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South Dakota National Grassland Heritage Proposal
The South Dakota Wild Grassland Coalition is comprised of 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 developed a proposal to designate approximately 50,000 acres of existing Forest Service land in southwestern South Dakota as wilderness. The areas recommended for permanent protection were chosen based on ecological significance, wilderness character, geological and archeological resources, as well as scenic and cultural values.
The proposal builds on the 2002 recommendation of the U.S. Forest Service under the Bush administration to designate approximately 39,000 acres within Buffalo Gap National Grassland as wilderness. As the establishment of a wilderness requires an act of Congress, the Coalition is now working to garner public support for its proposal and to gain the full support of South Dakota’s three-person congressional delegation.
Below is a brief overview showing specific characteristics of each of
the four areas included in the Coalition’s wilderness proposal.
Proposal: ~29,600 acres
Indian Creek is the largest block of prairie wilderness left in North America, offering a vast array of landforms, unique plant life, vertebrate fossils and stunning scenery. The area provides hikers, birders, horseback riders, hunters, and the science community an unmatched Great Plains wilderness experience, similar on a quality-scale to wilderness opportunities in the Rockies and Alaska.
The main uses of the area are livestock grazing and hunting, both of
which are permitted to continue under the Wilderness Act of 1964. In fact,
wilderness designation will protect the increasingly rare chance for high-quality,
true wilderness hunting that relies on foot travel or pack horses or mules.
Proposal: ~16,600 acres
Comprised of pristine prairie and badlands, Red Shirt lies adjacent to the Pine Ridge Reservation. The region was used by the Lakota for shelter, cover, food sources, medicinal plants and burial sites throughout the Indian Wars of the late 1800s. Red Shirt is rich with wildlife that includes golden eagles, coyotes, owls, prairie dogs, pronghorn antelope, songbirds and rattlesnakes. Grazing, rock collecting and hunting are the most common activities in Red Shirt.
Proposal: ~4,600 acres
Located south of Red Shirt, the remote Chalk Hills area includes cedar and juniper canyons, lush grasslands, mesas and sheer cliffs. This landscape was made famous by the movie “Dances With Wolves,” part of which was filmed in the vicinity. The area was used as a refuge by Lakota warriors during the Indian Wars. It, too, is rich in wildlife and unique vegetation.
Cattle grazing occurs in the Chalk Hills area, an activity that is allowed under the Wilderness Act of 1964.
For more information, contact:
Cheryl Warren, South Dakota Wild Grassland Coalition, 605-673-3281