Mountain Pine Beetle and Western Spruce Budworm Infestations Challenge Montana Forest Owners
Over the past 3-4 years forest landowners in central and southwestern Montana have faced the largest known Mountain Pine Beetle (MPB) epidemic on record. The results have been devastating for those directly affected. Lodgepole pine stands with average diameters greater than 6 inches have suffered greater than 90% mortality. Ponderosa pine stands in many areas have 90% of trees greater than 8 inches dead or infested. Elsewhere ponderosa stands typically have 40-70% mortality. Viewed from local highways many mountainsides in the area are a vast sea of red-needled dead trees.
To make matters worse, an extensive western spruce budworm infestation is impacting Douglas-fir, sub alpine fir and spruce forests throughout the region. Maintaining the health of these tree species is even more important in mixed stands where all pine species are either dead or infested with MPB.
At the same time landowners are faced with an economic recession and the weakest log market in decades. These are the toughest of times for landowners and Northwest Management, Inc. (NMI) foresters with decades of experience. However, there have been some successful outcomes as a result of applied forest management. Here are some of the observations NMI foresters have made.
In regards to Mountain Pine Beetle:
• Ponderosa pine stands maintained at a basal area of less than 80 sq feet per acre are suffering significantly less mortality from MPB than non-treated or dense stands.
In regards to western spruce budworm:
• Aerial application of Bt (bacillus thuringensis) has worked extremely well to control western spruce budworm damage. Northwest Management, Inc. coordinated spraying on over 4,000 acres of private forest land in Montana this year and has witnessed excellent results.
The impacts of these infestations have impacted landowners in so many different ways. However, there is plenty of evidence that proper forest management can lessen damage associated with forest insect infestations. Professional foresters can assist in even the direst circumstances by designing environmentally sound treatments that are conducted in the most cost effective manner possible. Good planning and coordination is especially important during these difficult times.
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