BLACK HILLS, SD -
For more than a decade the pine beetle has taken a devastating bite out of the Black Hills.
It started around 14 years ago with 1,500 trees and now grown to an estimated 400,000 acres. Monday Governor Dennis Daugaard got a bird’s eye view of the problem for himself.
The pine beetle is only the size of a grain of rice, but its impact can be seen from nearly any vantage point in the Black Hills. Monday Governor Daugaard announced a plan he hopes will help bring an end to sea of dead trees.
"It really gives you a sense of how broad the problem is," Governor Daugaard said.
You can see the brown, dead trees on almost any drive through the Black Hills. But from the air, you can begin to understand just how far their wings have taken them. Nearly one-third of the Black Hills has been affected by the infestation. Governor Daugaard hopes to slow, and stop their spread.
"The state of South Dakota will invest an additional $1 million for the next three years to help control the spread of Mountain Pine Beetle," Gov. Daugaard said.
At least four counties have declared the issue a disaster. That gave the governor the right to use the states emergency and disaster fund, which is where the money is coming from. It’s the same fund that was used this spring for flooding.
"One thing we learned during the floods earlier this year is if you undertake some expense earlier in a preventive way, you can prevent a lot more expense later. If we don't address the mountain pine beetle epidemic, all we're asking for is tremendous wildfire fighting expense and damage later," Gov. Daugaard said.
The money will be used on a cost-sharing basis for private landowners to survey and mark beetle infested trees. Daugaard has also opened up new lines of communication in all levels of government to work together in fighting the infestation.
"If each of us take different kinds of action it might cause confusion in the public eye; they might not understand what a private citizen can do. If we're acting in a coordinating fashion, we can be more affective," Gov. Daugaard said.
The state has also started a new website, BeatTheBeetles.com
, where people can go to get information on how to use the program.
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