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Forest Service Taking Comment on Proposed Mining Ban Around Pactola Reservoir

We’d better hope those rare-earth elements up in North Dakota didn’t also get sprinkled into the Black Hills; otherwise, we might have a hard time convincing folks to accept the mining ban that the Forest Service is proposing for the Pactola Reservoir and part of the Rapid Creek watershed, on which Rapid City and Ellsworth Air Force Base depend for drinking water. Locals voiced their opinions on digging fewer holes in the Hills at a public hearing Wednesday in Rapid City:

Black Hills National Forest, proposed area of mining ban, from Tupper, 2023.04.26.
Black Hills National Forest, proposed area of mining ban, from Tupper, 2023.04.26.

The ban would cover about 32 square miles encompassing the Pactola Reservoir and areas of public land upstream that drain into the reservoir via Rapid Creek.

Many speakers said they want the boundaries of the proposed ban expanded to cover more of the Rapid Creek watershed, plus additional watersheds or even the entire Black Hills National Forest.

Some of the speakers expressed concerns about the potential impact of mining on water availability and quality. One of those speakers was Rapid City resident Jay Davis.

“This is our drinking water. This is our lifeline. Water is life,” Davis said.

Native Americans from several South Dakota-based tribes shared similar concerns. They also spoke about the potential impact of mining on areas of cultural significance in the Black Hills – a region that figures prominently in Native American history and spirituality.

Doug Crow Ghost spoke on behalf of the Great Plains Tribal Water Alliance.

“The Forest Service should impose a moratorium on all mining in the Black Hills,” Crow Ghost said.

A few speakers defended exploration and mining. Larry Mann, who has worked as a lobbyist for mining companies, said all future mining-related activity in the affected area should not be prohibited based on concerns about a current exploratory drilling proposal. He said exploratory drilling rarely locates economically viable deposits, and the number of drilling projects that result in mines is minimal.

“Why are we setting our hair on fire over something that the science even says is unlikely to occur?” Mann said [Seth Tupper, “Public Tells Forest Service to Expand Proposed Mining Ban in Portion of Black Hills,” South Dakota Searchlight, 20223.04.26].

The Forest Service is taking public comment on the withdrawal of this public land from mining through June 20. You can comment online via or on paper to Bryan Karchut, Black Hills National Forest, 1019 N. 5th Street, Custer, SD 57730.


  1. larry kurtz 2023-04-28 06:51

    I was shocked while reading about this yesterday. That there are people still living in the Black Hills who care enough to save some of it from destruction might be a watershed moment in South Dakota politics.

    Today, putting the country on the path of protecting at least 30 percent of our land and 30 percent of our ocean areas by 2030 (30×30) is imperative to preserving public lands especially now as the worst megadrought in at least 1200 years is driving desertification in most of the western United States. A supermajority of registered voters in the Mountain West agrees according to bipartisan polling conducted by the Colorado College State of the Rockies project.

  2. larry kurtz 2023-04-28 07:10

    This is a weak spot in the SDGOP agenda. If enough people believe preservation is a bankable position the SDDP needs to exploit it and find candidates who can convince voters to reject politicians like Kristi Noem, Mike Rounds and Dusty Johnson.

  3. John 2023-04-28 09:07

    The Forest Service is barely attempting to do the right thing. The Forest Service needs a shove. The Rapid Creek watershed above Rapid City is over 309 square miles (198k square acres). The Forest Service withdrawal proposal is a bit more than 10% of the water shed above Rapid City – leaving a bit less than 90% unprotected.
    The Forest Service acts as if mining were one of its missions. Forest Service missions are, in equal parts: timber, recreation, grazing, watersheds, and wildlife. (Multiple Use Sustained Yield Act of 1960, no subsequent acts changed the FS’s 5 missions.) Yet, via the 1876 Mining Act, mining is allowed, but not a mission.

    Watershed conservation and protection is a mission. The Forest Service ought to propose mineral withdrawal on all lands in the Rapid Creek watershed. The Forest Service ought proposal mineral withdrawal in all watersheds upstream from intakes for human domestic water supply. The Forest Service ought to study its own history – the history of it lack of watershed protection and mineral withdrawal that led to several super fund sites in its waters from mining operations: Whitewood Creek, Gilt Edge, and its own careless dumping of EDB at Nemo.

  4. larry kurtz 2023-04-28 09:30

    Interior is far more responsive to public outcry than USDA is, for sure. The Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service should be merged and become the US Forest and Land Management Service. It is the way.

  5. Chad White Feather Sr 2023-04-28 09:30

    The Ocete’ Sakowin Oyate’s Denies Any & All Oil & Drilling Exploration Mining Operation in the Sacred Black Hills!

  6. Mark Anderson 2023-04-28 11:28

    Why mining is what made the white man take the Black Hills in the first place!

  7. larry kurtz 2023-04-28 11:54

    Most land in the public domain should be remanded to Indigenous communities so the US Forest and Land Management Service would be a much smaller streamlined agency.

  8. P. Aitch 2023-04-28 12:36

    Y’all know this but there’s one OG on the page who’s going to disagree.
    Lobbyists use various tactics such as offering financial incentives (bribes), providing misleading or incomplete information, or making exaggerated claims to sway policymakers in a certain direction. This leads to policies that prioritize the interests of a particular group over those of the general public, and is nearly always detrimental to the wider society.
    It’s vital to critically evaluate the information and arguments presented by lobbyists and consider their motivations before accepting their recommendations or proposals.

  9. Arlo Blundt 2023-04-28 12:44

    Mining companies have been tearing down mountains and running the rock through rock crushers. Very soon, South Dakota will be one large gravel pit.

  10. Jeannie M Bush 2023-04-28 19:15

    I shake my head that the USFS could authorize mining exploration and another group is looking into the feasibility of bringing water to Rapid from the Missouri. If exploration rarely leads to viable mining, why waste the 5, 000-10,000 gal/drill site/day? (F3 numbers from their application). Jenny Gulch has 42 proposed drill holes. A lot of people can have water instead of wasting our water on mining exploration . . . or bringing it from the Missouri.

  11. grudznick 2023-04-28 20:42

    Mr. White Feather, the elder, is righter-than-right in his assertion.

  12. e platypus onion 2023-04-29 08:11

    Northern Mississippi, affectionately not known as anything, is Number 1 state for loss of tree cover. Covered this before.

  13. leslie 2023-05-01 16:33

    well larry mann, when your exploratory drilling does find something you can capitalize in—in the Rapid Creek drainage basin, we are going to be pulling our hair out trying to stop you and save that drainage from your pollution, your tailings dams, your oil and gas and lubrication waste spilled every time you run a machine to crush those Black Hills into gravel. The outdated 1872 mining laws and the state’s lack of a statewide EPA will guarantee that we will not succeed.

    pffsst— “Why are we setting our hair on fire over something that the science even says is unlikely to occur?” Mann said — pffsst!

  14. grudznick 2023-05-01 19:20

    Young Mr. Mann, no doubt, spends his nights sucking pack after pack of cigarettes down as he awaits such a discovery, Ms. leslie. He did not learn to ignore environmentalist please, he did not become Leatherface Larry for free or by accident. Just sayin…

  15. grudznick 2023-05-01 19:21


  16. Arlo Blundt 2023-05-01 19:30

    Grudznick…glad you’re Woke on the mining issue in the Hills…absolute proof that no one is beyond hope. The fact that this proposed exploitation and ruination of the Hills is focused on Rapid Creek and the Pactola Reservoir might wake up the slumbering, comatose residents of Pennington County. It is almost too much to hope for.

  17. grudznick 2023-05-01 19:45

    Not just Woke, Mr. Blundt. Informed.
    There are many of us, Conservatives with Common Sense, who don’t want our own back yards torn up for Mr. Mann’s employers.

    We are Woke as all get out. We say:

    Go tear up the back yards of those fellers down in the County of Fall River instead.

    We know they have more pretty rocks that are expensive. Plus that will irk Mr. Russell and throw a bone to those Dewey Burdock fellows, which includes Mr. Mann as well. Mr. Mann is just going through the motions on this Pactola water business. He knows his gravy comes from Arzaga biscuits.

  18. Arlo Blundt 2023-05-01 21:34

    Grudz-you can’t be Woke on one area of the Hills, though it is in your backyard, and send the shovels and rock crushers to Dewey with your blessing. That is not being Woke or informed. That is Sleep Walking.

  19. P. Aitch 2023-05-01 21:43

    grudznichts’ not woke. He’s just plain, old fashioned selfish.

  20. grudznick 2023-05-01 21:57

    That’s what Woke means, Mr. P.h
    Woke = Selfish

  21. larry kurtz 2023-05-01 22:11

    Actually, woke means the awareness that the coverage in mass media of white privilege as a divine right is a gift to colonizers.

  22. P. Aitch 2023-05-01 22:22

    Not to contrarily contradict the brilliant brain of whatever his given name is but woke is an antonym of selfishness.
    – The term “woke” is a state of awareness and being conscious of issues related to social justice and inequality, specifically in the context of race, gender, and sexuality.
    – In black jargon, “woke” refers to being conscious and aware of systemic racism, social injustice, and the need for change and reform in society.
    – It is often used to describe individuals who are actively educating themselves about these issues and taking action to promote equality and equity.
    – We woke individuals are seen as socially aware, empathetic, and committed to social justice causes.

  23. grudznick 2023-05-01 22:29

    grudznick stands corrected in my ken of “Woke”, based solely on my good, woke, trusted friend Lar’s explanation alone.

    I shall give Lar back a goat. Lar used to be a South Dakotan, after all, and spent many a night carousing with grudznick and mine other fellows.

  24. larry kurtz 2023-05-01 22:31

    Voters need to be vigilantly aware that the Noem administration is actively sanitizing the narrative in the Pactola watershed and is preparing to sue to reverse this decision.

  25. grudznick 2023-05-01 22:42

    You’re probably right, Lar, but we’ll never know for sure.

  26. Arlo Blundt 2023-05-01 23:54

    Be assured Grudz, that them that got won’t go down without a fight against them that don’t. It is the ballgame they play.

  27. grudznick 2023-05-02 16:23

    And then them that don’t will have, and them that had won’t. Up will be down. Left will be right. Marmalade will be peanut butter, and the cycle begins again.

  28. larry kurtz 2023-05-03 15:21

    It’s happening!

    The USDA Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are seeking public scoping comments and hosting two public meetings on a requested withdrawal of National Forest System lands and Bureau of Land Management lands in Garfield, Gunnison and Pitkin counties.

    If approved, the requested action would withdraw 220,704 acres of National Forest System and Bureau of Land Management Lands from settlement, sale, location or entry under the public land laws, location and entry under the United States mining laws, and leasing under the mineral leasing and geothermal leasing laws for up to 20 years, subject to valid existing rights.

  29. grudznick 2023-05-16 22:38

    Lar, water falls from the sky. The Wharfers are really not digging up that more more of the landscape they have already blighted. And, they use big sprinklers to spray water all over the place, so water must not be a problem. There are some fellows with nice houses up in that area who wouldn’t let this go on if it was bad.

  30. Arlo Blundt 2023-05-16 23:30

    Grudznick..if you trust Wharf, I’ve got some nice seaside properties I’ll sell you in Idaho.

  31. grudznick 2023-05-16 23:45

    Mr. Blundt, you are probably wiser than most. My old friend, Mr. Mann, might have lied to some people over the years. I will reconsider my investments, but I’m still generally OK with the digging. Digging is OK, if you own the land or the rights to dig. My friend Mr. Pay might argue some, but he too drinks from plastic bottles so his environmentalism must be tempered with some reality.

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