Two scientists with the Forest Service Southern Research Station, headquartered in Asheville, received a 2011 Forest Service Chief’s Honor Award for their work to prevent attacks of the Southern pine beetlea pest pest responsible for economic losses estimated in the billions of dollars.
Southern Research Station Assistant Director Kier Klepzig and Forest Health Protection entomologist John Nowak, both based in Asheville, received the award on Dec. 5 at a celebration held in Washington, D.C., along with fellow team members, Forest Health Protection Unit Director Wes Nettleton, and FHP Program Manager Don Duerr (the latter are both from the Forest Service Regional office in Atlanta). The Chief of the Forest Service confers the honor awards annually.
The last major Southern pine beetle outbreak, which occurred from 1999 to 2003, impacted nearly 1 million acres of forest in eight states and caused about $1.5 billion in damages. In response to the devastation, Congress requested a prevention strategy be developed which is now implemented in twelve national forests across the South.
Proactive prevention treatments such as thinning of trees have been shown to effectively reduce Southern pine beetle infestations, agency scientists say, and are best implemented between outbreaks. Treatments recommended by the Southern Pine Beetle Prevention Program appear to have multiple benefits, they argue, including decreasing the impacts of fire, enhancing wildlife habitat and increasing recreational opportunities.
Since the program started, forest managers have applied these treatments on a million acres of pine forests in the South, involving more than 13,000 landowners who have participated in USDA cost-share programs. Meanwhile, hundreds of loggers have taken part in a related logger incentive program. The agency argues that its Southern pine beetle program provides proactive forest health strategies that landowners, forest managers, and cooperators can apply across large geographic areas.
For more information about the program, see http://www.fs.fed.us/r8/spb.