Lawrence Co. seeks beetle fight funding

DEADWOOD — Lawrence County Commissioners gave county officials the go-ahead Tuesday to apply for state funding to assist in the ongoing pine beetle fight.
Dave Heck, Lawrence County invasive species manager addressed the commission, outlining the grant stipulations and conditions.
Termed a “Division of Resource Conservation & Forestry Grant Application (MPB Program Funding Grant),” Heck said that the grant involves a 50 percent cost share, most of which should be taken care of this year by “soft match” dollars.
“We’re not looking at asking anything from the county,” Heck said. “We can use soft dollars for the whole thing.”
Lawrence County Deputy State’s Attorney Bruce Outka said that in-kind, as well as monetary resources, count in the match process giving the county about $955,000.
“It would benefit the county to use as much in-kind match as we can and save the actual dollars for later,” Outka said. “Because it is a match, we need to come up with half, or $477,500, in cash, in-kind or a combination of the two.”
Examples of in-kind qualifiers include monies donated to the Lawrence County pine beetle battle by the cities of Deadwood and Spearfish and other organizations, as well as work utility companies and mining companies have done to remove beetle trees.
As part of the work plan outlined for the county mountain pine beetle initiative and in order to implement the grant, the county will: survey, mark and treat infested trees within 300 feet of private lands participating in the state program within the state’s priority areas in the county; treat beetle-infested and dead trees within 100 feet of county roads; and treat infested trees in target areas by coordinating location of target areas with the United States Forest Service and the South Dakota Department of Agriculture.
Outka said the 2013 cutting season is projected to begin on Sept. 15.
Should the county continue to employ its own cutters, worker’s compensation insurance may also count as part of the match funds.
But discussion between commissioners alluded to moving to the use of large contractors to do the cutting instead of securing county employees, in order to avoid workman’s compensation.
Heck explained that formerly, the state’s designated focus areas were Nemo, O’Neill Pass and portions of central Lawrence County.
Priority areas, designated by the county and for approval by the state for 2013 include Strawberry Hill and Tinton country.
Heck also said that in areas that ideally work will be done in areas that treatment work has been done already, for example, in Spearfish Canyon, to help sustain the hold.
“Ideally, we would finish work along the front range and tie into the work done in Wyoming,” Heck said.
Heck said that, likely, the cost to treat trees will increase from $10 to around $15 per tree this year, due to the enforcement of more stringent slash heights and chunk sizes.
Forester Bill Coburn, a member of the county mountain pine beetle board, said that through a meeting with the National Forest Service Forest Advisory Board, the Mountain Pine Beetle Strategy Group strongly affected the focus areas for the next year or two, which will be the eastern edge and upper western corner of Lawrence County.
“They wield a pretty strong influence with the Forest Service,” Coburn said.
Gov. Dennis Daugaard proposed the additional $2 million in funding that comes with HB 1050, to supplement the Black Hills Forest Initiative, a three-year effort to “beat the beetles” in South Dakota which began in August 2011.
In 2012, Lawrence County spent roughly $1.7 million on the pine beetle battle.
“There were two cutting seasons in 2012,” Outka said. “The first ended in March when available funds were exhausted. The second ended in November when available funds were exhausted.”

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