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Forester says tall trees in Black Hills in danger

CUSTER (AP) -- A private forester from Deadwood is pushing for the preservation of what might be the two tallest Ponderosa pine trees in the Black Hills of western South Dakota.

Both are in danger because they're surrounded by trees that are heavily infested with mountain pine beetles, and should be sprayed every year, Andrew Smith told the Rapid City Journal ( ).

A tree in Custer State Park measured at 146 feet tall by the state Agriculture Department and 159 feet by South Dakota State University researcher John Ball is the tallest known Ponderosa in the Black Hills. It has a few green branches mixed in with dead ones in a limited canopy, and some people question whether it's dying. If it does die, Smith said, a 96-foot-tall tree near Deerfield Reservoir could claim the title of tallest Ponderosa in the Black Hills.

Forest Service officials haven't said whether they will spray the Deerfield Reservoir tree. Custer State Park Superintendent Matt Snyder said the park tree somehow was missed during spraying last year, but that won't happen again.

"As long as there's green branches up there, I'm going to say it's alive," he said. "As long as there's green on it, we'll get up in here and spray it."