Forestry Officials Release 2015 Forest Health Report

Release Date: Feb 4, 2016  

Contact(s): Scott Jacobson, (605) 440-1409

Custer, SD - The U.S. Forest Service, South Dakota Department of Agriculture (SDDA) and Wyoming State Forestry Division today released the results of the annual aerial forest health survey on the Black Hills National Forest and surrounding lands. Analysis of high resolution photography of the Black Hills of South Dakota and northeastern Wyoming reveals the mountain pine beetle epidemic is continuing.

The Mountain Pine Beetle has affected approximately 447,000 acres on the Black Hills National Forest since the outbreak began in 1996. Similar to 2014, between 16,000 and 17,000 acres were affected in 2015.  Ground surveys and beetle brood surveys reveal signs the epidemic is slowing.

“We are seeing positive results as we continue our work with partners and conservation leaders throughout the Black Hills.  We will continue to perform landscape scale treatments to make the forest more resilient to insects and fire,” said Craig Bobzien, Black Hills National Forest Supervisor.

Mountain pine beetle brood surveys were conducted at 13 locations by U.S. Forest Service entomologists in July 2015. Results showed an overall decrease in tree mortality across the forest as a whole, but there are still several areas of significant beetle activity.  Areas that have the highest current activity include the Northwest corner of the Forest around the Tinton area (approximately 8 miles west of Lead and 8 miles South of Spearfish), areas south and east of Custer and the west-central area near the South Dakota/Wyoming state line.

Ben Wudtke, Black Hills Forest Resource Association, said “Although we have some success stories battling the mountain pine beetle in the Black Hills, the most recent results clearly show the fight is not over and we have more work to do.”

“The mountain pine beetle epidemic is waning, but isn’t over yet.  Our thanks go out to the Governor, Legislature, counties, private landowners and industry for their support and efforts during this epidemic because we are making an impact.” said Greg Josten, South Dakota State Forester.

"The area impacted by the mountain pine beetle in the Black Hills is still growing, and we need to continue work to slow the spread.  However the cooperation we have seen between the two states, the Forest Service, the BLM, local governments, and industry should serve as a model to other areas dealing with the same type of issues, said Bill Crapser, Wyoming State Forester.

Dave Thom, Black Hills Regional Mountain Pine Beetle Working Group Coordinator reported that the 14 partners involved have spent an average of $18.2 million annually since 2012 for about 210,000 acres of treatment each year.  “That tremendous work has protected people and communities, created healthier forest conditions for the long-term, and reduced beetle populations, while supporting about 1,200 local jobs,” said Thom. “Work is most effective when coordinated across all lands.” 

Josten and Crapser credit the federal congressional delegation, governors and state legislators from both South Dakota and Wyoming for their support in providing funds for the effort.

A variety of methods have been used to treat hundreds of thousands of trees including forest thinning, noncommercial sanitation, prescribed fire and chemical spraying.

The complete survey results for the Rocky Mountain Region, including Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming are available at

Insect mapping was a cooperative effort between South Dakota Division of Resource Conservation and Forestry, State of Wyoming Forestry Division, Weston Natural Resource Conservation District, Weston County Weed & Pest, USDI Bureau of Land Management, USDA Forest Service and Neiman Timber Company.

Additional information on Mountain Pine Beetles can be found at: