By JACK WEATHERLY
The U.S. Forest Service announced Tuesday that it is seeking to contract saw crews to fell trees as part of the efforts to control or stop Southern pine beetle infestations that threaten tens of thousands of acres of pine forests in four national forests in Mississippi.
Meantime, the Mississippi Forestry Commission said that nearly 250 infestations of the pest have been detected during flyovers on private land in 15 counties that comprise and border national forests.
The Forest Service crews include about 50 hand sawyers, who cut the beetle-infested trees with chainsaws to slow or stop the spread of the pests.
The Forest Service is looking for both mechanical and hand-cutting crews. Mechanical crews use heavy equipment and are able to cut more timber in a safer manner.
Information regarding this contracting notice can be found at the Federal Business Opportunities website: https://www.fbo.gov/spg/USDA/FS/447U/AG-447U-S-17-0039/listing.html
The beetle outbreak, characterized as “unprecedented” by Forest Service scientists, includes nearly 4,000 spots of infestation on the Homochitto, Bienville, Tombigbee and Holly Springs national forests. To date, the Forest Service has cut 375 spots that make up about 1,374 acres.
The preferred method is to cut and remove the diseased trees, but “because of the markets and weather, cut and remove has not been available as an option,” the release stated.
Mario Rossilli, spokesman for the Forest Service headquarters in Jackson, said in an interview that the agency is looking for markets so it can “move this stuff out.”
As things stand now, that “inventory” is more than 50,000 truckloads, Rossilli said
The Southern pine beetle is the most destructive forest pest in the region, both in economic and ecological impacts.
The commission’s Southern Pine Beetle Prevention Program provides cost-share funds to help landowners to thin their dense pine stand before the next Southern pine beetle outbreak,” said Todd Matthews, Urban Forestry and Forest Health Coordinator for the Mississippi Forestry Commission.
“Healthy stands of timber that have been properly thinned and managed are less susceptible to southern pine beetle damage,” Matthews said in a release.
Markets in recent years have discouraged landowners from thinning – usually two before a clearcut followed by replanting.
The interactive map linked below represents suspected Southern pine beetle spots identified on privately owned forestland as of last month. Not all data have been verified from the ground at this time. To view the interactive map visit: http://bit.ly/SPBActivityMapMS
Private forest landowners who are concerned about possible Southern pine beetle activity on their property are encouraged to contact their MFC area forester. To find the area forester for each county, visit the “Local Contacts” drop-down list on the MFC’s homepage: www.mfc.ms.gov