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November 20, 2012 - Mountain Pine Beetle Infestation in the Black Hills
The mountain pine beetle, a native insect to the Black Hills of South Dakota, has destroyed an estimated 384,000 acres - one third - of the 1.2 million acres of the National Forest System lands in the Black Hills since 1998.
Traditionally the mountain pine beetle has existed in the Black Hills at endemic levels, with periodic outbreaks coinciding with favorable conditions. Thriving in the abundant even-aged, high density ponderosa pine stands, the beetle mass attacks green host trees in late summer, boring under the bark and also spreading a blue-stain fungus, both of which can eventually lead to tree mortality if the mass attack was successful.
The infestation is growing rapidly, doubling from 22,000 new acres affected in 2008 to 44,000 new acres affected in 2009. The beetle infestation has also killed essentially all of the trees in the 13,426 acres of the Black Elk Wilderness.