Response to Pine Beetles in the Black Hills

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Response to Pine Beetles in the Black Hills of Wyoming

MapItFast and Strider Reporting heavily used with impressive results

In 2009, a Statewide Forest Assessment in Wyoming designated the Black Hills region as an area of high priority with a threat from insect and disease. To help address the threat, Wyoming State Forestry assembled the Northeast Wyoming Pine Beetle Response team to help minimize Mountain Pine Beetle (MPB) damage in the Black Hills of Northeast Wyoming.

In 2012, conservation leaders from Wyoming and South Dakota adopted the Black Hills Regional Pine Beetle Strategy as follows:

  1. Establish priority treatment areas based on aerial and ground surveys.
  2. Use ground gridding (green tree survey) to identify, mark and count infested trees.
  3. Apply the appropriate control practice to eliminate infested trees before insects spread to healthy trees.
  4. Follow up treatment with inspection.

Over twenty partners have collaborated on this approach providing focused and integrated treatments for multiple landowners in multiple jurisdictions.

A key to implementing the strategy from the start was the use of AgTerra’s MapItFast and Strider Reporting products.  Inexpensive Android phones without a cellular plan were purchased to outfit over 30 contractors on the project with GPS and data recording devices. After brief training, the contractors mark their paths, trees and area boundaries on their devices.  The ongoing project requires that most of the work is done in remote areas without access to Internet.  Because of this, offline aerial basemaps with property boundary overlays are utilized for reference.  At the end of the day, after contractors establish a Wi-Fi connection, the project data stored on the devices is automatically uploaded to the online MapItFast mapping and Strider Reporting account.  No manual data transfer is involved throughout the process.

An enormous amount of data has been collected.  In the fall/winter of 2014-15, an area of approximately 80,000 acres and 3,600 miles of forest was walked and evaluated for infestation; 45,000 trees were identified and treated.  Much of the same area was resurveyed in 2015-16 with only 20,000 trees identified and treated. During 2016-17, spotting was reduced to roughly 35,000 acres after finding less than 2,000 infested trees. This shows success with the treatment strategy.

Sarah Anderson, District Manager with the Crook County Natural Resource District helped coordinate the pine beetle mitigation efforts by training a large number of contractors and managing the GIS and tabular data they collected.  When asked about AgTerra and the software, she said, “MapItFast has been fantastic. We really enjoy working with AgTerra.”  Watch her testimonial.

Results of the project have been impressive. In locations where work has been implemented, mountain pine beetle (MPB) surveys illustrate a discernable decrease in infested green trees.

According to Jeremy Dedic, Assistant District Forester with Wyoming State Forestry, “MapItFast is a tremendous help identifying infested tree locations so that sawyers are able to quickly find and treat the trees.  Managing the maps and data from all the contractors is easy and convenient.  We were able to accomplish all of this at a fraction of the cost of other systems.”

Partners involved in this ongoing project include:

·         Crook County Natural Resource District·         Weston County Weed and Pest
·         Crook County Weed and Pest·         Weston County Natural Resource District
·         Timber Industry·         Bureau of Land Management
·         Natural Resources Conservation Service·         Black Hills Regional Mountain Pine Beetle Working Group
·         Crook County Commissioners·         Weston County Commissioners
·         Crook County Road and Bridge·         Weston County Road and Bridge
·         Private Landowners·         Weston County Fire Protection District
·         Black Hills National Forest  ·         UW Extension
·         Bearlodge Ranger District·         Wyoming State Forestry Division
·         Hell Canyon Ranger District·         Wyoming Dept. of Agriculture
·         Newcastle Tree Board·         Wyoming Wildlife Trust Fund