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In their own words: Debate over allowing access to cemeteries on private land

Gravestones mark burial sites in Grindstone Island's official cemetery.
Some abandoned cemeteries are located on private land, making them difficult to access.

This segment originally aired on In the Moment on SDPB Radio.

Property rights were a major issue at the 2023 South Dakota legislative session, as lawmakers considered many bills pitting landowners against major projects like carbon pipelines.

One bill addressed the issue at a much narrower scope from a very different angle.

Senate Bill 144 sought to allow people to access cemeteries in situations where those cemeteries are located on private land. Advocates say it was needed because many abandoned cemeteries are on private land and no longer accessible to the public, making it difficult or impossible for families to visit the graves of their relatives. Opponents likened it to eminent domain.

While the bill passed a Senate committee, it ultimately failed on the floor of the chamber.

In their own words, listen to lawmakers debate SB 144.

Cara Hetland is the Director of Radio and Journalism Content for South Dakota Public Broadcasting.
Ellen Koester is a producer of In the Moment, SDPB's daily news and culture broadcast.