From the dizzying heights of Sheep Mountain Table
to the broad Cheyenne River valley, Indian Creek includes a vast
array of landforms and unique plant life and offers hikers, horseback
riders, hunters, birdwatchers, and pioneer scenery lovers one of
the most inspiring and diverse wilderness experiences left in the
nation’s Great Plains. The proposal would protect approximately 29,600 acres,
including the largest block of scenic Cheyenne River badlands breaks
in South Dakota.
With careful consideration of political realities in South Dakota and the current Congress, the South Dakota Wild Grassland Coalition is exploring a possible alternative management designation for the Indian Creek, Red Shirt, and Chalk Hills areas that would meet local conservation goals, address longstanding management issues, and maintain the land’s prairie heritage.
The basic design would include (a) permanent implementation of the existing motorized travel restrictions (Travel Management Plan), and (b) permanent protection of grazing operations.
This new plan for legislation reflects the overall goals shared by the Coalition, local community, and ranchers:
to keep these magnificent lands healthy, improving conditions where needed;
to prohibit motorized recreation, other recreational developments, and mineral exploration or extraction; and
to ensure the continued viability of traditional livestock grazing.
Indian Creek, Red Shirt, and Chalk Hills would be designated by Congress as “Conservation Management Areas” (see Fact Sheet for more information) to conserve and protect these unique prairie grasslands while supporting primitive recreational use.
The plan addresses the same approximately 50,000 acres of public land, and contains the same management for primitive recreation and livestock grazing that now exists. Though less restrictive than some other designations, this plan would nonetheless contain provisions for management of fire, insects, invasive species, and diseases while protecting the areas from impacts of mineral exploration or extraction.
We hope you agree that a realistic goal for protecting these special places we’ve all cared about for so long is worth supporting and advancing. We truly believed Wilderness was the best way; but if it won’t fly, we can’t “let the perfect get in the way of the good.” Lasting protection matters more than attachment to a particular designation.
We’re thankful for the increased base of support we’ve gathered, and hope you will stick with us!
~ South Dakota Wild Grassland Coalition
Prairie Grasslands Need Your Help!
To permanently protect three small but striking areas within the Buffalo Gap National Grassland, please act now!
These fragile windswept tablelands, sheer cliffs, stark buttes and waving prairies are among the very few still eligible for wilderness protection — and they are threatened.
Increasing population and motorized recreation will change their unspoiled character. If Congress fails to permanently protect Indian Creek, Red Shirt and Chalk Hills, the next Forest Service management plan will make them available to more motorized recreation.
These lands represent what Lewis and Clark discovered more than 200 years ago, precious remnants of our prairie heritage. Right now they have only temporary protection.
Take action today to safeguard them as wilderness, securing these unspoiled lands as a legacy for future generations to enjoy.
Please contact ALL the South Dakota Congressional Delegation today and tell them you support wilderness! Urge them to create America's first national grassland wilderness before these lands are changed forever.
It's easy and quick — Just click the blue links below or call:
This video features special areas of the Buffalo Gap National Grassland
Welcome to the SD Wild Grassland Coalition Website!
What is the South Dakota Wild Grassland Coalition?
The South Dakota Wild Grassland Coalition comprises sportsmen, ranchers, conservationists, Native American tribes, and local business owners who would like to see a small piece of South Dakota’s prairie grasslands preserved in its wild state for generations to come.
To achieve this goal, the Coalition has worked toward and supports Sen. Tim Johnson's proposed legislation (http://johnson.senate.gov/public/?p=ProtectingSouthDakotasGrasslandHeritage) to designate approximately 48,000 acres of existing Forest Service land in southwestern South Dakota as wilderness. The wilderness would consist of three non-contiguous areas: Indian Creek, Red Shirt, and Chalk Hills.
Designation of wilderness requires an act of Congress. The Bush Administration, in its 2002 management plan for the Northern Great Plains region, recommended wilderness for two of the areas (Indian Creek and Red Shirt) included in the current proposal.
What exactly is wilderness?
The Wilderness Act of 1964 defines designated Wilderness as “land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, …which generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man's work substantially unnoticeable…" Wilderness can only be designated by an act of Congress and can be established only on federal lands.
What land uses are permitted in wilderness?
Hunting, established grazing, fishing, hiking, camping, canoeing, kayaking, swimming, mineral activity on claims established prior to designation, bird watching, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, rockclimbing, caving and ecological research are permitted.
South Dakota Wilderness Ads
May 5, 2010
Print ads feature sportsmen, community leaders, and members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe speaking out for SD Wilderness. Click a thumbnail to view the full-sized ad as a PDF.
Wilderness Coalition Supports Sen. Johnson's Wilderness Proposal
Jan. 16, 2010
The South Dakota Wild Grassland Coalition today expressed enthusiastic support for Senator Tim Johnson's intention to introduce legislation to designate as wilderness 40,000 to 50,000 acres within Buffalo Gap National Grassland, though acknowledged a tough compromise is involved.
"Support for this wilderness designation has been growing for a long time," said coalition manager Cheryl Warren, "so we are very happy that Senator Johnson has decided to introduce a bill to protect these unique places. The decision to keep the Indian Creek road open, rather than closing it at the first creek crossing as the citizens' proposal would do, is a tough compromise for us, but one worth making. The coalition sees the Senator's plan as a tremendous step forward in securing a living legacy of South Dakota's and the nation's grassland heritage."
Sportsman and South Dakota Wildlife Federation board member Terry Mayes applauded Senator Johnson for his leadership in initiating wilderness legislation. "I know the Senator has always had an abiding interest in the wild things and places of South Dakota. His action in initiating this legislation is further proof of his convictions," said Mayes, a retired South Dakota Highway Patrol commander.
Mayes, appointee to the 2005 West River Issues Working Group, noted that wilderness is part of the multiple use concept of public land management. "Wilderness protection ensures that the land will remain as it is, while still allowing hunting and fishing, hiking, camping, rock collecting, disabled access, and horseback riding." Mayes said that, when necessary, wilderness can be managed to control fire, insects and disease, and to protect public health and safety and private property. He also noted that emergency search and rescue operations can be performed in wilderness.
Warren said wilderness provides strong protections for ranchers who use these areas, as designated wilderness mandates by law that established livestock grazing shall continue. "In conversations we've had with ranchers who graze these proposed wilderness areas, we've heard concerns about the growing impact of motorized recreational use, and even possible future development of the landscapes they know and depend on for a living. 'Wilderness' may once have been a four-letter word to these ranchers, but when they realize it will help keep the grasslands the way they are today and ensure continued grazing, 'wilderness' starts to sound better.
Local business owners recognize the economic benefit of having the first-ever national grassland wilderness nearby. Billy and Joanna Cannon, proprietors of two Super Lube stores and Car Wash World in Rapid City, are pleased about senator Johnson's announcement.
"Preserving a wilderness area in our nearby grasslands could provide a unique attraction for everyone, local residents as well as tourists," said Billy Cannon, also recent president of the Black Hills Sportsmen Club. "This would set aside lands that are of interest to a wide range of people, from outdoor enthusiasts to hunters who want to be able to pack in and get close to nature undisturbed. The activity this would generate would benefit a wide variety of local businesses."
"I'm pleased that these geologically rich areas will be better protected," said Dr. Perry Rahn, professor emeritus of geological engineering at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology. "Rockhounds will still be able to enjoy collecting from the great variety of rocks and agates out there. But the heavier impacts of off-road vehicles and illegal commercial collecting on this public treasure should decrease."
The South Dakota Wild Grassland Coalition comprises 55 local, state and national organizations ranging from hunting groups such as Dakota Sportsman, Inc. and the Izaak Walton League, to the South Dakota Ornithologists' Union, Republicans for Environmental Protection, and the Oglala, Rosebud, Cheyenne River, Standing Rock, and Lower Brule Sioux Tribes.