2012-02-25

Let's do the beetle math

The current major epidemic of the native mountain pine beetle to the forests of western North America from Mexico to central British Columbia is ten times larger than previous outbreaks. Of course, the forest are ten times larger than they were then. The last reported major beetle epidemic in the Black Hills was in 1897 when Seth Bullock served as first forest supervisor. It was reported that 4,000,000 ponderosa pine trees were lost. This major epidemic may destroy 40-million pine trees or more.

What are we to do?

In January 2012, it was estimated that 10 percent of Lawrence County's pine forest was infested with beetles. That's 800,000 trees. At a minimum, each infested tree has 500 beetles. That's 400 million beetles. At about $25 per tree in cutting and administration cost, that's a whopping $20-million in eliminating the “current” beetle population from the county. However, this year, more millions of beetles will be flying into the county from other counties.