The Rapid City shooting range remains alive in the Legislature. The Senate approved Senate Bill 175 on Tuesday, with Senator Joshua Klumb (R-20/Mitchell), who lives 284 miles from the proposed site, saying living next to gunfire is better than living next to green power or a million pounds of manure:
A number of other legislators also stood to suggest the noise and safety complaints of living or playing adjacent to a shooting range were overblown.
“I would much rather have one of these in my backyard than a wind tower or a hog barn,” said Sen. Joshua Klumb, R-Mitchell.
Regarding the sound of shooting, Klumb added, “That sound to me is the sound of freedom” [Christopher Vondracek, “Senate OKs Spending $2.5M on Western South Dakota Shooting Range,” Mitchell Republic, 2022.02.22].
The ranchers and the Bible camp operator who live next to the site still aren’t hearing freedom from this Game Fish & Parks project:
Matt and Marvin Kammerer’s family has been ranching the area since 1882. Matt Kammerer said he doesn’t oppose shooting ranges in general.
“I oppose the way (GF&P and proponents) have acted and the property rights they have tried to stomp on,” he said.
…Rainbow Bible Ranch has been in operation for 42 years. Reinhold said there are children from all over the country who come every year to enjoy peaceful surroundings. Already, [owner Larry] Reinhold said, there are 310 children who have signed up to come to the ranch this summer.
“They enjoy the safety and solitude of the ranch,” Reinhold said. “What is really bothersome to me is there no communication on the part of Game, Fish & Parks with us. At the end of the property where they come to ride and camp out is 2.6 miles from the gun range… We’ve been doing this for 40 years and we know how to handle kids, and we are concerned about the different things that this gun range will bring in. Most of those have not even been addressed” [Nathan Thompson, “Ranchers, Bible Camp Say Game, Fish & Parks Won’t Discuss Proposed Gun Range with Them,” Rapid City Journal, 2022.02.26].
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, whose federal dollars the state is seeking to subsidize this project, does not comment on the sound of freedom but says the Rapid City shooting range “will not have impacts to the wetlands, floodplains, or farmland, will not affect historical and cultural resources, will not have any effect on threatened, endangered or candidate species, and will have minimal effect on the vegetation in the area or on local fish and wildlife and their habitats.” The Fish and Wildlife Service is taking public comment through March 20 on a draft environmental assessment prepared by GF&P and posted to the FWS website on February 18. The assessment makes its first error in discussing the “Need” for this gun playground:
A 400-acre playground where gun enthusiasts can play run-and-gun may be fun, but it is a want, not a need. Unless Putin expands his invasion plans from Kyiv to Keystone, there’s no need for anyone in South Dakota to fire a single round.
The draft environmental assessment states that GF&P worked with area realtors to search for a suitable property and formed a stakeholder group in February 2021 “consisting of shooting enthusiasts, city and state officials, local gun and shooting clubs, area retailers, and other interested parties.” That statement does not mention including neighboring landowners as stakeholders, which is one of the neighboring landowners chief complaints. But GF&P lists [pp. 22–23] 30 public meetings from January 21, 2021, through January 4, 2022. That list shows “Meet with surrounding landowner”, singular, on February 3 and July 12, 2021 and “Area landowner meeting” on January 3, 2022. That January 3 meeting was the meeting with neighboring ranchers at the Joe Norman ranch that followed a contentious hearing at the Meade County Commission. The list shows three meetings with industry partners, two with economic development group Elevate Rapid City, and six with the stakeholder group.
The draft environmental assessment cites the originally reported cost of the project as $9.9 million, despite the fact that a subsequent press report pegged the price at $12 million.
The draft environmental assessment includes a cultural resources survey that reports the identification in October of five sites of interest to American Indian archaeology, one of which, a “stone cairn site of unknown temporal or cultural affiliation,” is recommended by the state historical society for the National Register of Historic Places. GF&P says it can dig around that stone cairn to avoid disturbing it. GF&P does not recommend one logical conclusion, that perhaps the shooting range could add some excitement and realism by allowing American Indians to set up camp at that archaeological site, located apparently at a high point on the ridge that slants northwest–southeast through the project area, and shoot back at the white folks on the gun playground.
GF&P says the Department of Agriculture (and Natural Resources) “has reviewed the preferred location on November 15, 2021” and will require that GF&P prevent water contaminated with lead from running off the site. GF&P promises to follow the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Best Management Practices for Lead at Outdoor Shooting Ranges,” which environmental advocate Nancy Hilding told them at their last Legislative committee hearing they’ll have trouble following on such sloped land. GF&P vows to take these steps:
- Control and contain spent rifle and pistol ammunition with earthen backstops and utilize natural vegetation to control and contain spent shot on the trap range.
- Prevent migration of lead from reaching nearby waterways by leaving existing perimeter berms in place and introduce engineered runoff controls to include but are not limited to; ground contouring, dams, and dikes to keep all lead shot contained within the footprint of the outdoor shooting range.
- Remove and recycle lead shot as needed by utilizing the services of a commercial lead recycler.
- Documenting lead management activities will be the responsibility of GFP [GF&P, 2022.02.18, p. 17].
In Section 4.12, GF&P says sure, construction and ongoing operations will increase but won’t hurt anyone’s hearing or “pose a disturbance to nearby residents.” But in Section 3.13, GF&P says it has not taken any decibel readings at the site. That gap in the planning just begs for some scientifically minded neighbors to send a couple of shooters to the range with a variety of firearms (and preferably, GF&P permission to conduct science) and open fire while neighbors on the surrounding properties take decibel readings on the sound of freedom with their smartphones.
Neighbors may map and plot those decibel readings and submit them along with other public comment through March 20 to Chief, Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, P.O. Box 25486, Denver, CO, 80225 or electronically to fw6_FAGrants@fws.gov.
But the House will propose or dispose of the state’s funding for this project before March 20. Senate Bill 175 was originally referred to House Agricultural and Natural Resources, but perhaps remembering that HANR is who listened to ranchers and killed the House version of the shooting range funding in January, Speaker Spencer Gosch re-referred SB 175 to House Appropriations. No hearing date has been set yet, but committees have to clear all bills by this week Thursday, March 3, and House Appropriations already has 29 bills on is next four days’ agendae.