Forest Service Encourages Hunters, Outdoor Enthusiasts to Practice Caution

Montgomery, Ala., (August 14, 2018) – Southern pine beetles have destroyed thousands of trees in the National Forests in Alabama. The U.S. Forest Service is recommending hunters, hikers and all outdoor enthusiasts to exercise caution while visiting a national forest because of the potential of hazardous trees that are affected by southern pine beetles (SPB).

The Forest Service continues to respond and manage the southern pine beetle outbreak. From 2017 to present, the Forest Service reported over 600 spots (groups of dead or dying pine trees) on the Bankhead National Forest and Talladega National Forest.  According to Acting Forest Supervisor Gary Church, the Forest Service is urging visitors to be safe and watchful for the potential of hazard trees.  “Hunters and all visitors need to pay close attention to their surroundings,” said Church. “We know many people love to visit the national forest during the cooler weather to hunt, hike and camp. Visitors need to be aware there are trees that are standing upright, but dead, on the forest.”

This year, there are more hazard trees because of the southern pine beetle outbreak. A hazard tree has a structural defect that makes it likely to fall in whole or in part. Falling trees are an ever-present hazard when traveling or camping in any forest. Too often, visitors are unaware of the risks associated with defective trees.

The Forest Service asks that visitors keep these safety tips in mind:

  • Be aware of your surroundings as trees can fall without warning. Be particularly watchful when it's windy.
  • Avoid parking or camping in areas where trees could fall.
  • Avoid dense patches of dead trees. Limbs and damaged trees may fall at any time.
  • Look up while on trails, especially when it’s windy. Stay out of the forest when there are strong winds that could blow down trees. If you are already in the forest when winds increase, go to a clear area.
  • Park close to a main road rather than on a spur or one-way section when driving in remote areas of the forest to avoid being trapped if a tree falls across the road.
  • Remember: Plan your trip.  Tell a friend or family member and keep a line of communication. You are responsible for your own safety and for the safety of those around you.

The coordination of resources between the National Forests in Alabama, Alabama Forestry Commission, Forest Service forest health specialists and additional partners involve SPB prevention, detection and suppression. This fall and winter, hunters and all visitors should also expect to see more management activity as forest workers continue operations including the use of heavy equipment to cut and remove SPB affected timber.

The southern pine beetle, a cyclical outbreak species, is the most destructive forest pest in the south, both in economic and ecological impacts.   In the absence of southern pine beetle suppression, large-scale pine mortality occurs, destroying timber and wood products, threatened and endangered species habitat, recreation areas and infrastructure, such as developed sites and trails, and other property values such as neighboring forest stands. Tree mortality can also lead to hazard trees which may create safety hazards for visitors and employees and increase the potential for catastrophic wildfire.

Tree falling Warning Poster