VEHLE: Pine beetle fight, oil issues getting focusThis past week, we received testimonies and interesting presentations on the mountain pine beetle issue and the oil and gas exploration in the northwest part of the state.
By: Mike Vehle , Guest columnist
This past week, we received testimonies and interesting presentations on the mountain pine beetle issue and the oil and gas exploration in the northwest part of the state.
The mountain pine beetle problem is a cyclical issue generally occurring in 20-year cycles. However, this is the largest infestation recorded in the history of the Black Hills. It has impacted over 400,000 acres, one quarter of the Black Hills Forest. Basically, the federal government for years has said it would not do anything about it. Since mountain pine beetles are poor fliers, previously the state cut a 300-footwide path between the National Forest and Custer State Park, as the beetles cannot usually fly over 300 feet from tree to tree. Sometime in recent years the days of their flight must have been on very windy days as there has been an increase in infestation in Custer State Park.
There is not enough demand for the wood for all the infected trees that need to be cut, so many are chunked and about 80 percent of the beetles in that chunked tree then die. Once a tree has been attacked it cannot be saved, but you can stop most of the spread to other trees. The estimate is that we need to remove 145,000 trees in Custer State Park in 2012, 108,000 in 2013, and 27,000 in 2014. Let’s hope that with the tree cutting in Custer State Park that the number of infested trees will diminish as they are currently projecting. The fire danger of these standing dead trees is huge.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources provided an excellent presentation on its efforts over the last nine months to quantify and provide on a website interactive maps for a one-stop shop for oil and gas information. The first discovered oil was in 1953 by Shell Oil Co. and production started in 1954. That well was 9,332 feet deep — nearly two miles, and is in the Red River Formation, which currently is South Dakota’s most productive geologic formation. The interactive maps show all the wells that have been drilled in South Dakota, into what formation, at whatever depth, and all the necessary information. It truly is an interesting site and one that hopefully will be of great assistance to the industry as it looks south across the North Dakota border. The site is at www.sddenr.net/sdoil.
This week, we will be discussing among many other varied things synthetic marijuana, non-resident hunting licenses, the retirement age for judges and minimum-maintenance township roads.
If you contact us, please put your name and town in the subject line so we can separate them from the hundreds of emails from outside the district and outside South Dakota. I look forward to the next cracker barrel at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Commerce Street Grill in Plankinton.
Mike Vehle, of Mitchell, is a Republican representing District 20 — Davison and Aurora counties — in the state Senate.