Forest Service Says Thune Bill on Spearfish Canyon Land Swap Unnecessary, Undervalues Land

Seth Tupper reports that the U.S. Forest Service opposes a bill sponsored by Senator John Thune to speed a land swap between South Dakota and Uncle Sam that would allow South Dakota to establish a new state park in Spearfish Canyon:

Leslie Weldon, the Forest Service’s deputy chief of the National Forest System, testified against Thune’s bill and said in a written statement that “the bill is unnecessary and contains provisions that raise concerns.”

The statement additionally said that the Forest Service already has authority to exchange land without legislation, that the recreation goals in the bill are already met through services provided in the Black Hills National Forest, that the bill proposes land-management requirements that would interfere with the federal government’s authority, and that the bill’s proposed agricultural appraisal of land values is inappropriate [Seth Tupper, “Forest Service Opposes Swap of Spearfish Canyon and Bismarck Lake Land,” Rapid City Journal, 2016.09.23].

Funny that conservatives like John Thune would support creating a law where one is not needed. But predictable that South Dakota Republicans would try to get something from Uncle Sam without paying South Dakota’s fair share. I’m willing to guess that if the federal government decided to sell the 1,468 acres included in S. 3254 in Spearfish Canyon (not to mention the 524 federal acres South Dakota wants around Bismarck Lake to expand Custer State Park), it would get a lot more bids from wealthy folks who’d like to build swanky vacation hideaways than from ranchers who’d like to run their cattle up and down the crumbly cliffs. Valuing the federal land South Dakota wants to acquire at agricultural rates likely gives that land less value than the free market would.

On the other hand, the 640 acres of Lyman County grassland, and 1,280 acres of Pennington County grassland north of the Badlands that South Dakota is offering in exchange is probably valued quite accurately as ag land. Grazing is that land’s best market use. Developers probably aren’t itching to build fancy summer haciendas in those locations.

I love Spearfish Canyon, and I welcome whatever deal the feds and South Dakota can reach to ensure ongoing reclamation and preservation of the natural wonder that Frank Lloyd Wright found more thrilling than the Grand Canyon. But we don’t need Senator Thune’s regulatory end-run to make that happen, and South Dakota doesn’t to act like chiselers.

20 Responses to Forest Service Says Thune Bill on Spearfish Canyon Land Swap Unnecessary, Undervalues Land

  1. Donald Pay

    There’s an administrative process for land exchange. Lots of exchanges have been done that way.

    The process protects the public right to comment and the rip off of taxpayers. Apparently the SD clown car doesn’t travel a transparent or fiscally sound highway.

    This exchange proposal is off the wall cuckoo. I expect that’s the reason for this attempt to jam this through a legislative process. No no

  2. Follow the money. Who is paying off Thune for this crooked deal? Someone is going to get a windfall and you know that Thune has 12 million in his pocket that he did not get from South Dakota, who wins the jackpot?

  3. Donald Pay

    To me it makes no sense that they sprang this without first getting some sort of initial response from the Forest Service. I would bet this was informally presented to the Forest Service already, and a Freedom of Information Act request might get to what was presented and discussed. I’m guessing the SD clown car didn’t particularly like the response, and they either want to jam this through like the bullies they think they are, or they are using this to get a more favorable response. Either way, it’s a fiscally irresponsible way to deal with land exchanges. Not only that, it cuts you and I and everyone else out of the loop.

  4. South Dakotans remember, or should, when Valhalla in Custer State Park was a personal “play pen” of Gov. Janklow and others! This taxpayer-owned beauty of a secluded getaway was for the “eliteist of state gov’t” and the proposed swap of land proposed by Thune is more of the same. One can see dollar signs written all over it to favor development for business interest. SD would end up making Spearfish Canyon into a toll road.

  5. mike from iowa

    All the FOIAs in the world have been filled out by Judicial Watch and pertain solely to HRC’s emails and the number of people she personally killed in Benghazi. The State Dept is swamped .

    Sorry for the OT rant, but it is the truth as the truth is spoken between actual human beings.

  6. The fears about Spearfish Canyon are repeated, like Mr. H says, Trumpist-like in the hopes that saying them over and over will make people believe untruths. You fellows are Trumpists indeed. And Bismarck Lake as a personal playpen for the state elites would be a fine thing indeed. Confine them all to a substandard campground.

  7. Wait a minute. Can I swap west river grassland for land in Spearfish Canyon and around Custer State Park? Where do I sign up for that?

  8. recently kristie noem passed legislation transferring federal forest land to private parties in grudz’ back yard who had stolen the land from Indians in 1876 and called it cemetery land. Barbie and Ken often imitate each other. look for similarities.

    as don always says accurately, federal regs for forest land exchanges are extremely detailed; generally to prevent private parties from scamming the general public out of public land state government’s like daugaard’s state administration, Regents, BOE, and others who occasionally love to buy and sell each other’s land to one another when they can get away with it so the public get’s stuck with an inflated price tag. imo

  9. I know there is no blog for this but I wonder if Mr. H is holed up in his basement with notepads and tape recorders watching the debate tonight between the two deplorables who are insaner than most. I doubtful will see another president outside of one of these two whack jobs and that is the kind of thing that makes a fellow just want to tear off an ear.

  10. Ror, you sign up for that deal at John Thune’s next fundraiser.

  11. Nick Nemec

    I’ll one up you Ror, I’ll swap East River grassland for Spearfish Canyon land. What a deal!

  12. barry freed

    Stumbled on to a Government website that detailed a land sale by W’s Administration of parcels all over the BH National Forest in the amount of 15,000 acres. It never made any news service, but I was told Daschle’s daughter bought some of it.

  13. How much did W sell that forest land for, Barry?

  14. barry freed

    The item I saw didn’t have exact locations or prices. They were plots of various sizes around the Hills.

  15. John Wrede

    Corey: There is plenty of history for this sort of behavior that hasn’t been mentioned thus far. The Valhala affair was mild compared to some other deals like the River Ranch Resort Complex or sale of Wall Lake and adjoining uplands to private parties donating to the Republican Party. Kindly research what Bill Janklow and company did with COE and State GFP Game Production Lands at Chamberlain. River Ranch Resort (which is now Cedar Shores at Oacoma) was the political good guy deal between SD Republicans and the quest for economic development partnerships; visa vi Ramkota Inc. By in large, what happened there was the result of bully politics that converted public lands to private, commercial use without considering the public’s long term interests. The partnership (state and private business) constructed a marina and boat ramp on COE land as well as a hotel/convention/camping complex on both COE and State Game Production land and the only remaining public service use of any of it is the public can use the boat ramp as long as one has a Park Pass for the current year. The marina is for paying clients. The State GFP land was originally bought and paid for using Federal PR money matched with state non-resident small game revenue. The purchase has strings attached in that the land purchased can not be used or managed for any other purpose other than wildlife production and if it is, it is deemed a diversion of funds and the fed must be paid back. In the case of the state land in question (which was referred to as the Kiowa GPA) I don’t believe the Fed was ever reimbursed for the conversion but don’t know that for a fact.
    It is a foregone conclusion that both the Spearfish Canyon Trust and the rest of us have been sold a bill of goods by the prevailing political winds when it says that the state is better capable and positioned to preserve the integrity and theme of the Canyon by owning a chunk of it. The mere location of the proposed land to be trade for is a direct signal that once secured, commercial development at the hands of political contributors will be forth coming. There are few other places in the vicinity where development is possible! What we have now, in Spearfish Canyon, is limited development in a natural, aesthetically pleasing and natural setting that is attractive to citizens and visitors that honestly want and need that type of more remote experience. What we don’t need is more organized, developed, commercialized recreation that depletes the theme of the Black Hills (or what is left of it after all the trinket and bling shops all over the place.) What we do need, is greater protections for and management of the public’s land that encourages diverse, individualized quality experiences that are being lost due to governments insistence that development improves economic impacts and quality of life…….. The exact opposite has been shown to be true in places like Wyoming, Montana and Idaho……..

  16. John, is there any way to tie the state to using the land as a park and nothing else as a condition of the state-fed land swap?

  17. John Wrede

    I know of no way to force the state and it’s politicians to refrain from doing something with state assets that they don’t intend to do in the first place. Rest assured, there is a greater, long term design for this endeavor and if it is allowed to happen, it will be an unstoppable train. We don’t know all the players in this scheme but we can be fully confident that there are motives behind this that far exceed the stated intent. State government has given us no excuse to trust their intent with this any more so than it did with EB-5 or Gear Up. I’m still chafed that state government converted part of a GPA that I shot my first canadian goose on, to a motel parking lot. It’s not progress……Its perpetual pandering to private enterprise at the expense of the outdoor public and the wildlife that we should be a lot more serious about making homes for. None of us should tolerate it! Period.
    If they can find their way around the provisions of the Pittman Robertson Act, or defy them entirely, once that land transfers into the state public domain, the executive branch can do anything it wishes to do and any bill in the legislature that tries to restrict that power will find a veto. In this case, Title 41 likely controls (there are other titles too that play on it that I’m not as familiar with) but SDCL 41-2-24 likely applies so management and disposition of all state park lands otherwise acquired falls under the jurisdiction of the Game, Fish and Parks Commission who all sit at the discretion and direction of the Governor. To suggest that those people, regardless of party, can and do make controversial decisions absent gubernatorial influence is wishful thinking. (But that identifies another problem in need of attention).
    But, all that is beside the point. The forest service and a growing number of people out here make the valid point that the land, as it presently exists, serves a larger, more diverse public purpose than it would as a state park. Why would I, as a wildlife advocate, want the state to control and manage 1000+ acres of forest and meadow for more camp ground space, organized recreation, increased traffic and environmental impact, to say nothing of further commercialization and privatization of open space when it provides the same opportunities on an individual scale now; all the while providing habitat and forage for big and non-game along with other mulitple uses that have the potential, if managed properly, to impact the Black Hills economy positively without the expense and degradation that comes with the mobs. Everybody in this state should take a detailed, thorough look at what has been done to Custer State Park in the years since Janklow to understand what has happened to what once was a viable and attractive nature preserve and rustic, memorable visitor attraction as Peter Norbeck intended it to be. (See Frank Carroll’s editorial in the Journal this morning concerning the Bison Round Up foolishness) What we have now is a nothing short of a commercialized dog and pony show that supports less than half of it’s original wildlife populations that people come to visit for and a bison herd that exists for profit motives and a round up spectacle every year. Needless to say, Norbeck and Badger Clark would turn over in their grave if they could see the mess State Government has created in that 73,000 acres. If they can do it there, they darn sure can do a much better job in Spearfish Canyon.
    Furthermore, why, as a taxpayer, do I want to spend more money and resources on developing, maintaining, and improving a state park in an area that already serves that capacity in a different, more diverse way already without local taxes and fees. Lawrence county is going to lose PILT money, permittees are going to lose parts of their grazing permits; (which doesn’t hurt my feelings at all), wildlife is going to lose some natural habitat in an area that is already fragmented by innumerable anthropomorphic activities, and a growing number of non-traditional outdoor enthusiasts are going to lose yet another piece of natural open space within which they can learn and enjoy the purposes and intent of multiple use. Dispersed, diverse recreation is much more compatible with wildlands than a developed park with all sorts of social, economic and environmental conditions to deal with on a daily basis.
    This is a bad idea no matter if you look at it economically, environmentally, aesthetically, socially, culturally, or recreationally…….Frankly, I question the thinking of those that seem to believe that public space should consist of manicured grass, trimmed trees, cement camp pads, fire pits, electric hookups, evening campfire movies and a nightclub within walking distance. The great outdoors was not meant to be sanitized by sociopolitical engineers that don’t want to understand the importance of our natural history and heritage. And I’m not going to lose one more inch of wildlife habitat and open space to hunt and roam in without a fight.

  18. John Wrede

    Corey: If you want more evidence of how state government manipulates converted public lands, just take a look at what happened with Spring Creek Marina North of Pierre after most of the COE Take Line along the Missouri River was transferred to the State Of South Dakota in mitigation for wildlife habitat loss from Pick Sloan. Same scenario as Cedar Shores. The public can use the boat ramp but most of the rest of the land involved has seen resort development, private housing, golf courses, and blah blah blah………. And then the state has the audacity to whine about the loss of pheasant revenue…… no place to nest, no place to raise chicks, no place place to hunt, no revenue……….. But then government is not rocket science.

  19. I’m glad JW has entered the discussion and when I get a chance I’ll perhaps respond, but in the meantime, I still think daugaard may be miffed w/ the feds over, I don’t know, EB5 sanctions, probable DOE sanctions from the feds over catastrophic mishandling of Gear Up. he’s had some other losses of saving face to the feds i’ll get too. but now he wants to leave a state park land legacy to himself like Bush did, Clinton did (escalante), Obama did (Hawaiian northern chain). And I think the 3 amigos like the Idaho III%ers and the Bundy’s heroic stand against more endangered Mormon cows apparently.

    “The American Lands Council, one of the main organizations behind the current movement to transfer Western federal lands to state control, has seen more than a quarter of its member counties defect in the past three years, according to research by conservation nonprofit Western Values Project.

    ALC’s website once showed that over 50 Western counties had purchased memberships, ranging from $50 to $25,000. As of this fall, at least 15 have not renewed. The Western Values Project says that based on conversations with county commissioners and county staff, about 10 more likely have also left ALC, bringing the total to an estimated 25.” highcountrynews, Tay Wiles Oct. 19, 2016.

  20. more, trump, the three amigos plus daugaard’s, and no doubt tony’s choice, likes Bundys ect. too.