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Friday, September 24, 2010

Grassland Wilderness Bill Would Prevent Problems Seen in Black Hills

South Dakota's Republican candidate for U.S. House Kristi Noem says she opposes the Tony Dean Cheyenne River Valley Conservation Act because the federal government has mismanaged its forest land in the Black Hills. At least that's one of the lines her handlers fed her about the six-page bill she couldn't be bothered to read herself.

Larry Kurtz offers some useful points that illustrate why Noem's opposition to the grassland wilderness around the Badlands is really just uninformed teabaggery. On Interested Party, Kurtz notes that "The Forest Service manages about 1.25 million acres in the Hills, most of the other 5.5 million acres of the Black Hills hydrologic region are privately held lands whose owners largely blame forest failures on Federal or State mismanagement."

The majority of hydrologic region is privately held, but Noem and other Grover Norquist apers blame the government for... well, something. The private sector is sacred, so we must blame something else, right?

Mr. Kurtz then cites this passage from a Rapid City Journal commentary from 2002:

From a socio-economic perspective, the existence of so much private land has caused forest managers to fear fire, prompting even greater fire suppression and more commercial logging and thinning for fuels reduction and breaks. While this may make landowners feel more secure, these activities have not and will not maintain the natural processes that regulate the health and the vitality of this ponderosa pine forest. Unquestionably, private development has also contributed to the cultural loss and impoverishment of the Lakota Nation who claim the Black Hills under treaties broken by the U.S. Government [Jake Kreilick, "On the Verge of Ecological Collapse," Rapid City Journal, 2002.02.14].

So if the federal government is having trouble properly managing the Black Hills National Forest, it's because free-market fundamentalists like Noem have pushed roads and private development into all but two percent of the forest. All that expensive private property stands in the way of the good fire the Hills could use to restore the natural ecosystem. Keeping that development in check in places would have helped the federal government manage the land.

And keeping development in check is exactly what Senator Tim Johnson's S. 3310 would do: maintain the status quo, protect current grazing rights, but prevent further privatization and development from breaking up a national treasure, a unique grasslands wilderness.

Do you get that now, Kristi? (And have you gotten it yet, Stephanie? Time to get off the fence and endorse Tim's bill!)


  1. Have you ever seen the TV show 'Hoarders'? It reminds me of the federal government. The feds collect so much stuff, in this case land, and it sits in the corner and collects dust. The collection of stuff builds until the homeowner is trapped and confused, unable to move.

    Return a third of the federal Black
    Hills to the Lakota. Let them manage the forest and then compare in 15 years to the federal side of the Hills.

  2. That would be a fascinating head-to-head experiment in environmental policy. How do you think it would turn out?

  3. I believe it would restore the health of the Lakota Nation along with the Black Hills.

  4. There is a discussion about SDGFP purchases of land at TIO. It has been my argument that State purchases effectively redline treaty lands from bidding by tribes. It can be heartbreaking.

    Cooperation with tribes in Montana on the National Bison Refuge has resulted in some friction.

    Racist, teabagger paranoia, Cory, hits the nail right on the head.


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