The combination of drought, warmer winters and aging forests have resulted in an outbreak of bark beetles in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The mountain pine beetle bores under the bark to lay eggs and disrupts the flow of nutrients, which ultimately kills the trees.
Black Hills National Forest Urges Visitors to be Cautious this Summer
Memorial Day kicks off the start of the summer recreation season and the Black Hills National Forest is reminding visitors of the dangers from falling trees on the forest.
Beetle-killed trees fall every day in the forest. Weakened stands are becoming increasingly unstable due to the effects of heavy wind storms during the winter and spring. These conditions can result in falling-tree dangers along public roadways, trails, and recreation sites.
“The dead trees are rotting in their roots and are now starting to rot above ground making them susceptible to falling at unpredictable times,” Cal Wettstein, Incident Commander of the Bark Beetle Incident Management Organization said. “With the resulting openings in the forest tree canopy the live trees, with all their needles, are catching in the wind like sails, causing them to blow over and pull the dead trees down with them. This makes it especially dangerous to be in these beetle kill areas in windy conditions.”
Forest visitors are advised to be extremely cautious when traveling on Forest Service roads, trails, and recreation sites. Some tips to stay safe this season include:
· Check local weather forecasts and be aware of high-wind advisories before going into the woods
· Let family or friends know where you plan to go and when you expect to return
· Always be aware of your surroundings and avoid dense patches of dead trees
· Look for open areas when selecting a location to camp or park
· Park close to main roads
· Bring an ax or a saw to remove fallen trees in case you become trapped
· Do not rely on cell phones for safety in remote areas
Remember, your safety is your responsibility.
“The Forest Service is working hard to concentrate resources in high-use recreation areas that pose greatest risk to public safety. We are doing everything we can to get the message out to the public of the dangers that these beetle-kill areas pose and to help ensure a satisfying, safe, and memorable recreational experience on our forests,” said Dan Jirón, Regional Forester, U.S. Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Region.
Many campgrounds and trailheads throughout the region have been closed, or delayed in their opening due to hazardous trees. To avoid disappointment, be sure to call the local ranger district office for the area in which you are going to check conditions, closures, delays, and warnings.