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Horsted: Expanding Custer State Park Campground Would Disrupt Scenic Barnes Canyon

Capitalist campground owners in the Black Hills are complaining that House Bill 1048, the socialist plan from Governor Kristi Noem and Game Fish and Parks to spend $9.89 million building 50% more campsites in Custer State Park, would unfairly compete against their businesses.

But Black Hills photographer and author Paul Horsted offers the best reason I’ve heard yet to oppose plowing up 75 acres in Barnes Canyon along the Wildlife Loop Road and cluttering it with 175 more RV campsites, four shower and bathroom stations, and pavement: it would be bad for the natural beauty of the park that the state is supposed to protect for all of us.

Horsted shared his latest observations from the field yesterday on Facebook:

Paul Horsted, photos from Barnes Canyon, Custer State Park, FB, 2022.01.20; reposted by South Dakota Wildlife Federation.
Paul Horsted, photos from Barnes Canyon, Custer State Park, FB, 2022.01.20; reposted by South Dakota Wildlife Federation.
Paul Horsted, photos from Barnes Canyon, Custer State Park, FB, 2022.01.20; reposted by South Dakota Wildlife Federation.
Paul Horsted, photos from Barnes Canyon, Custer State Park, FB, 2022.01.20; reposted by South Dakota Wildlife Federation.
Paul Horsted, photos from Barnes Canyon, Custer State Park, FB, 2022.01.20; reposted by South Dakota Wildlife Federation.
Paul Horsted, photos from Barnes Canyon, Custer State Park, FB, 2022.01.20; reposted by South Dakota Wildlife Federation.
Paul Horsted, photos from Barnes Canyon, Custer State Park, FB, 2022.01.20; reposted by South Dakota Wildlife Federation.
Paul Horsted, photos from Barnes Canyon, Custer State Park, FB, 2022.01.20; reposted by South Dakota Wildlife Federation.
Paul Horsted, photos from Barnes Canyon, Custer State Park, FB, 2022.01.20; reposted by South Dakota Wildlife Federation.
Paul Horsted, photos from Barnes Canyon, Custer State Park, FB, 2022.01.20; reposted by South Dakota Wildlife Federation.
Paul Horsted, photos from Barnes Canyon, Custer State Park, FB, 2022.01.20; reposted by South Dakota Wildlife Federation.
Paul Horsted, photos from Barnes Canyon, Custer State Park, FB, 2022.01.20; reposted by South Dakota Wildlife Federation.
Paul Horsted, photos from Barnes Canyon, Custer State Park, FB, 2022.01.20; reposted by South Dakota Wildlife Federation.
Paul Horsted, photos from Barnes Canyon, Custer State Park, FB, 2022.01.20; reposted by South Dakota Wildlife Federation.

This morning at sunrise (Jan. 20), I went out for a few more photos (OK to share!) of the proposed campground site in Custer State Park just off the Wildlife Loop Road. In the silence of dawn, I watched two bull bison graze across the area, and I thought about what will be bulldozed, blacktopped, wired, sewer-lined, mowed, and fenced if plans by the State and Game, Fish & Parks are funded by the Legislature.

…Temps this morning hovered around zero but the two bison didn’t seem to mind as they grazed for their breakfast. The sun rose on one side while the moon set on the other, bringing us and them a day closer to a decision about whether these bison, elk and other wildlife will roam here in the future or be displaced by what might better be called the CSP RV Park. A while later I spotted a herd of elk on a ridge a couple miles south…a few minutes walk for them [Paul Horsted, photos from Barnes Canyon, Custer State Park, FB, 2022.01.20; reposted by South Dakota Wildlife Federation].

House Bill 1048 envisions Barnes Canyon more like this:

Barnes Canyon after HB 1048
Barnes Canyon after HB 1048

According to Horsted, the Legislature may avoid an unpleasant debate over this specific eyesore by logrolling the CSP campground expansion into general appropriations:

It’s my understanding that if HB 1048 is passed through the Ag & Natural Resources Committee (next week), it will then go directly to the Appropriations Committee to be added directly to the general budget (it’s only $10 million, after all.) I am told it will probably NOT GET A FLOOR VOTE in the full House. So action is required.

May I suggest we email each member of the Ag & Natural Resources Committee (who are considering this bill) if you would like to stop HB 1048 before it gets rubber-stamped and sent to Appropriations. Each member’s email address is listed below. You can also call 605-773-3851 and ask for someone in particular or leave a message for the Committee. You may also testify remotely before the committee or submit written testimony in advance. Email for more info or to get on the agenda (apparently): houseagnaturalresources@sdlegislature.gov or visit this page: https://sdlegislature.gov/Session/Committee/1002/Detail [Horsted, 2022.01.20]

Now House Bill 1048 is written with an emergency clause to move the funding immediately upon passage and allow the bulldozers to tear up Barnes Canyon this spring. That means that, if legislators do intend to hide this appropriation in the total state budget and shield it from any floor debate or nay votes, they’d be delaying the funding by a few months. But either way, as a standalone emergency appropriation or pork packed into the general appropriations bill, citizens would not be able to refer this bill to a public vote.

Therefore, anyone wanting to resist this RV-ification of scenic Barnes Canyon should take Horsted’s advice and get on the horn to House Ag and Natural Resources today.

25 Comments

  1. Mark Anderson 2022-01-21

    What’s a few weeds compared to shiney new vehicles?

  2. Paul Horsted 2022-01-21

    Actually it’s 175 campsites, not 75 (so “only” $57,000 per site rather than a truly outrageous $130K) but I really appreciate your sharing this. And thanks for the Photoshop Future of Barnes Canyon graphic. I’d been thinking of doing something similar but wasn’t sure I could imagine it.

  3. All Mammal 2022-01-21

    A bunch of wealthy tight wads and their phone-face grandkids paying homage to a loser Native slaughterer and slavers defacing holy ground.
    Not pretty. Where are the buffalo supposed to roam free?
    When are they going to even mention funds for education, teachers, and the soldiers fighting the corona virus? Not to mention all the working homeless and hungry kids who need glasses or asthma meds? The misery going on in the deplorable, understaffed nursing homes? The kids on the rez unable to get to school because everyone is dying? Its twisted and they’re all sick pups. I will match the pot for Mr. Nemek to run.

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-01-21

    My apologies, Paul! I had 75 acres in my head and didn’t double check the 175 for RVs. I have corrected my error above.

    Hmm… 175 RVs on 75 acres—that’s only 0.43 acres per RV. A single horse is supposed to get at least an acre. Perhaps an RV with a 340-horsepower engine ought to have at least 340 acres. NO more than 2 RVs per square mile….

  5. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-01-21

    And yes, it is a horrid sight to image compared to the natural beauty there now. Thank you, Paul, for allowing us to share your photos. Those images are the best argument for holding off on this campsite expansion.

  6. mike from iowa 2022-01-21

    Beautiful photography. In a few these might be the only mementoes of what once was South Duhkota’s legacy before greed set in.

  7. Arlo Blundt 2022-01-21

    Well…I can’t think of a worse idea for what improvements are needed at the State Park nor can I think of a worse location to do it than the Wildlife Loop Road. I guess they’ll do it because they can. Has everybody in Pierre gone nuts???

  8. larry kurtz 2022-01-21

    What’s the likelihood this thing will be built regardless and irrespective of its environmental and aesthetic impact?

  9. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-01-21

    High, Larry. Environmental and aesthetic considerations don’t seem to be high priorities for 95% of folks building anything in South Dakota. See also: most houses and business buildings erected in the last few decades.

    Curious: what’s the money line here? If there are big business interests in the Hills who don’t want this built, who are the money interests who are outweighing their lobbying? Are more CSP campsites purely a profit play for GF&P and the state? Is there some crony waiting in the wings for the state to offer a plum concession contract to operate the expanded campground?

  10. larry kurtz 2022-01-21

    Jim Scull pops immediately into mind as a Future Fund recipient with the tools and impetus to rip up unceded Lakota land for capital gain.

  11. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-01-21

    Scull is involved with the shooting range, too. But couldn’t he make just as much money building campgrounds for private entrepreneurs?

  12. Jeannie M Bush 2022-01-21

    Opposition letter sent. Thank you for all the information.

  13. Janet Olson 2022-01-21

    I can’t believe Kristi’s Kampground is under consideration. As Joni Mitchel once sang on Big Yellow Taxi: “paved paradise, put in a parking lot”.I mean what else can our state legislators mess up. This is just one example of how the GOP works, making vastly harmful decisions.

  14. JW 2022-01-21

    Part of my commentary to House Ag and Natural Resources:
    Frankly, I don’t believe the State of South Dakota has any business type converting it’s publicly owned open spaces in complete contradiction to those lands’ original purposes and intents. Peter Norbeck didn’t spend the bulk of his political career assembling the lands in Custer State Park and developing a conservation blue print for those lands so that future political ideologues with the land ethic of a bull dozer could impugn and insult Custer State Park, Norbeck’s legacy and their own conservation Mission. The developments that have been done in the past 10 years, including a new Visitor Center, lodging facilities, meeting space, et all have already diminished the parks capacity to sustain the natural resources it was once noted for. We aught to realize, at some point, that those resources and natural assets are the very things that attract people to Custer State Park and the Black Hills in the first place and we ought to be doing something to conserve and enhance those assets rather than overly exploiting them with government kingdom building exercises. These projects and a lot of others advanced by the Department of Game, Fish and Parks represent serious “mission creep” that needs to be addressed!
    I would like to draw your attention to South Dakota Statute Law as it relates to the Game Fish and Parks Departments application for and use of Federal Cost Share money for land management projects. (This range development proposal is a “land management” project as it relates to the Pittman Robertson Act.) The entire codified law found in Chapter 41-3 is controlling in these circumstances since SDGF&P is proposing to match state money with Federal Pittman Robertson Fund Money to construct this elaborate shooting range in Meade County. SDCL 41-3-3 is specifically appropriate for objection to this shooting range proposal. I copy and paste the following:

    https://sdlegislature.gov/Statutes/Codified_Laws/2063992

    41-3-3. Cooperation with federal agencies in propagation, preservation and protection of game and fish–Expenditure of funds.The State of South Dakota having assented to the provisions of the act or acts of Congress authorizing federal participation with the various states in projects for the propagation, preservation, and protection of game and fish which assent is hereby continued, the Department of Game, Fish and Parks is expressly authorized and empowered to cooperate with the appropriate agency, department, or commission of the federal government in projects for the propagation, preservation, and protection of game and fish and to use and expend funds of the department in connection with like appropriations of the federal government for such projects.

    Nowhere in these statutes can one find direct reference to the use of Federal funds for the construction of “state of the art” shooting ranges. This statute is quite specific in it’s charge to utilize Pitman Robertson funds for the “propagation, preservation, and protection of game and fish”. I submit that a competitive and recreational target shooting range has nothing to do with the principle focus of the statute as it is written.

  15. Jake 2022-01-22

    You can’t find a better or bigger “teat to suckle on” than the State government (unless it’s the Federal) and Jim Scull knows this from past and present experience. When you have the governess’ ear and she’s got all this federal money from the Democrats that is supposed to go to infrastructure and good needed things for the lesser in society like Medicaid, grifters like Jim Scull seek out like grifters in state government like the governess and the GF&P and Tourism Dept.
    This proposed CSP campground and the bogus shooting range both arewidely supported by the current GFP hierarchy and its overseeing commission. But, former heads of the GF&P Dept and Commission don’t seem to favor screwing up CSP just to put a few $$$ into state funds that should go into campgrounds surrounding the park.
    Concerning the shooting range; there is a lot of acreage in the Ellsworth Air Base that would provide better access for the public and out-of-state users that would also add to the Box Elder economy quite nicely. And it would fit into the Ellsworth Authority usage future plan quite nicely, also.
    But Jim Scull purchased the current proposed 400 acres and quickly sold it to the GF&P for a range. a great case in point of “the $$$$ bills” waving in the wind waiting to be plucked-like the taxpayers.

  16. larry kurtz 2022-01-22

    In 2019 Paul Horsted’s Faceberg page hosted two photos taken 145 years apart but the same fire-charred snags appear in both. The Black Hills hasn’t been a natural forest since 1863 when a nearly Hills-wide fire probably set by a band of Lakota opened grazing for distinct historic ungulates.

  17. Becky H. 2022-01-22

    Please clarify Section 1 of this bill which says the purpose of the appropriation is for “expansion Custer State Park”.

    Where do you see that it is going to be used for a campground Barnes Canyon?

  18. John 2022-01-22

    KELO’s post details the bad GFP proposal. It includes maps. https://www.keloland.com/keloland-com-original/custer-state-park-camping-gfp-local-differ-on-benefit-of-176-possible-new-sites/

    When I want to view wildlife in CSP, I park in the Game Lodge Campground. Ah, the views and sounds of children biking and screaming, diesel and generators belching, TV and stereo speakers — Valhalla. If park director Simpson gets his $10 million Barnes Canyon Campground one should expect campers walking on, biking on, scootering on, and ATVing on the Wildlife Loop Road. The development will include pioneering spider webs of unsustainable hiking trails looping from the campground to high and low vantage points – then the campers mountain bikes, scooters, and ATVs will follow. Add the generator, diesel, speaker noise that will rumble for miles.

    Simpson’s Barnes Canyon proposal is an affront on several counts. Simpson’s contention the Barnes Canyon location is on/in a developed area is perhaps his biggest distortion of the truth. The developed areas in CSP are largely limited to the bisecting US Highway 16 corridor and the area north of Center Lake. If (and I’m not conceding other issues). IF Simpson passes the “need” test, then the logical choices are adding camping loops on existing campgrounds. Modern construction shows us there is no such thing as ‘being our of room’, rather its a deficit of being out of imagination.

  19. W R Old Guy 2022-01-22

    I fought wildland fires in the Hills including CSP from 1986 thru 2005.
    The proposed 175 campsites at this location presents a major problem should a wildland fire threaten the area. The roads are narrow and the fastest way out is the Wildlife Loop Rd back to Hwy 16 A. Imagine trying to get vans, trailers, motorhomes and tent campers out in a hurry while emergency vehicles are trying to get in.
    The proximity to the airport is another issue. The CSP Airport is used by Single Engine Air Tankers (SEAT) and helicopters for fighting wildland fires. This requires ground transport of supplies to the airport. Water, fire retardant, and fuel all have to trucked in adding to the congestion on the roads.
    Why not make the money available as low interest loans for improving private campgrounds or building new campgrounds on private land? The state and local governments would benefit from the taxes generated.

  20. larry kurtz 2022-01-22

    Volunteer fire departments are irreplaceable as first responders to unexpected blazes and they should convince Congress to make sure the resources are there to sustain rural firefighters.

    Keystone, Hot Springs, Custer, Pringle, Argyle, Hill City, Rockerville, Hisega, Rochford, Nemo, Galena, Silver City, Hanna, Cheyenne Crossing, Savoy, Deadwood, Lead, Whitewood, Newcastle, Alva, Aladdin, Hulett even parts of Sundance, Rapid City, Piedmont, Sturgis and Spearditch are at extreme risk from the tactical use of wildfire. Lawrence County has already admitted the Northern Hills are ripe for weaponized wildfire.

    The grassland fire danger index will be in the very high category again today for parts of Kristi Noem’s failed red state.

  21. David Sommer 2022-01-23

    I use to work in the Park back in the late 70’s and had a business in Custer for a number of years leave the place alone.

  22. Bonnie B Fairbank 2022-01-23

    I honestly do not know what the allure of “camping out” is. My father dragged my mom and us kids to congested camp sites in Michigan, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and Canada for the privilege of being devoured by mosquitos, black flies, horse flies, and ticks. We enjoyed the raptures of squalid tents and a camper, latrines, and “sleeping” bags. The food was indigestible, the weather usually sucked (yeah, Michigan has tornadoes), and idiots cheerfully fed bears Ritz crackers in Yellowstone.
    I complain about my property taxes, but I ADORE sleeping in my own bed with nothing more dangerous than a house cat or six.

  23. Lottie 2022-01-23

    The way i grew up with nature outside our shack on the rez was enough for me. Living in a RV sounds nice but not surrounded by a city of them. The governor wants people to come to SD but its Overkill, i wish she would Stop.

  24. Elizabeth Adamson 2022-01-25

    Will HB 1048 be required to change the name from the Wildlife Loop to Camper City Loop?
    Many times a year I drive through CSP in search of wildlife, one of my favorite pastimes as a Custer resident.
    The Wildlife Loop is all grazing land for a variety of animals. Use the State money to help needy people, not a campground where wildlife roams. Life isn’t ALL ABOUT the pursuit of money Governor!

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