The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has concluded that South Dakota Game Fish and Parks’ and Governor Kristi Noem‘s proposed shooting range northeast of Rapid City on Elk Vale Road would have no significant impact on the environment. The Fish and Wildlife Service published its finding on August 19, making final the no-impact conclusions it published in its draft assessment in February.
The impact analysis, prepared by FWS in collaboration with GF&P, says expressions of support from “Area shooting enthusiasts, members of the public and the City of Rapid City and surrounding areas” for “a greatly needed, safe, controlled, patrolled, and accessible site for a variety of shooting disciplines.” The report continues to confabulate wants with needs, and it does not mention the vigorous local opposition that led the Legislature to reject four attempts to fund the project.
The analysis notes that two residences lie within 1.5 miles of the center of the proposed range and fourteen lie within 2.5 miles:
The report notes that range shooters will fire toward the east and northeast, away from the marked residences. GF&P will design 12-foot-high side berms and 20-foot-high end berms to “control the flow of surface water so lead particles will remain within each shooting bay.” Any lead that escapes the bays shouldn’t get far, as GF&P will level the shooting bays and install dams, dikes, and swales to slow water runoff and “further settle out lead within the footprint of the shooting range.” All that earthwork will require moving nearly 780,000 cubic yards of dirt. GF&P will also routinely measure lead levels in the soil and hire a lead recycler to remove lead.
FWS found no instances of “birds of conservation concern”—bald eagles, lesser yellowlegs, and redheaded woodpeckers—at the shooting range site, no sustainable fishery, and no endangered, rare, or threatened species. The handful of human rock markings suggesting Indian activity “possess little integrity and offer limited research potential….”
The analysis says noise won’t be a major problem, as shooting will be directed eastward and berms and overhead shade structures will absorb and fair amount of the racket. GF&P will monitor noise around the range and “adjust noise mitigation strategies as needed.”
In return for such negligible negative impacts, FWS endorses Elevate Rapid City’s claim that the shooting range may create 55 more jobs, $1.87 million in worker earnings, and $376K in additional tax revenue.
The Fish and Wildlife Service thus concludes that the project does not require an environmental impact statement under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. The feds will thus not stand in the way of the Rapid City shooting range.