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South Dakota removes 441,000 trees in 3 years; state has invested $4M in effort

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PIERRE, South Dakota — More than 441,000 trees infested with mountain pine beetles have been cut down since South Dakota launched its Black Hills Forest Initiative three years ago this month.

"I am very pleased with the progress we've made in treating mountain pine beetle infestations since we began in 2011," Gov. Dennis Daugaard said in a statement Friday. "Though there is still more work to do, we've come a long way."

There has been major progress in Custer State Park, where the number of infested trees decreased from 100,000 in 2012 to 30,000 last year.

PHOTO: FILE - In this Jan. 15, 2014 file photo, Norberto Munive cuts down a large pine tree near Sheridan Lake, S.D. More than 441,000 trees infested with mountain pine beetles have been removed since the state of South Dakota launched its Black Hills Forest Initiative in August 2011. Gov. Dennis Daugaard says he's pleased with the progress, but there's more work to do. (AP Photo/Rapid City Journal, Chris Huber)
FILE - In this Jan. 15, 2014 file photo, Norberto Munive cuts down a large pine tree near Sheridan Lake, S.D. More than 441,000 trees infested with mountain pine beetles have been removed since the state of South Dakota launched its Black Hills Forest Initiative in August 2011. Gov. Dennis Daugaard says he's pleased with the progress, but there's more work to do. (AP Photo/Rapid City Journal, Chris Huber)

"The governor's goal was to remove all beetle-infested trees in Custer State Park, and those efforts have paid off," State Forester Greg Josten said.

However, state officials remain concerned about high tree mortality rates at Sylvan Lake, where 23,000 trees were recently infested.

On private land, more than 186,000 acres have been surveyed and about 364,000 infested trees marked.

The state has spent about $8 million since 2011 fighting the beetle epidemic on state, private, and county lands.

Infested trees are cut and then either used in sawmills, chipped for disposal, or put through a bark peeling process to kill beetle larvae.

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