Emergency pest suppression funds totaling nearly $12.5 million have been released to the USDA Forest Service to protect forests from insect and disease outbreaks on federal, state, and private lands.
“Insects and diseases have vigorously attacked privately owned forests as well as forests managed by state and federal governments, and these funds will be used for priority actions to suppress the outbreaks on these lands, protecting forests, water, and wildlife,” according to Mike Dombeck, Chief of the Forest Service.
“Native insects and diseases are natural and part of the ecosystem” according to Robert Mangold, director of the Forest Service’s Forest Health Protection staff. “There are, however, times when the effects of these disturbances prevent other important management objectives from being reached, and suppression is necessary.”
Priority will be placed on several areas of the United States: The South, central Rocky Mountains/Great Plains area, and the Pacific Northwest.
A total of $6.5 million is targeted at the southern pine beetle, which has infested portions of eight states in the South: Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. Dombeck said the situation is especially serious in Alabama. Without control, he said, the infestations can kill $200 million worth of trees, and can increase flooding and fire risk, as well as the degradation of wildlife habitat, especially for the red-cockaded woodpecker, an endangered species.
In the Rocky Mountain/Great Plains area, $2.2 million will be aimed at spruce beetle and mountain pine beetle in Colorado, South Dakota, and Wyoming.
A total of $2.25 million will be used to suppress Douglas-fir tussock moth in the Pacific Northwest. This moth is causing widespread defoliation and death of trees. The outbreak began suddenly last year, Dombeck said, and added that forest pest professionals anticipate the outbreak will cover up to 700,000 acres i