Environmental issues

Defenders Of The Black Hills Disbands

Dec 13, 2016

A non-profit environmental group founded with the intent of protecting the Black Hills and surrounding areas from development and encroachment is disbanding.

The Defenders of the Black Hills was founded to “preserve, protect and restore the environment of the 1851 and 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty Territories. Treaties made between the United States and The Great Sioux Nation.”


KILI Radio Wind Turbine Helps Station Go Green

Dec 7, 2016
Charles Michael Ray / SDPB

KILI Radio in the Pine Ridge Reservation is known as the voice of the Lakota Nation.   And part of the community run radio station is now powered by wind. 

This is the second wind turbine KILI radio has put up, after the first one broke down.

The turbine is part of KILI radio’s mission run the station on sustainable energy.

Courtesy National Park Service

If you’re looking for someplace to go on Black Friday to get away from the noise and bustle of early Christmas shoppers…your answer may lie in the Black Hills. We report on  two area parks are inviting folks to “Opt for going Outdoors” for some peace…and quiet…and fresh air.

According to the Recreational Equipment, Inc. website about 3 million people are choosing to “Opt Outside” on Black Friday instead of hitting the local mall.


Columbia University ecologist Ruth DeFries discusses how global prosperity benefits people and nature. Dr. DeFries is the author of The Big Ratchet: How Humanity Thrives in the Face of Natural Crisis. She speaks Thursday night at South Dakota State University in Brookings for the Holtry Lecture.

Lee Strubinger / SDPB

People across the country took part in protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline on Tuesday.   The event billed as a National Day Of Action included events in Rapid City, Sioux Falls as well as major cities across the country.

Demonstrators are calling for a halt to construction of the pipeline.  The Army Corps of Engineers says it needs more time to study the project before it permits the compay to cross under the Missouri River.
Pipeline proponents are hopeful that president elect Donald Trump will push to see the project completed.

Wind Cave Ceremony Honors American Bison

Nov 4, 2016
Courtesy National Park Service

Wind Cave National Park celebrated the designation of the bison as our country’s National Mammal this week.  Participants heard about the history of the animal within Native American cultures and the role it continues to play in the 21st century.

It’s a beautiful Fall afternoon as dozens of visitors gather at Wind Cave National Park for a ceremony to honor the American bison.

National Public Lands Day Across S.D. Region

Sep 23, 2016
Courtesy National Park Service

Tomorrow is National Public Lands Day. It’s the time of year when visitors are encouraged to take part in volunteer conservation or enjoy a variety of outdoor activities on their favorite public lands.  We checked in with National Park Service locations across the region to see what each has planned for the special day.

Joshua Dutt

Anne Lewis from the South Dakota Discovery Center and Jessica Taylor with NASA's Langley Research Center discuss a new citizen science app that allows people to contribute their observations to an international database utilized by both NASA scientists and students around the world. You simply take pictures of clouds which are geo-located. The app offers information on satellite flyovers to allow for synchronization of flyover and ground observations.

EPA Fines Harley Davidson On Emissions

Aug 29, 2016
Lee Strubinger / SDPB

Earlier this month the Environmental Protection Agency fined Harley Davidson 15-million-dollars over the sale of an aftermarket device that enhanced bike performance, but increased allowable emissions.

The settlement comes just after the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally – and after the EPA leveed a much larger fine on the auto manufacturer VW for violating emission standards.

Jerry Krueger / Black Hills National Forest

U.S. Forest Service officials want public input on a plan to make the Black Hills more resilient in the future.   

The goal of the Black Hills Resilient Landscapes Project is to make the forest ready for a changing climate.  That includes challenges like the pine beetle epidemic and a potential for increased forest fires.

Forest service officials say much of the Black Hills has moved away from the desired conditions described in a Management Plan created 20 years ago.

East River Nursery

Julie Hoffman of East River Nursery in Huron joins Dakota Midday to take questions about everything from getting rid of earwigs to getting seeds out of milkweed.


Folks in rural America often take pride in being good neighbors.  Officials with the South Dakota Department of Agriculture hope this extends to pesticide and fertilizer use.  A state run website helps producers prevent drift from pesticide or fertilizer applications onto sensitive crops.  

But some critics say the site isn’t effective when it comes to influencing farming practices.  

Gov. Daugaard Activates Drought Task Force

Jul 13, 2016
Kealey Bultena / SDPB

With parts of South Dakota under severe drought conditions, and the rest of the state under abnormally dry conditions, Governor Dennis Daugaard is calling together the state’s drought task force.

The group held their first meeting on Monday July 11th.

The state Drought Task Force monitors drought conditions across South Dakota.  Right now parts of West River and the northeastern corner of the state are in severe drought and part of the Black Hills is in an exceptional drought.

Erin Mairose

The city of Sioux Falls is continuing to build and expand recreational areas and parks along the Big Sioux River. However, officials from the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources say there are high levels of bacteria and nitrates in the water. They suggest only limited contact with the water and no swimming.

Jay Gilbertson talks on Dakota Midday about the polluted river. Gilbertson is with the East Dakota Water Development District. He shares his thoughts on what's happening in the river and ways it might improve.

Pollution And Recreation On The Big Sioux

Jul 11, 2016
Water testing
Erin Mairose

Water testing on the Big Sioux River shows high levels of bacteria and pollution in some areas. The South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources recommends only having limited contact with the water, meaning they don’t suggest swimming in it.

But the city of Sioux Falls continues to build parks and recreation areas along the river, in the effort to foster economic development.

Lee Strubinger / SDPB

There are 473 hike-able trails in the Black Hills.  And like roads, hiking trails require maintenance.   Much of that work—like clearing fallen trees over the path, fixing bridge crossings, or replacing washed out areas—is done the old fashioned way, by hand, with picks, axes and shovels.

In late May, seven inches of rain and hail ripped through Iron Creek Trail in the Black Hills south of Keystone. The storm damaged many of the horse and hiker stream crossings in and around the Black Elk Wilderness area.


Could a disaster like the Fort MacMurray wildfire happen in South Dakota?

Lieutenant Tim Weaver, Wildland Fire Mitigation, Rapid City Fire Department, and Alexa White, Deputy Director Rapid City with Pennington County Emergency Management, discuss wildfires and mitigating the risk of disasters.

Alexa White discusses why it's important to be ready to evacuate in a natural disaster.

New Law Requires Gates For Paddlers

Jun 24, 2016
Big Sioux, Kayaking, Water
Erin Mairose

Navigable streams and rivers in South Dakota used for kayaking, canoeing, and snowmobiling are considered public highways. But landowners with livestock often put fences across the water. The fences can pose major safety hazards to those paddling or traveling downstream.  To allow access through fenced off portions of streams, a law going into effect July 1st compiles a list of streams requiring gates

Oil Seed Crops May Increase With New EPA Standards

Jun 9, 2016

The ethanol industry might need to make way for a new biofuel crop.  The EPA just increased its requirements for the amount of renewable fuel in gasoline.  Researchers working on bio fuel production say South Dakota could become a center for new oil seed crops.

The Environmental Protection Agency just released new federal standards for renewable fuel. These standards increase demands for all biofuels. EPA officials hope the change boosts production in the global market and lowers carbon emissions.

SDSU professor Mark Cochrane, a wildfire expert and senior scientist at the Geospatial Sciences Center of Excellence joins Innovation to discuss living with fire. He’s working on a study of 630 large wildfires that occurred in the last decade in US National Forests to determine which forest treatments – thinning, controlled burns, etc—are most effective in particular US forests. Cochrane is part of a team of scientists from Idaho, California, Utah, Montana, Nevada, Colorado, Canada and Australia who examined the challenges that must be overcome to create fire-resilient communities.

Snowmelt Begins In Upper Missouri River Basin

May 9, 2016

Officials monitoring the Missouri River Basin say snowmelt is starting in the Northern Rockies, but major flooding this year is not expected. Drought conditions are also anticipated to decrease through the end of July. 

DENR Report: 143 Impaired Water Bodies In SD

May 4, 2016
Kealey Bultena / SDPB

A new report by the state’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources lists 143 of South Dakota's streams, lakes, and rivers as impaired or polluted.

The DENR reports pollution in surface water to the EPA every two years.

Black Hills Wildfire Outlook

May 2, 2016

South Dakota has seen two large wildfires this year and the traditional fire season hasn’t even started. But the state fire meteorologist says the intensity of the coming fire season depends on the amount of spring and summer rain. 

Darren Clabo is the state fire meteorologist.  He says warm and dry conditions this winter and early spring are related to the two large wildfires in the Black Hills. The good news, Clabo says, is that wetter weather is ahead.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

Survey crews are training for a time when the emerald ash borer finds its way to South Dakota trees. The exotic insect feeds on black, green or white ash. The trees have no defense against the beetle. State, local, and federal agencies are collaborating on a practice exercise in Sioux Falls.

State forester Gregory Josten says to claim South Dakota has escaped the emerald ash borer so far isn’t necessarily true.

"We don’t know for sure that it’s not here, but we have not found it here yet," Josten says.

Severe Weather Preparedness Week

Apr 25, 2016
Charles Michael Ray

Officials with the National Weather Service say flash floods are the leading weather-related killer in the United States. It’s Severe Weather Preparedness Week in South Dakota and officials want to remind the public how to stay safe in bad weather.

Susan Sanders is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.  She says most flash flooding deaths come when high water sweeps away a vehicle.

Sanders advises drivers to watch for any water covering the road, especially at night.

$10 Million Settlement In Gilt Edge Cleanup

Apr 18, 2016
Amy Varland

Federal and State officials have secured $10 million in a settlement agreement for cleanup of the Gilt Edge Superfund site.

In the late 1990’s, the company operating the open pit gold mine in the Northern Black Hills went bankrupt and abandoned the site. Part of the effort to pay for on-going reclamation includes settlement agreements with the private companies involved in the former operation.

Citizens Join Porcupine Research at Devils Tower

Apr 5, 2016
Devils Tower National Monument

Prickly rodents are stealing the spotlight at Devils Tower National Monument as researchers and citizens look into the often forgotten lives of porcupines. There are about 12 porcupines who make their home at the Tower, and as you can imagine attaching a radio tracking device to one involves some effort.

Residents On Road To Rushmore Decry Quarry Expansion Plan

Apr 4, 2016

UPDATE:  Pennington County commissioners rejected the proposed expansion of this limestone quarry.
Attorney Tom Brady says the company is weighing its options.

Original story:

The proposed expansion of a rock quarry on a main road to Mount Rushmore has inflamed a dispute between the quarry operator and some local residents and business owners. The Pennington County Commission is holding a meeting on Tuesday the 5th to consider zoning of the quarry and a possible expansion. 

Venkataraman Gadhamshetty

Researchers from South Dakota School of Mines & Technology have successfully converted tomato waste into electricity, paving the way for an efficient low-cost new alternative energy source.

Dr. Scott Kenner, head of the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering at SD School of Mines and Technology and his Grad student Brian Freed join Innovation to discuss their research looking at the hydrologic response of watersheds to pine beetle infestation.