TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Forest Service is taking applications for southern pine beetle assistance and prevention.

Help is available for non-industrial private forest landowners who file an application by July 31.

The program, supported through a United States Forest Service grant, 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 instead of 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.

Since it was first offered in 2005, the program has supported these practices on more than 167,000 acres and helped thousands of landowners. It is limited to 44 northern Florida counties, the SPB's known range.

The SPB is one of the most economically devastating forest pests of the southeast, with periodic outbreaks leading to deaths of millions of pine trees. In 2016, 222 SPB infestations were reported in Florida, killing trees on over 1,100 acres. Those numbers are small compared to the last major outbreaks from 1999 to 2002 in Florida, which resulted in an estimated $59 million in timber losses.

To obtain an application or to learn more about the Southern Pine Beetle Assistance and Prevention Program, visit FreshFromFlorida.com/SouthernPineBeetle/Prevention.

Visit FloridaForestService.com to learn more about Florida Forest Service programs.