Recent Black Hills State University graduate Mike Miller used his class projects in his final semester to raise awareness of the mountain pine beetles plaguing the Black Hills area.

Less than a year ago, Miller had no idea that mountain pine beetles existed.  After learning of the devastating problem while working last summer as a security guard for Spearfish Forest Products, Inc., Miller dedicated his last semester at BHSU doing everything he could to get the word out on the pine beetle problem.

“I guess it was pretty much a theme for the rest of my classes,” said Miller, who now lives and works in Peoria, Ill. “Whenever I had the opportunity to get the word out through my academic work I did. I really did what I could.”

Miller created two YouTube videos and wrote a paper educating people on the effects the mountain pine beetles are having on the Black Hills.

For his videos, Miller rode around with Paul Pierson, a forester with the Spearfish saw mill.  In the video, Pierson points to a hillside that has been nearly completely killed by mountain pine beetles. Pierson says the federal government would not allow thinning in the area because it was protecting the Goshawk nesting habitat. In the end, the mountain pine beetles killed most of the live trees they were protecting, Miller said. “What kind of nesting do they have now?”

Miller said he is happy to hear that the state approved the additional funding to fight the mountain pine beetle epidemic. Gov. Dennis Daugaard proposed the money to supplement the Black Hills Forest Initiative, a three-year effort to “beat the beetles” in South Dakota which began in August 2011.

 “Why not spent the money to prevent it in the first place?” said he asks noting that the problem not only affects the beauty of the Black Hills but also increases the probability of fires and flooding. “You can spend money on prevention or you can spend it after the fires.”

There are less affected areas of the Black Hills that still have a chance to be saved, according to Miller. Check out Miller’s You Tube video: The Mountain Pine Beetles at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQAJa8VQLcI

For more information on South Dakota’s efforts to address the mountain pine beetle epidemic in the Black Hills, visit www.beatthebeetles.com .