration Act of 2003 (HFRA).

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