The U.S. Forest Service has announced that federal and state forest management officials signed a Good Neighbor Authority agreement, a tool to improve forest health, including efforts to suppress the unprecedented southern pine beetle epidemic that includes nearly 4,000 infestation spots on four ranger districts.
Using this authority from the 2014 Farm Bill, the Mississippi Forestry Commission may perform forest management services on National Forest System land, including treating disease-infected trees, reducing hazardous fuels to lessen the risk of wildfires, and conducting other activities that will restore or improve forestland to include fish and wildlife habitat.
“We have an outstanding partnership with the state,” said National Forests in Mississippi Forest Supervisor Gretta Boley. “This agreement allows us to build on that collaborative partnership, to help each of our agencies, and ultimately, to create healthier forests that benefit all of Mississippi.”
“The Good Neighbor Authority agreement gives the Mississippi Forestry Commission (MFC) the opportunity to help the National Forests in Mississippi accomplish their forest management objectives, including suppression of the recent southern pine beetle outbreak on National Forestland,” said State Forester Charlie Morgan. “Collaboration with our federal partners to help stop the spread of the southern pine beetle is in the best interest of the MFC, the U.S. Forest Service, and the private forest landowners of Mississippi.”
Both agencies, Morgan and Boley pointed out, already work closely together, including responding to the southern pine beetle outbreaks on the Homochitto Ranger District (southwest Mississippi), Bienville Ranger District (central Mississippi), Tombigbee Ranger District and the Holly Springs Ranger District (both in north Mississippi).
The southern pine beetle, a cyclical outbreak species, is the most destructive forest pest in the South, both in economic and ecological impacts. In the absence of southern pine beetle suppression, large-scale pine mortality occurs, destroying timber and wood products, threatened and endangered species habitat, recreation areas and infrastructure, such as developed sites and trails, and other property values such as neighboring forest stands. Tree mortality can also lead to hazard trees which may create safety hazards for visitors and employees and increase the potential for catastrophic wildfire.