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Black Hills National Forest receives federal funding for maintenance

The Black Elk Wilderness area of the Black Hills National Forest.
Seth Tupper
The Black Elk Wilderness area of the Black Hills National Forest.

The federal government has given nearly $27 million to help with overdue maintenance at the Black Hills National Forests and other wilderness areas in the greater Rocky Mountain region.

This funding comes from the Great American Outdoors Act that Congress passed in 2020. One part of the act created a dedicated fund for national park and public land maintenance that will last throughout 2025. This year, the fund provided $285 million for parks and public lands around the country.

Maintenance for the Black Hills area will focus on areas of infrastructure like trails, parking lots, restrooms, and campsites, according to Black Hills National Forest public affairs official Scott Jacobson. Repairs in these areas have been deferred due to a lack of resources.

Jacobson said one of the locations that the forest will focus on is the Pactola Lake region. Many infrastructure elements in that region were either built in the 1960's or haven’t been renovated since that time. This has caused issues because of changes in the types of vehicles and visitors coming through the area over the decades.

“Sixty years have gone by and there’s been quite a bit of change in the vehicles that have come into our site and our locations, our forest,” Jacobson said. “We just haven’t had the resources to change with the changes in vehicles and campers.”

The current repairs won’t include larger changes to the placement of infrastructure or its design.

“We also want to be able to maintain what we have in terms of the site locations with the aesthetics and things like that,” Jacobson said. “We don't want to change it that way as much as just accommodate for the vehicles that are coming through and the use that the people have.”

The forest isn’t planning on having any closures while maintenance is underway, Jacobson said. Most repairs are small enough to take place without causing issues, and the larger ones will likely be done during the off-season when there are fewer visitors.

Some of the funding from this year will also be used to plan for more extensive repairs in following years.

Andrew Kronaizl is a senior at Augustana University. He is from Vermillion, SD, and is based out of SDPB's Sioux Falls studio.