Last year nearly 4 million new trees were infected by the mountain pine beetle, but now the Forest Service has a plan and it involves cooperation from everyone. "It's not your turf, my turf it's the beautiful Black Hills we're all concerned about," said Forest Silviculturist Blaine Cook.
The Pine Beetle Response Project has pin-pointed 248,000 acres that are at high risk of being infected by the mountain pine beetle, and it's time to take action. "Some of those will be holding actions such as our cut and chunk, others ultimately we want to get to thinning the forest because we know that will reduce the chance of spreading of mountain pine beetles as well as reducing hazardous fuels," said Forest Supervisor Craig Bobzien.
"This decision that the Forest Service has just made about the Mountain Pine Beetle Project is one of the most important decisions of the last decade," said Advisor Councilor and retired Forest Service employee Frank Carroll.
But the Forest Service can't do it alone. "The little critter, the mountain pine beetle, crosses all boundaries so we have to work together in order to keep our forest," said Cook.
Crazy Horse Memorial is a great example of a private landowner battling the beetle right next to the Forest Service and they've been doing so for a few years now. "The crews led by Mark Ziolkowski thin the forest trying to get ahead of the attack that the beetles are leading on the trees just as they are on the surrounding federal lands," said Crazy Horse Media Relations Coordinator Pat Dobbs.
Dobbs says cutting helps, but probably won't completely stop the beetles from hitting Crazy Horse. He says there's an upside thinning the trees around the monument. "The visitors are seeing different and additional views of the mountain carving that weren't available before so you take the good with the bad," said Dobbs.
The pine beetle epidemic can be overwhelming, but every little bit can help. "Everybody can do something," said Carroll.
Collaboration is key for the Response Projects success.