Black Hills National Forest: Road to Recovery

CUSTER, S.D. – Bark beetles, also known as mountain pine beetles, are native to South Dakota. The insects eat away at trees, which can cause dense forests to thin.

For a span of two decades, the Black Hills National Forest struggled with a bark beetle infestation. The infestation hit its peak between 2011 and 2012. The bugs devastated the forest and local property owners.

Hank Fridell, a member of the Bark Beetle Blues Committee, is a landowner himself.

“They’ve killed millions of trees in the Black Hills over a 20-year period. People were devastated by this,” said Fridell.

The Bark Beetle Blues Committee was founded during the time where the infestation was at its peak. The committee brings awareness to forest health, the bark beetle, and overall forest safety. The group is predominantly made up of property owners who are personally affected by the elements.

The beetle is about the size of a grain of rice and it multiplies in billions. The beetle can be beneficial to cleaning a dense forest, but it can cause problems if too many trees die. If the bugs are not controlled and exterminated, they can take down an entire forest.

Scott Jacobson, the public affairs officer at Black Hills National Forest, says it’s all about creating a healthy environment.

“Our job on the forest side is to try to thin the forest and make it more resilient to bugs and fire,” said Jacobson.

On Jan. 19, 2019, the Black Beetle Blues Committee will host its annual “Burning Beetle” event. Volunteers get together to build a giant beetle and then light it on fire with torches.

The event signifies that the beetle will not win the battle against the national forest.

Categories: Local News, South Dakota News