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Mt. Rushmore Gets Unseen Facelift

September 9, 2010, 6:33 PM by Austin Hoffman

Mt. Rushmore Gets Unseen Facelift
MT. RUSHMORE, SD - The four famous faces are getting a facelift. But the next time you see Mt. Rushmore, you probably won’t notice the difference.

After more than a century of successfully managing and preventing wildfires in the Black Hills, the forest has, once again, built up quite a bit of fuel. Now monument officials are the ones fighting back.

If you've ever driven through the Black Hills and seen small piles of wood, you might have thought they look like bundles of kindling, and in a sense they are, but they're there for a good reason.

"Within Mt. Rushmore National Memorial, we've got a fuel reduction project occurring," Mike Johnson with the National Park Service said.

Johnson said the plan is to thin almost half of the nearly 1,300 acre park.

"The emphasis and goal of this project is to remove fuels that could, in the event of a wild fire, promote and spread that fire," Johnson said.

Johnson said they're going about the thinning two ways. One is to cut and chip them.

"They’re running them through a chipper, dispersing the chips out on the ground to allow those nutrients to remain here in the park,” Johnson said.

The other is to pile the trees into those bundles of kindling. Then they'll go back and burn those small piles when it's safe, during the winter months.

Johnson said there are also other added benefits of this project.

"It may reduce the amount of bug, beetle kill, from the Mountain Pine Beetle," Johnson said

All while helping the forest return to a more natural state.

"We're trying to maintain a natural eco-system, and we're trying to, you know, in the long term protect the forest," Johnson said.

This is the first large scale thinning the park has ever done. The project will be completed by the end of November.

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