Managing Forests against Insect Infestation

By Westerhold, Jami | American Forests, Fall 2012 | Go to article overview

Managing Forests against Insect Infestation


Westerhold, Jami, American Forests


OUR NATION'S FORESTS ARE FACING an unprecedented epidemic. More than 41.7 million acres of trees across the western United States have been destroyed by bark beetles. Even more astonishing is that this number does not include death from other insects -- like the emerald ash borer or gypsy moth -- that are attacking other areas of our nation's forests. Insect infestations impact forest health; water quality and quantity; fish and wildlife biodiversity and habitat; recreation; timber production; and real-estate values in a variety of ways. As the current level of insect destruction has exceeded previously recorded levels, Congress has begun introducing legislation on this issue:

* The Good Neighbor Forestry Act would authorize federal agencies to enter into cooperative agreements allowing state foresters to provide certain restoration and protection services with on-the-ground management tools to undertake activities to treat insect-infected trees, reduce hazardous fuels and restore or improve forests and other ecosystems.

* The National Forest Insect and Disease Emergency Act would provide additional tools and resources to federal agencies to slow the spread of the beetles and address the safety threats posed by dead, standing trees. Under this act, U.S. Forest Service rangers could work with local communities to prioritize "insect-emergency areas" needing treatment. It includes incentives to convert the vegetation removed from forests to biofuels and measures to restore forests after an infestation.

* The National Forest Emergency Response Act and Depleting Risk from Insect Infestation, Soil Erosion, and Catastrophic Fire Act of 2012 -- both introduced due to the extreme fire hazards and unsafe conditions resulting from pine beetle infestation and other stressors -- would require the secretary of agriculture to declare a state of emergency in each designated state and immediately implement hazardous fuels-reduction projects.

* In June, the U.S. Senate passed its version of the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012 -- the "Farm Bill." The Senate version included several critical provisions related to forest health that encourages more efficient and effective treatments for insect and disease infestations and would allow federal agencies to contract with small businesses to remove forest products from federal land. It also dedicated $200 million for beetle-mitigation efforts to remove beetle-killed trees from high-risk areas.

* In August, the House Natural Resources Committee passed the Healthy Forest Management Act of 2012 with provisions expanding states' authority to address the bark beetle and other forest-health conditions. …

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