Cooperation key in beetle battle
Published: Thursday, June 21st, 2012
The cooperation between local, state and national agencies in fighting the mountain pine beetle battle has been admirable. Custer City has mounted an aggressive tree thinning project around the city and Custer State Park is doing all it can to mitigate the menacing beetle epidemic with its own aggressive tree removal projects. Custer County has utilized special funding to help landowners rid their property of bug trees.The U.S. Forest Service is also aggressively engaged in the beetle battle and may now have non-partisan support in Washington, D.C.
South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune is working with his Democratic counterparts in the U.S. Senate to beef up provisions in the U.S. Department of Agriculture farm bill to add more money to mountain pine beetle projects. Thune has added provisions in the farm bill to include authorization for up to an additional $100 million to fight pine beetles in states affected by the mounting menace.
Thune has found support from Democratic senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennett of Colorado and Max Baucus of Montana. Udall would like to see the spending authorization increased to $200 million, and for good reason. He has seen the devastation wreaked by the mountain pine beetle, which is a direct result of an optimum fuel load being burned in a massive 56,000 acre fire now raging in his state. Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., has added his name as a co-sponsor of the Udall amendment.
As of Monday, high temperatures, low relative humidity and gusty winds were whipping up the blaze near Fort Collins. The High Park Fire was about 45 percent contained Monday and had about 1,750 firefighters engaged in battling the inferno. The fire had already destroyed at least 181 homes and more were expected to be destroyed before it is brought under control. The Denver Post reported that one person has been killed in the fire since it started June 9 with a lightning strike.
Local agencies have been warning us that this is exactly the same scenario that residents in the Southern Black Hills could be facing at any time because of the nearby tinderbox known as the Norbeck Wildlife Preserve adjacent to Custer State Park. Logging activity has been prohibited in this area and as a result pine beetles have had a field day, which has resulted in a lot of downfall that is an ideal fuel source for a huge fire some day. Fire officials keep telling us it isn’t a matter of if a fire there will occur. It is a matter of when it will occur.
CNN reported that the National Weather Service rates the fire risk in six Western states on Monday as “critical.” Red flag warnings of high winds, low humidity and warm temperatures were posted across 10 states. It may look green now in the Black Hills, but it wouldn’t take long to dry out this area, either, if the moisture ceases to fall.
Facing this kind of fire scenario sometime in the future, it is good to know there are bipartisan efforts being made at the highest national level to fund the pine beetle battle in states so adversely affected by the infestation.
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