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SD Goes "Wild" For National Public Lands Day Celebration

September 26, 2008

Rapid City, SD – A coalition of South Dakota ranchers, sportsmen and conservationists is using tomorrow's National Public Lands Day Celebration to bring attention to their ongoing efforts to have areas within the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands in Southwest South Dakota designated as wilderness.

Terry Hayes with the South Dakota Wild Grassland Coalition says this is a great time of the year for people to get out and see the areas first-hand. They encompass nearly 60,000 acres.

"The Buffalo Gap National Grasslands in Southwest South Dakota are already pretty much a wilderness area, although they lack legal designation as such. If they become legally designated, there are further protections in place regarding motorized use and any kind of development on the land. In other words, it will stay a roadless and vehicle-less wilderness just as it was 200 years ago."

Opposition to the wilderness proposal comes from off-roading enthusiasts and ranchers who lease the land for grazing. They say it's a bad way to manage the land. But Hayes points to National Public Lands Day as a strong reminder to the public of the importance of permanently protecting these special places. It's also a way of saluting the volunteers who have worked to save them, he adds.

"The Grasslands can be enjoyed now and, we hope, well into the future by our families, our grandchildren and their grandchildren. If we have a wilderness designation on these small areas--which total only two percent of the national land in South Dakota--we know that those areas will forever be wilderness, as they were in the beginning of time."

The areas being considered for wilderness protection are Indian Creek, Cheyenne River, First Black Canyon and Red Shirt.

National Public Lands Day began 14 years ago to preserve and protect America's natural heritage. Today, the observance has grown to include recognition of the efforts of more than 100,000 volunteers, working in every state.

More information is available online at

David Law/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - SD