Environment

Environmental issues

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.

SDPB

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.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/tim-weaver-76076368

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.

2015-2016 Winter 11th Warmest On Record In SD

Mar 17, 2016

The Equinox on Sunday the 20th marks the start of spring.   But many South Dakotan’s have already been enjoying some spring like weather.

Officials who track the climate in the state say the past winter was the 11th warmest out of the last 122 years of record.  That includes the timeframe from December 1, 2015 through February 29, 2016.  

Early Melt In Missouri River Basin

Mar 8, 2016
US Army Corps of Engineers

The Army Corps of Engineers say above normal temperatures have melted all of the plains snowpack in the Missouri River Basin. Officials say that means runoff is coming early this year and the region needs spring and summer rain to prevent drought.

Jody Farhat is with the Army Corps of Engineers. She says conditions in the Missouri River Basin look similar to last year. In 2015 the snowpack also melted early and drought was expected until heavy rains came in May. Farhat says similar conditions could occur this spring ... but lack of rain could cause drought.

CAFO Zoning Bill Advances

Feb 29, 2016
SDPB

A bill that changes the way county zoning is done for Confined Animal Feeding Operations or CAFOs has cleared a State Senate committee.

Those backing House Bill 1140 say it keeps South Dakota agriculture competitive but stops red tape and frivolous delays for local approval.  

Opponents say the measure takes away local control and helps corporate farms to push large feedlots into areas where they are unwanted.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

The Environmental Protection Agency has fined BNSF Railroad $600-thousand for violations including oil and diesel spills at its rail yards and along railways.  

One spill in 2010 affected Lake Oahe.

BNSF reached an agreement with the EPA to resolve the alleged violations of the Clean Water Act and the Oil Pollution Act across several states.

Dr. Robert “Bud” Grant teaches environmental theology, at St. Ambrose University.   He is an environmentalist, author, theologian, and Catholic priest.  He joins Dakota Midday to discuss his thoughts on the intersection of morality and climate change and Pope Francis’ encyclical "Laudato Si".

Courtesy Buffalo Field Campaign

The non-profit “Buffalo Field Campaign” is holding rallies near Yellowstone National Park this week. Their goal is to educate the public about Yellowstone’s buffalo herd and protest the long-standing practice of killing buffalo that wander out of the park into Montana. But some in Montana worry the buffalo could harm cattle.

The “Buffalo Field Campaign” was founded in 1997 by Lakota elder Rosalie Little Thunder and Mike Mease. Their goal was to stop the killing of buffalo that left Yellowstone National Park during the winter.

Northern Hills Mine Put On Hold

Jan 22, 2016
Charles Michael Ray

A proposed rare earth mine in the Bear Lodge Mountains of Wyoming is on hold.   

The Bear Lodge sit just north of the Black Hills near the state line.  The mining company Rare Element Resources is backing the project.  Mine officials say a deposit in the area contains a high volume of minerals needed in the production of batteries and computer components.

South Dakota Is Party To Multiple Lawsuits Against The EPA

Dec 17, 2015
Kealey Bultena / SDPB

South Dakota is now suing the EPA over implementation of the Clean Water Act.    

South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley says  federal officials are overstepping their authority in regulating how South Dakota uses its water.

This is one in a number of multi state lawsuits the state has currently signed on against the EPA.

While broadcasting live from the state capitol building in Pierre, Cara Hetland visited with Kelly Hepler, Secretary of the South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks Department.  Hepler has been in his position since early this year after having spent most of his career in Alaska.  He discussed the pheasant habitat rehabilitation program among other issues.

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