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Ranchers, House Republicans Reject Cowgirl Kristi’s Rapid City Shooting Range

Get Kristi Noem off her culture-war horse and make her stand up for practical projects, and her failure to lead becomes crystal clear.

Governor Noem threw her support behind a Game Fish and Parks proposal to spend $12 million (and some unknown amount of National Guard labor) to build a 440-acre shooting range northeast of Rapid City on Elk Vale Road. GF&P asked the Legislature to spot them $5 million—$2.5 million straight from the general fund, $2.5 million in additional spending authority to disburse pledged private dollars—in immediate funding.

But when that proposal, House Bill 1049, came up for discussion in House Agriculture and Natural Resources this morning, Noem lost what should have been an easy vote. The state is flush with federal cash; the state could spot the entire $12 million construction bill and still be deep in the black. The proposal had the support of Rapid City’s economic developers, the Izaak Walton League, local gun accessorizers, Noem’s good Vegas friends from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, and the all-powerful National Rifle Association.

Who was able to beat those powerhouse lobbyists? Why, the very ranchers in whose garb Kristi plays dress-up all the time. Rancher Joe Norman and a bunch of his neighbors testified in opposition to the shooting range and proved that, on this issue, Cowgirl Kristi is all hat and no battle.

The local ranchers’ own Representative Kirk Chaffee (R-29/Whitewood) got up and said God, Guns, Country, and economic boosterism be darned, this shooting range plan was not ready for prime time. Likening the shooting range to a landfill, Rep. Chaffee said this additional government acquisition of land would burden Meade County with more trash, traffic, and law enforcement and disrupt the rural neighborhood.

Rancher Joe Norman, the closest landowner to the proposed range site, asked the committee to envision sitting on their front porch and hearing gunfire eight hours a day. Norman said that disruption would lower property values for the folks living in earshot of all those gunshots. He said the range would violate the state’s own law forbidding discharge of firearms within 660 feet of livestock. He said Rapid City and Pennington County would benefit while Meade County would pay for the law enforcement and road maintenance.

Rancher Matt Kammerer, who said he lives in a house his great-granddad built in Meade County in 1892, complained the backers of the Rapid City shooting range took too long to engage local landowners and Meade County officials in conversation about the costs of the range. He said the plan would require vacating a section line, which would open up a huge can of worms with other local developers and require even more road building. All the Kammerers I know are tough cookies, but Matt Kammerer got busted up when he said this project would effectively take away from him 1,700 acres of good grazing land behind the shooting range.

Rod Putman, an avid shooter, lives on the east side of the Norman property. He said the noise could be harmful to neighbors’ health and suggested that the proximity to Ellsworth and Rapid City airports could require a formal firearms risk study.

Tyler Woods, who owns adjoining land on the north side of the proposed shooting range, said water flowing downhill from the bullet-littered range to Elk Creek would contribute to lead pollution and harm neighbors’ water rights. He said the shooting would disrupt waterfowl habitat improved by Ducks Unlimited; he testified that when he raised that issue to Game Fish & Parks, the GF&P rep just shrugged off that harm and said the critters would just have to move.

Larry Reinhold, who ranches just north of the proposed range and operates Rainbow Bible Ranch, says his ranch brings kids from around the country for solitude and peacefulness. They take kids out on horses to ride the quiet range and see the antelope and the deer and the ducks. He said that building what GF&P promises will be one of the largest firearms ranges in the nation just 3.5 miles from his facility would destroy that opportunity for those kids. Reinhold said he does not look forward to taking the kids out on horseback to the top of the ridge with a shooting range in his backyard. The shooting range, he said imperils his hopes to hand down his heritage to his family and to future kids who may visit the ranch.

Reinhold also expressed frustration that the folks from Pierre never contacted him when they were drawing up this plan; he said one GF&P rep said he wasn’t even aware of the Reinhold’s operation until recently.

One of Reinhold’s frequent campers, Taylor Finck from Delmont, said the camp is a peaceful experience where kids can get closer to God. Finck said gunfire will distract her and other campers from their Bible study and prayers and spook the horses.

To top off the opponent testimony, the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association sent lobbyist Jeremiah Murphy to note our general antipathy to federal acquisition of South Dakota land because the feds lock down the land forever and don’t feel accountable to their local neighbors. Murphy said what’s troubling about this shooting range is that the state seems to be acting like the way his clients perceive the federal government, bulldozing in with its grand scheme of a “world-class” facility but failing to give world-class treatment to the local landowners who will have to deal with all the externalities of the project. “It’s not ready,” said Murphy. “It’s not ready for taxpayer dollars. Demand more from a state department before this thing gets set in amber and is ever unchangeable…. We have a lot of money right now, and they talked about a lot of big sponsors for this, so I suspect the money’s there to do it right. Demand that. Demand they do it right. Demand they go back, get concrete answers to neighbors’ questions, and then come back for taxpayers’ dollars.”

The ranchers won the day. House AgNR voted 8–5 to kill House Bill 1049. Republican Representatives Blare, Finck (Caleb, possibly a relation to testifier and evident neighbor Taylor), Marty, Overweg, York, Wink, and Ladner all voted against the NRA (note that on your report cards!) and against funding the shooting range, as did Democratic Representative Lesmeister. Republicans Chase, Goodwin, Schneider, Vasgaard, and Hoffman stuck with the Governor.

The collapse of HB 1049 epitomizes why Kristi Noem is a bad governor. She can throw together some talking points and dutifully recite them from under her hat and Fox News make-up. But image is no substitute for substance: when a plan requires actual research, actual work to communicate with regular citizens, identify real concerns, and make adjustments to serve the best interests of the community, Cowgirl Kristi can’t get the job done. She’s just another duded-up doll who doesn’t understand real ranchers or real ranch life.


  1. RST Tribal Member 2022-01-26 04:36

    Yep, you get what you voted for is what I learned. Bring one of 37,000+ landowners of nearly a million areas of prime grazing and farm land in South Dakota we experienced the attempts by self serving people to enrich themselves at our and the land’s expense.

    The proposed 5,000 acre national dump site in Mellette County by a New Jersey firm. Or, the illegal dumping of medical waste from around the region, showing what a person with a bulldozer and no moral compass will do for a fast dollar. How about the massive hog farm that has been reduced to rubble on the side of the road.

    America’s Governor is more about flash in the pan proposals to benefit her donors and not the voters who put her in office. A better day for tomorrow is her campaign theme. Like her groin area grabbing deviant mentor would say, “rules for thee but not for me”.

    Just maybe when she stops campaigning for queen bee of the U.S. and starts talking to people who determines her job status there might awakening. Probably not. The only SD voters in NV, TX or anywhere outside of SD are the ones forced to tag along to groom and protect her.

    The poster person of inept inbred Republicans in SD is pushing ideas from afar based on contributors and not good common sense people found in the SD areas below her plane as she jets away to the next donor supported speaking gig.

    10 months to go unless the inept inbred Republicans find a spine in the primary. No spine yet as a law breaking driver advises the inept inbred republicans on upholding laws.

  2. Mark Anderson 2022-01-26 07:13

    Not in my backyard. The noise is like someone building a house. We have a gun range under five miles maybe three as the buzzard flies.

  3. leslie 2022-01-26 11:26

    Murphy and Scull bed sharing! Geez. Neither tells it the way it is-the truth!

  4. sdslim 2022-01-26 15:00

    Cory and the rest of you people have to understand ——- It is not illegal to shoot closer than 660 feet, or 900 feet or 10 feet, from livestock or occupied buildings!!!! It is only restricted to 660 feet if you are in a road Right of Way!! If I own land in the country, and my neighbors house is built 10 feet from my land, I can hunt, shoot and do anything I want on my land. If there is a public shooting area/walk in area, and someone builds a house right next to it, it is perfectly legal to hunt that land! If your neighbor leases his land for hunting, public or private, it is perfectly legal to hunt it, no matter where the neighbors cattle or buildings are located. Also, even in the road ROW, if the buildings are not occupied, you can hunt right next to them. I don’t hunt within a 1/4 mile of anything myself, but it is not illegal. I don’t know where the myth got started about the 660 feet anywhere around buildings and livestock, but people miss quoting it doesn’t help.

  5. mike from iowa 2022-01-26 15:45

    South Duhkota Codified Law 49-9-1.1. reads in part…..

    Only the owner of the occupied dwelling, church, or schoolhouse; the owner of livestock; or a person who has written permission from the owner of the occupied dwelling, church, or schoolhouse, or the owner of the livestock may use such highways or rights-of-way for the purposes of discharging any firearm or for the purposes of hunting defined in this title within a six hundred sixty-foot safety zone surrounding an occupied dwelling, a church, schoolhouse, or livestock. No other person may discharge a firearm at small game within the safety zone. No person, except the adjoining landowner or any person receiving written permission from the adjoining landowner, may use such highways or rights-of-way for the purpose of trapping within six hundred sixty feet of an occupied dwelling, church, or schoolhouse. A violation of this section is a Class 2 misdemeanor. If any person is convicted of knowingly discharging a firearm within six hundred sixty feet of any occupied dwelling, church, or schoolhouse for which that distance has been clearly and accurately marked and posted, the court shall, in addition to any other penalty, revoke the person’s hunting privileges for a period of one year from the date of conviction. The sentencing court may order the revocation of hunting privileges authorized by this section to be served consecutively with any other revocation of the person’s hunting privileges imposed for a violation for which the person is convicted and for which revocation of the privileges is authorized under this title.

  6. Porter Lansing 2022-01-26 19:28

    Without fail, every time Mercury is in retro-grade (retro-grade disrupts even simple attempts at communication) your Governor starts expounding her radical ideas, which might fly any other time, and she gets grounded like a drunken pilot.
    She needs a psychic advisor to tell her when to calm down, Kristi.
    BTW – Is it culture-war horse or culture war-horse?
    *Retrograde ends this time on February 03.

  7. JW 2022-01-30 16:11

    This is just no ordinary shooting range proposition. Everybody needs to read SDPB’s latest reporting on the subject; paying careful attention to proponent comments and explanations. Anybody watch any of the Outdoor Channels “off season” offerings that feature “shooting competitions”?? Am I the only one that recognizes this for what it will be? Another NRA breeding ground for para-militarism; gun rights militancy and Proud Boy style training and tactics. It is no coincidence that this project has been proposed for Meade County- Home of the largest biker rah rah rally in the US- complete with all their gun toting, white nationalist factions that showed up at the Capitol on January 6th. Does anyone else notice the deceptive marketing of this crap?

    “They said there’s no sufficient public shooting range in the area, and this one can serve youth, adults, law enforcement and Ellsworth Air Force Base. They said the facility will improve the economy by attracting tournaments and boosting local ammunition and gun sales.”

    They lie! There is a state of the art Range located on GFP land 2 miles south of Maverick Junction, immediately along side Highway 79 in Fall River County. It is a public range on GFP owned public land and is operated and maintained by volunteers from the Fall River Sportsmans’ Club at no cost to the state of SD. In addition, Rapid City has indoor and outdoor ranges aplenty. The Smoking Gun Range even features rental machine guns for the rabid ammo-sexual. Then there is the Rapid City Trap Club, multiple indoor and outdoor National Guard Ranges on the west edge of Rapid City fully capable of supporting Ellsworth AFB that already has it’s own ranges for training and marksmanship. There are adequate public ranges at Wall, Philip, and accessible ranges in Spearfish and Custer…. Law Enforcement already have their own ranges and even GFP has an enforcement range for training in the Black Hills.
    The only difference between all those ranges and this proposal is that none of them have “combat” ranges where one can pretend he’s Rambo protecting his community from criminal bad guys in the town square or a Marine Sniper engaging socialist politicians trying to convert the country to communism. The Fall River range comes close. Rapid City has the Outdoor Campus which has been exceptional at serving Hunter Education and Firearm Safety training for over 10 years; in concert with the Rapid City Trap Club, and even the SD National Guard.

    We are by no means close to sending this farce to file 13 as long as donors like Jim Scull and the grifters in Game Fish and Parks have the power to push it. Just because the legislature refused to give this special interest a bundle of money and their blessing, doesn’t mean it won’t get built. Noem and company came back with an alternate proposal for a CSP campground and you can rest assured that she’ll find another way to funnel money into this project; without the legislatures approval.. The BS continues!

  8. larry kurtz 2022-01-30 16:55

    John Wrede nailed it: this shooting range is a giveaway to the industry at taxpayer expense. Any where would the ammo come from? Shortages will continue through at least this year.

  9. larry kurtz 2022-01-30 17:12

    Not just the death industry the people driving this thing are doomsday preppers, soldiers of fortune and christianic jihadists who have descended on western South Dakota in mobs and hordes.

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