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Prairie Project Off to a Strong Start

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CUSTER, S.D. – Mystic District Ranger Bob Thompson said crews are now actively working to implement the Prairie project near Rapid City. "We are thinning trees and logging and people will notice a significant difference in the forest, and that’s a good thing,” Thompson said. The forest will be much more open and resistant to fire and insects. The project is designed to reduce potential wildfire losses, restore and maintain a healthy living forest, and manage the increasing pressure of motorized and non-motorized traffic in the area, Thompson said. The South Dakota Division of Wildland Fire Suppression began work last year with landowners to reduce wildfire hazards on private land in the project area. Logging and thinning has begun along Highway 44 west of Rapid City. Neiman Timber Company bought commercial timber sales in the area. “People will start to notice a dramatic difference between the overcrowded forest that was there and the thinned and restored forest environment we are creating,” Thompson said. Located in a classic ponderosa pine, fire-adapted forest in the wildland-urban interface, this area is rated as having high fire risk, high hazard, and high value within what is referred to as the "Red Zone." Thompson said winter snows damaged much of the forested area creating dense fuels ripe for wildfire. Prolific tree growth across the Black Hills is fueling increasingly difficult fire seasons, he said. This project includes thinning trees, prescribed burning, and other vegetation management on about 11,500 acres of National Forest land. It also includes changes to current road and cross-country motorized use and encourages cooperation with groups and individuals to establish and maintain motorized and non-motorized trails in the area. Questions may be directed to Bob Thompson, Phill Grumstrup or Katie Van Alstyne of the Mystic Ranger District at (605) 343-1567. For more forest news, visit the Black Hills National Forest website at