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Project Citizen Students Research Mountain Pine Beetle

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

National Park News

Sixth grade students from Spearfish Middle School participated in a field study at Mount Rushmore National Memorial on January 15th in order to gather scientific data and learn from agency experts about the pine beetle epidemic that is killing trees and increasing the risk of wildfire in the memorial and surrounding areas.

The students are participating in the Project Citizen curriculum in which they identify and research a public problem, evaluate alternative solutions, develop their own solution in the form of a public policy and create a political action plan as they develop life-long skills in responsible citizenship and civic participation.

The students decided to focus their pine beetle research specifically on the threat to the trees surrounding Mount Rushmore because the national memorial is not only an important feature of their Black Hills community but an attraction for millions of visitors from around the world. 

Students worked side-by-side with NPS curator Bruce Weisman, education specialist Rhonda Buell Schier and interpretive park ranger Blaine Kortemeyer to observe the effect of the beetle on ponderosa pine, gather data about tree habitat and record signs of beetle damage. The students also participated in a panel discussion about short-term and long-term solutions with NPS and Black Hills National Forest staff. 

The students will continue their study of the collaborative efforts of government, industry and Legislature as they complete their portfolio, “Raiders of the Lost Park,” to present at a public hearing before a panel of community members. 



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