Mount Rushmore National Memorial Acting Superintendent John Scott announced today that the use of fireworks will be suspended for the 2010 Independence Day Celebration due to the unacceptable risk they pose to the fragile condition of the Black Hills forests in and around the memorial resulting from extensive damage from an epidemic of mountain pine beetles. The
popular annual event has become the summer’s biggest patriotic event at the park.
"Due to the beetle epidemic affecting forests surrounding the park, the wildfire hazard during the 2010 summer tourist season will be high to very high. Therefore, the National Park Service is cooperating with partner land management agencies to explore and implement ways to reduce the risk of wildfires, especially human-caused ones", announced Scott.
During the last several years the proliferation of mountain pine beetles has resulted in over 330,000 acres of infected and dead pine forests in the Black Hills. The memorial is home to the second largest contiguous stand of old growth ponderosa pine forest in the Black Hills and beetles have infected scattered populations of old growth trees throughout the park. The nearby Norbeck Wildlife Preserve and the Black Elk Wilderness Area of the Black Hills National Forest have been particularly affected.
Due to the high number of standing dead trees with needles intact, local, State and Federal land management agencies are concerned that a fire in or near affected forests have the potential to grow into a wildfire with catastrophic results including great risk to human safety and property and would drastically alter the exceptional character and appearance of the
park as well as the Black Hills for generations to come.
Scott says, "Fireworks at the memorial introduce an unnatural, human-caused risk of starting a catastrophic wildfire. This restriction will maintain the safety of visitors and the park’s natural resources." Fireworks during previous events at the park ignited fires which, fortunately, were able to be contained by park and supporting agency staff. "However, 2010 is like no other year in that the fire danger is too high and the risks to the park, our neighbors and the Black Hills too great. In evaluating the current situation, the National Park Service has determined that eliminating fireworks at Mount Rushmore in 2010 is the most prudent and responsible course of action."
Planning for the 2010 Independence Day Celebration will be adjusted to incorporate this change. Based on the results of past events, the planning team will be looking for ways to improve the safety and enjoyment of this year’s event. Superintendent Gerard Baker adds, "The park will continue to collaborating and cooperating with its partners to develop this year’s
Independence Day event at the memorial to commemorate the birth of our nation. Suspending the fireworks in 2010 demonstrates the value we place on the unique natural resources in the park and the Black Hills. These lands are sacred to us all and deserve the extra caution used to come to this decision."
The memorial and nearby communities benefit from high visitation during the July 4th holiday and expects that this year will be another spectacular event. "Independence Day in the United States is such an important time to celebrate our freedom and independence. It is also the time where we remember the soldiers who have fought for this country and those who continue to sacrifice their lives around the world. Our event at Mount Rushmore celebrates the heritage of America and the military personnel who protect us. We are looking forward to hosting one of America’s greatest celebrations, " concludes Baker.
General information about the event can be found online at www.nps.gov/moru. More information will be posted online as planning progresses in the months to come.