Good morning Frank. Are you here?
We are here. Craig Bobzien is expected any moment.
How can I post a photo quickly?
Good. I think so about the photo.
You have a few minutes before we start at 10.
There's a link that says upload that allows you to put up a photo.
Good Morning . This is Craig, we anticipate some tech problems getting a photo, so will go without.
Randy, Frank is working to send photo by another means.
Good morning and welcome to our Live Chat with Craig Bobzien, supervisor of Black Hills National Forest, and Frank Carroll, spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service.
Craig Bobzien, Forest Supervisor is live.
Is the mountain pine beetle infestation the biggest threat to the health of the Black Hills National Forest that you have witnessed?
Pine beetles and wildfire are both major threats.
Are the pine beetles a bigger threat and more destructive than wildfires?
No, but its a matter of scale. Small infestations of pine beetles and small fires are part of the natural system. We are very concerned about both the large scale of pine beetle epidemic today, and the possible scale of future, large wildfires.
Isn’t it the case that after a fire a ponderosa pine forest can regenerate itself because of the tree’s reproductive cycle, but that isn’t the case when pine beetles sweep through?
In most cases enough seed producing trees remain to regenerate the forest. In large wildfires, like Jasper, all large seed bearing trees were killed in portions of the fire. Natural reproduction occurred in many areas, and the Forest Service planted a million trees where the seed trees were lost.
Thanks, Craig. For our viewers, Craig Bobzien, supervisor of Black Hills National Forest, is able to answer questions today.
Some environmentalists have argued that “intense” logging in the Black Hills is primarily responsible for the pine beetle epidemic. Please respond.
Not the case. We use scientific research to guide our forest management. We know that thinning in advance of beetles works.
What are the contributing factors to the strength of the current pine beetle infestation?
Food source and habitat for the beetles over large portions of the forest. . Mountain pine beetles thrive in dense forests of large Ponderosa pine. Four hundred thousand acrees have been under attack the last decade, and another three hundred thousand acres are at risk. Tree stress, often brought on by drought, also weakens the tree's natural ability to pitch out the beetles. While drought is less of a factor today, the tree density remains in areas where thinning has not occurred recently.
Thank you. Larry Kurtz has a question.
Hi Larry. We are very encouraged by the response of hardwoods like aspen following Jasper, Grizzly and other large wildfires. Our Forest plan goals are to increase hardwoods. This fall we completed the Lemming prescribed fire that was within Jasper. This 1750 acre burn did reduce the down hazardous fuels (concern about reburn), thinned areas of dense, smaller pine trees. We completed it before the snowfall to consume large ground fuels and carry the fire under the right burning "prescription". See photos at www.forestphoto.com
Is there any historical record or evidence of a similar pine beetle epidemic in the past in the BHNF?
Yes, there is photo evidence from the 1874 Custer Expedition, Graves report circa1900, and larger cyclic outbreaks in the 1930s, 1970s, and today.
How did forest managers respond to those infestations?
The Civilian Conservaton Corps (CCC) responded by thinning over 200,000 acres in the 1930s. In the 1970s, mechanical logging removed infested trees, and many individual trees were felled and treated with chemicals. Today, forest managers are thinning in advance of beetles, removing beetle infested, individual trees, cutting and chunking trees, and in spraying repellents on individual trees in key areas like campgrounds and near homes.
Thanks, Craig. Craig Bobzien, BHNF supervisor, is with us today. Is there a natural cycle associated with the mountain pine beetle? In other words, will the current infestation eventually subside only to return decades from now when conditions are right?
Because of these factors, we are no longer assuming this infestation will simply subside like in the past so long as there are large areas of habitat for the beetles. We have been taking action onpine beetles and fuels over the past thirteen years of this epidemic and will continue. Our current mountain pine beetle response strategy has identified all of the beetle habitat on the Black Hills, identified a host of measures that we will take to maintain the healthiest forest we can, and working with others to do even more.
Yes, there is clearly a natural cycle as history indicates. At the same time, the western United States and western Canada are experiencing what we believe is the largest attack on record. Recently , an expert from Alberta illustrated the pine beetle's massive expansion into northern provinces. A recent report now estimated 41.7 million acres across all ownerships in the western U.S>>since 1997.
Thanks, Craig. Is there anything you'd like to add before we conclude our interview?
Thank you, Craig Bobzien, BHNF supervisor, for joining us today.