State Forestry provides fire, beetle updates
Casper – At the Select Committee on Federal Natural Resources meeting held Sept. 6 in Casper, Wyoming State Forester Bill Crapser updated members of the Wyoming State Legislature on the 2013 fire season and current forest conditions.
Crapser reported that the 2013 fire season in Wyoming was relatively light. Most of the activity took place on United States Forest Service (USFS) and Park Service lands in the western half of the state. Moisture across the eastern half of the state helped to keep activity light in that region.
“From a national perspective, it has been a bad fire season,” the state forester stated, “but it seems the worst has bypassed around our state. To date, we have had about 500 fires in Wyoming. Last year, we had close to 1,300 fires.”
“We are going to see dramatic swings from year to year in fire activity, but the overall trend is towards increased activity and intensity,” he commented, noting some of the larger fires occurring in other states.
“With decreasing federal budgets, we are going to see more financial and operational responsibility for fire management placed on the state and local jurisdictions,” Crapser added.
Crapser said there is also increased bark beetle activity throughout the state, with 3.6 million acres of forest impacted. New acreage impacted by the beetles slowed in 2011 and 2012, but beetle infestations are growing once again.
Wyoming also saw the re-emergence of the spruce bark beetle, which has impacted forests from Alaska to Arizona.
“We are also seeing an increase of invasive species such as emerald ash borer (EAB), which impacts ash trees, and the spread of thousand cankers, which attacks black walnut trees,” he continued.
“EAB originally came in on ships and has killed most of the ash trees in Indiana, Illinois and Michigan,” he explained. “If one looks around our cities and towns Wyoming, about 30 percent of the trees are green ash.”
Crapser cited thousand cankers as less of a concern for Wyoming.
“Black walnut trees are impacted by thousand cankers, but less than one half of one percent of city trees in Wyoming are black walnut,” he explained.