Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Keep USFWS at Bear Butte!

One of the special designations of Bear Butte in the Black Hills is that it is a National Wildlife Refuge. This means the Federal government has a mandated role to ensure that the natural ecosystem of Bear Butte is managed in a away to support wildlife.

Local Dems Anne White Hat and Nancy Hilding have been working hard on this issue... you may have seen Anne's recent Friday Forum on this issue.

The attached information was provided to me Nancy Hilding.

Please consider sending comments urging USFWS to continue to be an active player protecting the ecosystem at and around Bear Butte, before the quickly approaching deadline: Monday April 9.

---------------------------------


Here is a clustered bunch of alerts/data on the BEAR BUTTE NWR Divestiture Issue -- USFWS wants to give up their refuge at Bear Butte.-- I oppose that.

Deadline: April 9th to comment.


Items below:

  1. CLARIFICATIONS

  2. BBIA's latest alert (MARCH) on BEAR BUTTE NWR Divestiture Issue.
  3. Prairie Hills Audubon Society Alert (FEB) on BEAR BUTTE NWR Divestiture Issue.
  4. Deb White Plume's personal letter to FWS on BEAR BUTTE NWR Divestiture Issue.
  5. Link to Route 79 by-pass web site.


CLARIFICATIONS



DEADLINE CLARIFICATION
Please note the deadline is sent by 11:59 pm (before mid night) on Monday night April 9th, --- The devise sending it must "mark" it with the 4/9/2007 date, thus your computer, fax, post office mark must have the date of April 9th not April 10th to be on time. If you are e-mailing late, check your computer's clock.

However as these things are always partly about politics --I urge persons and tribes to send in late letters, rather than no letters.

WILDLIFE REFUGES AND RECREATION

Reading alerts I release that folks may be come confused about recreation and wildlife refuges. Recreation -- like picnicking, camping and boating -- can be allowed on a Wildlife Refuge, it just can't be allowed to occur in a way that hurts wildlife -- i.e.: if there is a conflict between wildlife and recreation-- then the wildlife win! Thus keeping the Refuge status does not preclude camping, picnicking etc., at the Lake, but it could result in limits placed on such activities if the activities are harming the wildlife. I have talked with Doug Hoffer at SDGFP and they are willing to work with the USFWS to limit or change recreational use if conflicts between recreation and wildlife can be proven or documented.

USFWS LAND ACQUISITION

Please note in PHAS alert we raise a point that if USFWS is still at Refuge, that means that they could purchase land or easements in the future-- i.e. expand the Refuge in future. But they can't do this is they are no longer there.

GETTING EA

Anne mentioned the USFWS web site was not working a few days ago. Both Anne and I have the EA as a PDF file, it is 1.7 MB file, which I can e-mail to anyone who wants it. It is short, you can read it in an hour , if you wish.


BBIA- most recent alert on Divestment issue


To: nhilshat@rapidnet.com
Subject: April 9 - Deadline to Save Bear Butte Lake NWR
Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2007 16:22:32 -0400
From: BBIA

SUBJECT: April 9 Deadline to Save Bear Butte Lake National Wildlife Refuge!

April 9, 2007 is the deadline to submit letters OBJECTING to the proposal by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to divest its easement interests in the Bear Butte Lake National Wildlife Refuge, turning the management of the Refuge entirely over to the State of SD, the Bureau of Land Management and private landowners.

This alert is asking citizens, tribal nations, organizations and allies concerned about the protection of Bear Butte and adjacent Bear Butte Lake to OBJECT to this plan by the APRIL 9TH DEADLINE.

This Alert contains:
1) THE ISSUE
2) PROPOSAL TO DIVEST THEMSELVES OF THE REFUGE
3) HOW TO COMMENT
4) SAMPLE LETTER - CUT AND PASTE
5) HOW TO GET THE EA DOCUMENT
6) BACKGROUND DATA ON BEAR BUTTE LAKE NWR

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1) THE ISSUE

Bear Butte Lake is both a State Park and a National Wildlife Refuge (NWR).
A 1967 agreement executed between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
(USFWS) and the SD Game Fish and Parks Department (SDGFP) allows for SDGFP
to manage the Refuge. However, because the management goals of the SDGFP
are recreational in nature and therefore, not compatible with the USFWS
Refuge System, the USFWS Refuge System believes it makes sense to divest
itself, rather than enforce its own singular mission, which is to manage
the area for wildlife conservation. These conflicting management purposes
date back to the 1950's, when no tribal input was solicited. In fact, the
planning team that ran the divestiture model to determine whether Bear
Butte NWR should be considered for the proposed divestiture did not include
tribal consultation at its March 30, 2005 meeting.

The Refuge was created in 1937, when the USFWS acquired conservation
easements from the State of SD, the War Department (now the Bureau of Land
Management - BLM) and private landowners. The Refuge was established 'for
the purpose of water conservation, drought relief, and migratory bird and
wildlife conservation purposes. Following establishment, however,
incompatible uses such as boating, camping, picnicking have been permitted
and supported', reads page 33 of the Draft EA.

The USFWS has 374.20 easement acres and no fee title lands. The majority
of the dam, on the western side, is on BLM land, while the remainder is on
State owned land. Three small BLM parcels lie within the Refuge
Boundaries, while the private lands border the boundaries. The USFWS 'has
not enforced its easement rights for many years, neither has it made its
right known' (page 53, Appendix E of the Draft EA).

To date, Tribal interests in preservation of this cultural resource have
not been properly solicited and are not documented in the Draft EA. As
well, the document proposing divestiture fails to mention the current
controversy around inappropriate development near Bear Butte in Section 5
of the EA (page27). This section outlines effects common to all
alternatives, including Environmental Justice issues. In fact, this
section closes: 'Within the spirit and intent of EO 12898 (President
Clinton's issuance of the Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice
in Minority Population and Income Populations), no minority or low-income
population would be impacted by any Service action under the two
alternatives presented in this document.'

The timing of this proposed divestiture could not be worse in terms of the
larger issue of protection of Bear Butte and its adjacent resources,
including Bear Butte Lake. Due to effects of drought other factors that
have not been studied, the Lake was completely dry many times during this
past Winter 2006/2007 and for quite a long time. We are calling for a
complete Environmental Impact Statement along with objections to this
proposed divestiture.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2) PROPOSAL TO DIVEST THEMSELVES OF THE REFUGE

The USFWS believs that the SDGFP, via its promotion of the recreation uses
of the Lake, prioritizes recreational use over wildlife. The mission of
the USFWS is to protect wildlife; it allows for recreation related to
wildlife on its refuges, but when conflicte arise, WILDLIFE, NOT RECREATION
is the USFWS priority.

For example, they believe that the recreational uses at the Lake prevents
whooping cranes, an endangered or threatened species, from using the area.


The USFWS doesn't think a park managed for recreation should be a refuge
and want to walk away from the Bear Butte Lake NWR - GIVING UP THEIR
EASEMENTS.

The planning document for the USFWS, called an Environmental Assessment
(EA), proposes only two alternatives:

1. Continue the status quo, or
2. Divest themselves of the Refuge

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
3) HOW TO COMMENT

Comments are due in writing and postmarked by April 9th, 2007 to:

Michael Spratt
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
P.O. Box 25486
Denver Federal Center,
Denver, CO 80225-0486

michael_spratt@fws.gov

Questions can be addressed to:
Michael Spratt, micheal_spratt@fws.gov, (303) 236-4366, or
Tom Koerner, Tom_Koerner@fws.gov, (605) 685-6508, lacreek@fws.gov


-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
4) SAMPLE LETTER - CUT AND PASTE

Date

Michael Spratt
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
P.O. Box 25486
Denver Federal Center,
Denver, CO 80225-0486
michael_spratt@fws.gov

Cc: Rep. Stephanie Herseth Stephanie.herseth@mail.house.gov
1823 W. Main St.
Rapid City, SD 57701
Sen. Tim Johnson elli_wicks@johnson.senate.gov
405 E. Omaha, Suite B
Rapid City, SD 57701


Dear Mr. Spratt,

I, ______, am submitting this formal objection to the proposal by the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service to divest its easement interests in the Bear
Butte Lake National Wildlife Refuge, turning the management of the Refuge
entirely over to the State of SD, the Bureau of Land Management and private
landowners. I am urging the USFWS to maintain their presence and enforce
their Refuge System mission to manage the area for wildlife conservation.

The USFWS EA is "thin" in many areas, including it's proposed two
alternatives. The EA should propose another alternative, insisting that
the State of SD change its management of the Lake and the Lake's
surroundings to decrease the impacts of recreation to wildlife. The Draft
EA provides insufficient documentation of the existence of conflicts
between recreation and wildlife. While the EA provides data on the State
Parks infrastructure and policies, it does not provide data on the Parks
actual patterns of recreational use or actual wildlife data - except to
list species that occur there. For example, the EA says, "Documentation of
bird occurrence and use is not well-developed for this refuge." But
ironically, it is documented that recreation adversely impacts wildlife.

Native American cultural protections under Federal laws, require
consultation with Native Americans regarding environmental justice and
protection of historic/cultural resources. As State laws in this area are
much weaker than the superior Federal regulations, the removal of the
USFWS, a Federal agency, will seriously threaten the protection of Native
American interests. In fact, tribal consultation on this Draft EA did not
occur at the March 30, 2005 meeting, nor was it sought, or included in the
document.

When Federal government plans a project, gives money for a project, or
permits a project, NEPA (the National Environmental Policy Act) is invoked.
If the area affected has "Unique characteristics of the geographic area
such as proximity to historic or cultural resources, park lands, prime
farmlands, wetlands, wild and scenic rivers or ecologically critical
areas." an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is needed (40 CFR 1508.27
(b) (3)).

I am requesting an EIS on the Bear Butte NWR divestment plan of the USFWS
as future development of the area may involve federal dollars and plans.
The State of SD is planning to build a highway by-pass around Sturgis to
drop traffic from I-90 to the eastside of Sturgis. The recent flurry of
commercial rally-related development near Bear Butte is in anticipation of
this new by-pass.

With the National Wildlife Refuge status, in addition to the National
Historic Landmark at Bear Butte, both on Highway 79, there exist compelling
arguments for an EIS rather than an EA on the proposed by-pass or other
future projects, which may involve federal dollars.

Highly controversial and culturally inappropriate development that
currently threatens Bear Butte is not mentioned or portrayed within the
"Environmental Justice" section of the EA. Part of Bear Butte and most of
the lands immediately under its slope remain in private ownership. At the
crux of the issue are the no zoning policies of Meade County, the local
governing body, and the impacts of unregulated bike rally development on
Native American interests. These critical Environmental Justice issues are
not mentioned within the Draft EA and need to be considered in the proposed
divestiture of the USFWS.

If the USFWS divests its interests the remaining federal regulating agency
will be the BLM, which is a "multiple-use" agency. I PREFER THE USFWS,
rather than the BLM and private landowners, as a federal land manager in
this most special area and hope you will give my comments favorable
consideration.

Sincerely,


5) HOW TO GET THE EA DOCUMENT

Here is the link to download the draft EA:

http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/planning/States/South%20Dakota/bear_butte/bebccp_draft_web.pdf


The link to the EA on the USFWS regional webpage:

http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/planning/ccp.htm

6) BACKGROUND DATA ON BEAR BUTTE LAKE NWR

On the eastside of SD Highway 79, just a few miles northeast of the town of
Sturgis, lies Bear Butte, revered by tribes across North America as one of
the most sacred mountains. In geological terms, Bear Butte is a laccolith
geologic formation, a bubble of magma that did not reach the volcanic
stage. Bear Butte rises some 1,253 feet above the plains and sits at an
elevation of 4,422 feet on the northeastern edge of the sacred Black Hills.
Today, the mountain is owned by several Native Tribes, the State of South
Dakota (as a State Park) and various private landowners.

Just to the west of Bear Butte, across Highway 79, lies Bear Butte Lake,
which sits in one of the drainages that flow off of Bear Butte. The
drainage of Bear Butte Lake is tributary of Spring Creek. Spring Creek
flows around the northside of Bear Butte and joins Bear Butte Creek, about
6 miles east of the Mountain.

The Lake was once a natural lake, or prairie pothole. A dam was built
along its southwest side and the natural lake/pothole is now augmented with
additional surface water runoff now collected by the dam. The Lake has a
surface are of 180 acres and a maximum depth of 13 feet.

There was once an artesian well near Bear Butte, which was used to supply
additional water to the Lake via an easement that the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service held to pipe water into the lake. In 1987, the
engineering on this well failed, was not repaired and thus this ground
water no longer augments the surface water of the Lake.

The Lake supports an artificial fishery of introduced fish, which
periodically die off when the lake shrinks, yielding low oxygen and high
temperatures.

The Lake provides for shore birds and waterfowl and is especially important
habitat for them during the spring and fall migrations. Due to drought
conditions, the Lake has been completely dry many times during the winter
of 2006/2007.

USFWS PLANS TO DIVEST INTEREST IN BEAR BUTTE NWR

(Feb alert from PHAS)


Bear Butte Lake is both a State Park and a National Wildlife Refuge (NWR).
In western SD we have two National Wildlife Refuges; Bear Butte near Sturgis and La Creek near Martin. In Eastern SD there are Sand Lake and Waubay NWRs.

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is proposing to divest itself of its interest in the Bear Butte NWR and to turn The Refuge's management entirely over to the State and the BLM and private landowners.

This is an alert asking folks to object to this plan.

The Alert contains:
1. Background Data on Refuge,
2. Contact info for sending in comments, deadline April 9th
3. Bullets on some objections to the USFWS plans

ALERT --- DETAILS ON THE ISSUE _______________________________________________________________

Geography & History of Bear Butte Mountain Lake

On the east of Highway 79 is the Bear Butte Mountain, which is a laccolith geologic formation up- thrusting from the plains. The Mountain is owned by the State of SD (as a Park), various Native American Tribes and private land owners. On the west side of Highway 79 is Bear Butte Lake, which sits in one of the drainages coming off of Bear Butte, which drainage is a tributary of Spring Creek. Spring Creek flows around the north side of Butte and joins Bear Butte Creek about 6 miles east of the Mountain. The Lake was once a natural lake or a prairie pot hole. A dam was built along its south west side and the natural lake/pot hole is now augmented with additional surface water runoff now collected by the dam. Also there once was an artesian well near Bear Butte, which was used to supply additional water to the Lake, and the USFWS had an easement to pipe water to the Lake. The engineering on this well failed in 1987, was not fixed and thus this ground water no longer augments the surface water. The Lake supports an artificial fishery of introduced fish, which periodically die off when the lake shrinks and the low oxygen/high temperatures kill the fish. It provides for shore birds and waterfowl and is especially important habitat for them during the spring and fall migrations. Upland areas provide mixed grass prairie habitat. Right now due to drought the Lake is very low.

The Lake is both a State Park and a National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). Thus both the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and SD Game Fish and Parks Department (SDGFP) have a say in how the Lake Refuge/Park is managed. It is operated under a cooperative agreement executed in 1967 between the USFWS and SDGFP, allowing for SDGFP to manage the Refuge/Park pursuant to the USFWS rights. .

The Refuge was created in the late 30s when the USFWS acquired conservation easements from the State of SD, the War Dept. (now - Bureau of Land Management - BLM) and private landowners. The conservation easement was to maintain an area for "migratory bird, wildlife conservation and other purposes". The 1935 executive order states the purpose of refuges are "as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife..."

As part of the purpose of the refuge the easement reads:
"the exclusive and perpetual right and easement to flood with water, and to
maintain and operate a natural or artificial lake thereon or in connection with
other land included in what is known as the Bear butte Lake Project, and to
raise the water level thereof by means of dams, dikes, fill, ditches, spillways
and other structures, for water conservation, drought relief, and for migratory
bird and wildlife conservation purposes and to operate upon said lands and
waters and maintain a wildlife conservation demonstration unit and a closed
refuge and reservation for migratory birds and other wildlife. "

USFWS has 374.20 easement acres and no fee title lands. The Lake has a surface area of 180 acres and a maximum depth of 13 feet. Some lands under easements were originally owned by private landowners but are now owned by the State. Sometimes the easements apply only to the land under the high-water mark of the Lake.
Most of the Dam is on land owned by the BLM and some of the Dam is on land owned by the State.
The BLM's land is to the western side. There are 3 small parcels within the Refuge Boundaries, along its edges were the land is owned by private persons.

Proposal to divest themselves of the Refuge.

The USFWS believes that the SDGFP via its promotion of the recreation uses of boating, swimming, camping and picnicking at the Lake, prioritizes recreational use over wildlife. It believes that the recreation use hurts the wildlife. The USFWS mission is to protect wildlife; it allows for recreation related to wildlife on its refuges but when conflicts arise, wildlife, not recreation is the USFWS priority. For example they believe that the recreational uses at the Lake, prevents whooping cranes, a endangered or threatened species from using the area. They don't think a park managed for recreation should be a refuge and want to walk away from the Bear Butte NWR, giving up their easements.

They have a planning document called an Environmental Assessment (EA) and propose only two alternatives; to continue the status quo or to divest themselves of the Refuge.

We (Prairie Hills Audubon Society) strongly objects to this plan. We will provide some reasons below.

HOW TO COMMENT OR GET DOCUMENTS

You can comment on this document and the Plan till April 9th, 2007. The deadline is "postmarked" on April 9th. Here is the link to download the pdf:

http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/planning/States/South%20Dakota/bear_butte/bebccp_draft_web.pdf

Here is the link to the EA on the USFWS regional web page.

http://mountain-prairie.fws.gov/planning/ccp.htm


Comments should be mailed by post to::

Michael Spratt
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
P.O. Box 25486
Denver Federal Center,
Denver, Co, 80225-0486
michael_spratt@fws.gov

Comments are due in writing by April 9th, 2007 (That is "postmarked" )
Questions can be addressed to Micheal Spratt, micheal_spratt@fws.gov, 303-236-4366 or to Tom_Koerner@fws.gov, 605)685-6508, lacreek@fws.gov

REASONS TO OBJECT TO THIS PLAN:



1. INSUFFICIENT ALTERNATIVES

The USFWS only proposes two alternatives, it should have proposed another alternative-- in which USFWS insists that the State change its management of the Lake and the Lake's surroundings to decrease the impacts of recreation to wildlife. For example the USFWS could prohibit boating all together or prohibit boating at key times, such as spring and fall. We believe that an alternative which reduces the conflicts should be created and be the preferred alternative.

2. INSUFFICIENT DOCUMENTATION OF CONFLICTS

Birders who use the Refuge, don't see that much use by recreators during the key migration times. The USFWS has provided us with data on the Parks infa-structure and policies but has not provided data on the Parks actual patterns of recreation use or actual wildlife data except to list species that occur there. Thus it does not backup its allegations the conflicts actually exist. For example the EA says "Documentation of bird occurrence and use is not well-developed for this refuge." But ironically they know that recreation is adversely impacting wildlife!

3. NATIVE AMERICAN CULTURAL PROTECTIONS UNDER FEDERAL LAWS BEST

The Federal government has very superior laws about consultation with Native Americans, about environmental justice, and about protection of historic/cultural resources than does the state. Native American interests may suffer with the removal of the USFWS from the area.

4. NEPA PROTECTIONS -

When the federal government plans a project, gives money for a project or permits a project, NEPA (The National Environmental Policy Act) is invoked. If the area affected has "Unique characteristics of the geographic area such as proximity to historic or cultural resources, park lands, prime farmlands, wetlands, wild and scenic rivers or ecologically critical areas." an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is needed. ( 40 CFR 1508.27 (b) (3)) An EIS is a superior planning process to an Environmental Assessment (EA). One can ask why isn't an EIS on this Bear Butte NWR divestment plan of the USFWS being done?

Some of the future development in the area may involve federal dollars/plans. The state of SD is planning to build a by-pass around Sturgis to drop traffic from I-90 on the east side of Sturgis. Some suspect the recent flurry of commercial rally related development near Bear Butte is in anticipation of this new by-pass. With a Wildlife Refuge in addition to a National Historic Landmark, on Highway 79, there are better arguments for an EIS not an EA on the proposed by-pass or other future projects, which may involve federal dollars.

5. INCREASING THE PUBLIC LAND "FOOT PRINT" AT BEAR BUTTE -

Inappropriate development threatens Bear Butte. The Mountain itself is very special. The grasslands which surround it have some wetlands, wooded draws and riparian areas, with several streams running parallel to each other and merging in the area. Part of the Mountain itself and most of lands immediately under the slope of the mountain remain in private ownership. Meade County has no zoning. Private land in the area is getting very expensive, it is possible that the tribes don't have the financial resources to purchase all the needed lands, to secure both the Mountain and a buffer immediately around it..

Many believe purchase of land or conservation easements for public and/or tribal ownership is needed. Currently BLM, USFWS and the BIA (holding land in trust for tribes) are the federal land owning agencies in the area. There are federal conservation related monies sources for both BLM, USFWS to purchase land or easements (Land & Water Conservation Fund) and perhaps the BIA could be used, in a precedent settling manner, to receive federal conservation funds. There are federal tax breaks to donate conservation easements. We hope that in the future the USFWS can acquire more land or conservation easements in the area. Wouldn't a large prairie wildlife refuge including the grasslands and streams surrounding Bear Butte be great -- wouldn't a large buffalo herd (not bikers or subdivisions) surrounding Bear Butte be great? If USFWS leaves we will be left with the BLM, which is a "multiple-use" agency and as Prairie Hills Audubon Society (PHAS) is a wildlife-biodiversity oriented group, we prefer the USFWS over the BLM as a federal land manager in this area.

-_________________________________________________________
TRIBES and LWCF FUNDS
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The BIA has no precedent of which we are aware, to receiving LWCF conservation related funds, but maybe new precedent can be set at Bear Butte. Also sometimes the Federal government provides LWCF conservation grants programs requiring matching dollars for States/local government to purchase lands,/easements. But such grant programs did not receive any budget allocations in this fiscal year. I believe tribes can apply and compete within the State grant program for matching funds, in years when this state grant program is funded. Options of LWCF funding is something tribes could investigate.

For More information contact Nancy Hilding
see her address below

Nancy Hilding . Presdient, Prairie Hills Audubon Society, P.O. Box 788, Black Hawk, SD 57718
605-787-6466 phone and fax and voice mail and internet hook up, (call before faxing) ,
605-787-6779 alternate phone. I have call waiting and "no answer" may mean the line is in use--
cell phone - 605-430-9230, I do not check cell phone messages daily,
nhilshat@rapidnet.com, nhilding@rapidnet.com , phas.wsd@rapidnet.com

Debra White Plume's letter to USFWS


From: Owe Aku Bring Back the Way
To: Nancy Hilding
Subject: Re: Fwd: Bear Butte Area conservation
Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2007 14:55:18 -0600 (MDT)

Debra White Plume
Owe Aku, Bring Back the Way
Manderson, SD 57756-0325
605-455-2155 Voice Ph
lakota1@gwtc.net
www.bringbacktheway.com

Nancy:
FYI the letter I emailed in, and sent on to many others to encourage them to send
in a letter. i am also sending one to Hersethe, et al. Pila miya. Take care,
Debra White Plume

Comments can be sent by email by April 9th, 2007 to:
michael_spratt@fws.gov

28 March 2007

Michael Spratt
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
P.O. Box 25486
Denver Federal Center
Denver, Co, 80225-0486

Greetings Mr. Spratt:
I understand that the United States Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to divest itself of its interest in the Bear Butte National Wildlife Refuge and to turn the refuge's management entirely over to the State, Bureau of Land Management, and private landowners.

Were this to happen I believe Mato Paha (Bear Butte) would become even further encroached upon in terms of "development" that will be harmful not only to the environment, but to our sacred mountain itself. How does one measure the potential threat of desecration when there are no zoning laws to protect sacred places and their special status to not only human beings, but the animals, birds, insects and other life that depends on a protected status? Mato Paha deserves to be protected, and deserves to be in an area that is protected as well. Our people, the Lakota people, and many other Tribal peoples, need Mato Paha to survive and to be in a place that is good, the surrounding area, in order for us to pray there, receive healing there, and become educated there, and to engage in strategic planning there. Our ceremonies are conducted at Mato Paha year around.

The Meade County Commissioners, the South Dakota Department of Revenue, the South Dakota State Legislators, the South Dakota Governor, local bar owners, racetrack owners, concert venues and campgrounds have all shown their colors, and their colors do not shine to protect Mato Paha.

Bear Butte is a SD state park, but does not receive any special acknowledgement by state lawmakers and decision makers, instead, the politicans and officials look the other way at the desecration of Mato Paha and the surrounding area. Tribal Presidents and Treaty Councils have passed legislation acknowledging the need for a buffer zone around Mato Paha to protect the integrity of this special place. Letters have been written to the SD Governor, the United States President, members of Congress,and the Meade County Commissioners. Lawsuits have been filed. Petition drives have been undertaken.

People have traveled many hundreds of miles to provide testimony at the county and state level to protect Mato Paha. People have marched in the streets of Sturgis to protect Mato Paha. People from all over the Western Hemisphere have camped together at Mato Paha to pray together and plan together. Families have made great sacrifices to do all they can to protect Mato Paha in the existing systems which control Mato Paha. Many of us have become involved at the international level, working at the United Nations to further protection of sacred land through the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in front of the Human Rights Commission. While the UN supports our rights by passage of the document, locally there has been no respect given to Mato Paha by the law makers and decision makers. In addition to many tribal governments, many NGO's (non-governmental organizations)and grassroots entities have developed documents to support the protection of Mato Paha and these have all been sent to officials in the county and state and federal government. Now we begin to write to you.

I write to you to say that I believe the USFW must not give up Bear Butte to what some call development, what others call desecration. Protecting the fish and wildlife around Mato Paha is something you need to continue to do to the best of your ability. There are many Tribal Nations and organizations working to purchase land around Mato Paha to get it off the market, as a short range solution to the long range work to protect 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaty Rights to that land. Until the tribes and organizations can buy the land, the USFWS can expand its' obligation to a four mile area outside the park boundaries of Mato Paha to create a buffer zone that will protect not only the fish and wildlife, but Mato Paha as well. There has to be some agency in America that cares enough about land, and the environment, and the wildlife and plant life to make some changes in order to provide protection to such places as Mato Paha. I urge your office to NOT GIVE UP Mato Paha to further destruction. Bear Butte Lake is a special place, and needs to be in an environment in which it can become a beautiful, life-giving force again, for all creation.

I encourage your office to consider my letter, and to think ahead for many generations, after all, isn't it part of your office's duty and priviledge to be visonary about what all you are there to protect and preserve? This creation is more important than having picnic tables and campgrounds, I urge you to stand on the side of plants and animals, birds, insects, and fish, and on the side of our first medicine, the sacred water; as well as the overall environment and our need to pray at Mato Paha, our sacred mountain, in a special place, a good place.

Sincerely,

Debra White Plume
Oglala Lakota
Oceti Sakowin (Great Sioux Nation)
Manderson, SD 57756-0071

RT 79 BY PASS REFERENCE



Here is the link to the SD 79 Extension website:

www.sd79corridor.com


Monica Heller
Corridor Preservation Specialist
Rapid City Region
PO Box 1970
Rapid City, SD 57709-1970
Monica.Heller@state.sd.us
(605) 394-2695

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