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Next Step for Wilderness Designation in South Dakota

June 17, 2010

RAPID CITY, S.D. - A U.S. Senate subcommittee recently held a hearing on a bill that could add 50,000 acres of new South Dakota wilderness. The Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests is considering Sen. Tim Johnson's proposed bill, the Tony Dean Cheyenne River Valley Conservation Act, which would designate as wilderness land in the Indian Creek, Red Shirt, and Chalk Hills areas of the Buffalo Gap National Grassland in southwest South Dakota.

Terry Mayes, a volunteer with the South Dakota Wild Grassland Coalition, says the hearing was an important step in the process toward passing the legislation.

"That will help to sharpen the focus and to make sure all the concerns are properly addressed as the bill moves forward. It will ensure the diverse interests out there in the public have a chance to be heard and to be considered when the bill is shaped into its final form."

The bill would create the first national grassland wilderness in the country, and would be a tribute to long-time conservationist, broadcaster and columnist, the late Tony Dean. While the land has been federally owned for 100 years, Mayes believes the wilderness designation would not restrict access to any current users.

"The lands that are slated for wilderness designation, those 50,000 acres or a little less, are very, very clean, pristine, and pretty much unmarked as they would have been before the influence of man began in western South Dakota."

Supporters are hoping the bill can get to the president's desk this year.



Jerry Oster, Public News Service - SD