A 32,000-acre mountain pine beetle control project about six miles outside Rapid City will include about 19,000 acres of timber cutting and thinning, followed by about 16,000 acres of prescribed burning, according to an environmental impact statement available for public review.
The Calumet Project's boundary area is about six miles west of Rapid City. It surrounds Sheridan Lake and encompasses more than 27,000 acres of U.S. Forest Service land and 4,100 acres of private property, including Rockerville.
The final environmental impact statement for the U.S. Forest Service project is available online, and the public has until Oct. 9 to file objections.
According to the report, the $484,000 project would treat the vegetation to reduce the pine beetle threat and potential for large-scale wildfires.
The beetles are believed to have killed 4 million trees last year alone in the Black Hills. Around 57 percent of the Calumet project area has pine trees are believed to be at high risk for bug infestation. The primary management tool for reducing the beetle threat is to remove the infested trees and reduce the number of trees through lumbering and thinning, according to the report.
Forest officials have said when the trees die, they fall and add dry fuel to an area already ripe for wildfire. The Calumet area has seen recent wildfire action, including the Dakota Fire in June that burned 348 acres around the Sheridan Lake recreation area.
Project team leader Lou Conroy said if the Mystic Ranger District decides to approve the project it could begin in the fall or winter. The project could take up to 10 years to complete since prescribed burns can only be conducted at limited times.
Recreational areas could be closed at certain points.
"That is always done on a site-by-site basis," Conroy said.
Most local public feedback to the draft environmental impact statement has been positive.
"All of the benefits of thinning the designated forest make it a project worth moving ahead as quickly as possible," wrote Mervin Guthmiller of Rapid City in a letter to the Forest Service.
Robert and Eva Frye of Rapid City said in a letter their property backs up to forest land, and they support the project.
"I would hope our government would stop sending enormous amounts of money to unfriendly foreign countr(ies) and take care (of) our own country," the couple wrote.
There was opposition from people living out of the area. Dick Artley of Idaho wrote that fuel-reduction projects are not the best way to reduce fire risk to homes in the forest.
Other agencies, including the Black Hills Forest Resource Association and Neiman Timber Company, say they support the project.