Stockgrowers question National Park Service for canceled meetings

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Farm Forum

The South Dakota Stockgrowers Association was angered on April 24 to learn that officials at Badlands National Park had cancelled nine of ten public meetings this week with little or no notice to the impacted public.

Bob Fortune, President of the Stockgrowers from Belvidere, made the following statement in response to the cancelled meetings.

“The only plausible explanation for cancelling nine public scoping and input sessions scheduled throughout the communities affected by the buffalo expansion is that the Park Service does not believe this to be a viable management plan for these lands.

“This proposal to introduce buffalo in the South Unit of the Badlands National Park is going to displace people from their private land and destroy the livelihood of several family ranches. We have been told repeatedly by Park Service staff that attending these meetings was our opportunity to provide input on the Park Services proposal.

“Whether the Park Service is unable, or just unwilling to defend their proposal to the public, the decision to cancel these public meetings is unacceptable. South Dakota Stockgrowers Association has no confidence that this scoping process is being done with the integrity that should be given to a decision with such serious impacts to the lives and livelihoods of ranchers and tribal members.”

The reintroduction of buffalo to the South Unit of the Badlands National Park is one of three pieces that are currently moving forward to impact the 133,000 acres of grazing land. The proposal from the park would allow buffalo to graze on the acres being vacated by ranchers who received eviction notices from the Pine Ridge tribal authorities. The creation of a tribal national park would require congressional action through legislation that has been drafted for circulation in Washington DC but is not available to the public.