Friday, October 20, 2006

Feds offer funds to improve forest health

Grants available for spraying, removing beetle-killed trees


By STEVE BENSON
Express Staff Writer

People with trees on their properties that are dead or dying from impacts of the mountain pine beetle or Western spruce budworm can apply for grants through the Idaho Department of Lands to help control the problem.

The grants are available to property owners in Blaine, Custer, Lemhi and Teton counties and are "for the purpose of dealing with forest health problems as part of the Healthy Forest Restoration Act," said Jim Rineholt, grant coordinator with the Sawtooth National Recreation Area.

The mountain pine beetle infestation is a natural cycle. More than 90,000 acres of the Sawtooth National Forest were infested in the early 1900s. Another wave was documented in the late 1920s and 1930s and millions of trees have been claimed by the latest attack, which killed more than 850,000 lodgepole pines between 1999 and 2002 alone. The current epidemic is winding down in the Sawtooth National Forest, according to forest officials, but the enormous swath of tinder-dry red trees fueled one of the most active fire seasons on record in the summer of 2006.

The grant funds can be used to apply preventative sprays and pheromones to protect high-value trees, to cut and remove beetle-infested trees and to thin stands of trees to improve growing conditions, which helps remaining trees resist additional attack.

Landowners are required to cover 25 percent of the total project cost.

Grant application forms can be obtained by contacting Rineholt at the SNRA headquarters eight miles north of Ketchum at 727-5021 or e-mail at jrinehold@fs.fed.us.

Applications, which can also be found online at www.idl.idaho.gov/bureau/forasst.htm, must be postmarked by Nov. 30, 2006.

The program is a joint effort of the U.S. Forest Service and Idaho Department of Lands. Between 2004 and 2006, 32 grants totaling $1.36 million were awarded to private landowners. More than 51,885 trees have been treated, 24,785 infested trees have been removed, and 133 acres have been thinned to improve long-term forest health. More than 2,814 acres have been treated.




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