DENVER – The U.S. Forest Service and Wyoming State Forestry Division today released the results of the annual aerial forest health survey in Wyoming, which indicates that the spread of the mountain pine beetle epidemic has slowed dramatically, while the spruce beetle outbreak continues at low levels. Each summer the agencies work together to aerially monitor insect and disease caused tree mortality or damage across Wyoming forestland.
As noted in the 2012 survey results, the mountain pine beetle epidemic continues to slow in 2013. Mountain pine beetle was active on 82,000 acres in 2013. Statewide, the epidemic expanded onto only 29,000 previously unaffected acres primarily in the southern Wind River Range on high elevation 5-needle and lodgepole pines. Mountain pine beetle activity is being actively suppressed by forest management in the western Black Hills in Crook and Weston County where less than 1,000 newly affected acres were detected. More than 3.4 million acres in Wyoming have been affected statewide since the first signs of the outbreak in 1996.
Spruce beetle was active on 36,000 acres across the state, expanding by 19,000 new acres in 2013, compared to 17,000 new acres in 2012. Most of the 2013 spruce beetle caused tree mortality occurred in the western part of the state. The total area affected by this beetle since 1996 has reached 577,000 acres.
Douglas-fir beetle remains at low levels in Wyoming with only 1,000 acres affected in 2013 of which 620 acres were reported from southern Sweetwater County.
“Through our collaborative efforts we are improving the health of forests across Wyoming. Together with other agencies, partners and the wood products industry, we continue our work to accelerate the treatment of forests impacted by this long-term event,” said Dan Jirón, Regional Forester for the Rocky Mountain Region of the Forest Service. “Restoring forest health and resiliency is a top regional priority, and is guiding the work on forests. In 2013, these projects resulted in enough timber harvested from National Forests across the region to construct 25,000 homes.”
The Forest Service is taking action to address the bark beetle infestations. The Rocky Mountain Region is focused on increasing the pace and scale of active forest management across Wyoming. Each National Forest is stepping up forest treatments, and is working collaboratively to strategically plan and apply work to the areas that need it most. The Forest Service now has four 10-year stewardship contracts across the region to remove dead trees to restore forests and increase their resiliency. Additionally, the Forest Service has awarded several short-term stewardship contracts aimed at improving forest health and adding to local economies.
According to Bill Crapser Wyoming State Forester, "While I am extremely pleased that the rate of spread of all types of bark beetle has slowed, we need to remember that over 4 million acres of our forests in the state have been impacted by beetles over the last 15 years. We need to focus on what we want these lands to look like 100 years from now, and actively manage in that direction."