Florida Forest Service Accepting Applications to Help Landowners Combat Southern Pine Beetle Outbreaks
“Pine forests are an essential part of Florida’s ecosystem,” said Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. “Helping landowners take preventative action significantly reduces the risk and impacts associated with the southern pine beetle and is critical to preserving the benefits that forests provide Floridians and visitors alike.”
The southern pine beetle (SPB) is one of the most economically devastating forest pests of the Southeast, with periodic outbreaks leading to deaths of millions of pine trees. Since 2015, over 460 SPB infestations have been reported in Florida, killing trees on more than 2,200 acres. This pales in comparison to the last major outbreaks between 1999 and 2002, which caused an estimated $59 million in timber losses on over 24,000 acres.
Since it was first offered in 2005, the Southern Pine Beetle Assistance and Prevention Program has been implemented on more than 197,000 acres and helped thousands of landowners.
“Southern pine beetle activity is relatively low in Florida right now, but it can increase rapidly,” said Erin Albury, State Forester and Director of the Florida Forest Service. “Awareness is key, and we want to help landowners improve the health and productivity of their pine forests.”
The Southern Pine Beetle Assistance and Prevention Program, supported through a grant by the United States Forest Service, provides incentive payments for landowners who conduct a first pulpwood thinning and offers partial cost reimbursement for activities, such as prescribed burning, mechanical underbrush treatments, and the planting of longleaf or slash pine rather than the loblolly pine, the beetle’s preferred species. Qualified landowners can apply for up to two different practices per year, and funding requests may not exceed $10,000. All qualifying applications received during the submission period will be evaluated and ranked for approval.
The Florida Forest Service, a division of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, manages more than 1 million acres of state forests and provides forest management assistance on more than 17 million acres of private and community forests. The Florida Forest Service is also responsible for protecting homes, forestland and natural resources from the devastating effects of wildfire on more than 26 million acres.