Last week, Gov. Dennis Daugaard sent a request to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack asking for designation of an insect and disease treatment area in the Black Hills to help address mountain pine beetle infestation.
"Designating much of this unique ecosystem for insect and disease treatment will provide the Black Hills and South Dakota flexibility to implement coordinated, science-based treatments throughout the entire forest while identifying specific project areas limited to 3,000-acres in size," said Gov. Daugaard in the letter.
More than 1 million acres of the Black Hills National Forest were requested for designation.
Under provisions of the 2014 Farm Bill, governors can request designation. Starting when the law takes effect, states have 60 days to send in requests.
Designated areas must be landscape-scale and experiencing declining forest health and substantial tree mortality. The areas also must contain hazardous trees that pose imminent threats to public infrastructure, health and safety.
If designation is granted, federal government management actions in these areas could be expedited.
In 2011, Gov. Daugaard launched the Black Hills Forest Initiative to provide direct assistance to private landowners and continue efforts in Custer State Park. The state Legislature approved a special appropriation of $6.1 million to fund the Governor's initiative. To date, around 200,000 acres have been surveyed, 420,000 trees have been treated and 4,000 landowners have participated.