Sky pilots

Aerial detection has long been used by Forest Health Specialists to efficiently locate and map the seasonal occurrence of damage to forest stands. For the past three years, the intrepid staff (Befort and Gallay in particular) of DNR Forestry's Resource Assessment Unit has been conducting the aerial sketch mapping project. Predetermined flight lines are followed using GPS systems in the planes, and specific levels of visible damage are recorded onto base maps. Regional Forest Health Specialists assist on some flights and verify map lines and causal agents prior to digitizing and entry into GIS systems for reporting and analysis.

Aerial reports are then ground checked, the agent identified and records verified on the location and extent of damage. On occasion, Area staff assist in ground checks and landowner follow-ups. Population and impact surveys (checks on eggs, larvae, predators and parasites) are then made to predict next year's impact and initiate control planning efforts. This combined air and ground information provides a valuable historical record of pest outbreaks in Minnesota. These reports are also required for the MN DNR to receive Federal Cost Share dollars in the Forest Health Program.

Hats off to these sky pilots for providing yet another valuable forest management tool! The bugs can move, but they never go undetected