Black Hills: Pine beetles, logging and mining

Farm Forum

SDARL Class VII has just finished its sixth seminar where we spent four days out in the Black Hills studying agriculture specific to the Black Hills. The first day we had two presenters talk to us about the Black Hills National Forest and some of the forest health issues they are facing, including the Mountain Pine Beetle Epidemic and catastrophic wildfires.

Next we had a Regional Supervisor for Game Fish and Parks explain to us the role that GFP plays. He also explained a little about the five divisions: Fisheries Management, Wildlife Management, Habitat Section, Law Enforcement Section, and Public Relations or Education Section. It was a great afternoon of information and many questions were asked by the SDARL Class VII members. To end the first day we were treated to supper at the Travis (SDARL Class III alumni) and Deanna Bies Ranch. While there we also had the chance to learn about cattle grazing permits in the Black Hills National Forest and some of the rules and regulations that go with it.

The second day started with a great tour of a logging operation in the Black Hills and also the Neiman Sawmill tour in Hill City. We were lucky enough to see the whole process from start to finish. While on the logging tour and again at the saw mill the Mountain Pine Beetle was discussed. It was amazing and sad to see how much damage these insects have done to the Black Hills. In the afternoon we split into groups and made a Mexican supper with the help of the Black Hills Dutcher’s. The dutch oven meal was good and I think everyone enjoyed the experience. Following supper we were treated to a tour and the history of the Black Hills Playhouse, and saw a very comical play “Boeing, Boeing.”

Thursday morning we started the day by having our June Book reports. Before every seminar we are required to read a book and then we discuss it in our class. The topics have ranged from leadership to animal cruelty. Following the book reports we discussed current topics or events in agriculture. The topics we discussed were raw milk, beef grading and certification, consumer concerns about using pesticides, new meat labeling of “Cuts of Meat” in beef and pork, and lastly genetically modified or engineered foods. It was a great morning of discussion and I think we all learned something new and maybe even changed the way we thought about certain issues. The afternoon started with us hearing about the gaming industry from the president of the Deadwood Gaming Association and about the history of gambling in the Black Hills. It was interesting to find out how Deadwood got to be what it is today. The last stop of the day was at Wharf Resources Open Pit Gold Mine, where we learned about the mining process, and actually got to see the Leach Pads were they separate out the ore from the gold and silver. While we were there we also got to see their current open pit that they were mining and all the large equipment they use. I found it very interesting and I honestly didn’t know all the work that went into finding gold.

That night we had our seminar banquet with SDARL alumni and guests and were treated to an inspirational speaker Malcolm Chapman. In Malcolm’s speech he gave us five powers on how to be better leaders, and also challenged us to find a way to serve. I think we all enjoyed Malcolm’s speech and took something away to make us better leaders.

The last day of our Black Hills seminar started with us touring Cammack Ranch Supply owned by Gary (SDARL Class 1 Alumni) and Amy Cammack. While touring Union Center we got to hear their story of a small but powerful town. It was amazing what that community has worked together to achieve from a new community center, new Baptist church, and currently constructing a new fire hall.

I think we all had passed through Union Center before but I don’t think any of us knew what all that town of approximately 50 people had to offer. The last stop of our seminar was Brent (SDARL Class III Alumni) and Gina Hoffman’s Rifle Ranch. After lunch some of SDARL Class VII member’s names were drawn out of a hat and were given the choice of shooting a semi-automatic or a full automatic rifle. I think we all had a great time at the Rifle Ranch and really enjoyed the story and history of how the Rifle Ranch came to be.

The Black Hills seminar was very informative and I know I personally learned a lot about the Black Hills and the agriculture it has to offer.