A series of meetings scheduled to discuss bison management on the South Unit of Badlands National Park were recently cancelled without prior notice to the public. The sudden decision by the National Park Service to move from public discussions of the topic to written and electronic comments has caused concern among Native and non-Native ranchers alike.
Silvia Christen attended the first of 10 public meetings to be hosted jointly by the National Park Service and the Oglala Sioux Tribe. As spokesperson for the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, Christen was puzzled to learn the remaining 9 meetings had been called off.
“The park service had a plan in place for how they wanted to accept comments,” Christen recalls. “ They wanted everyone to go around to various stations in the room and share their comments. That just didn’t happen because several of the tribal elders stood up and spoke and it kind of led to other people just standing up and making general comments rather than going around the room the way the park service had kind of planned it.”
Notwithstanding, Silvia Christen says the tribal participants at the meeting were very respectful, though forceful, with their comments.
Christen was comfortable with the original Park Service plan to reduce the number of remaining meetings but increase their length in order to allow more time for discussion.
In explaining his decision to cancel those meetings, Badlands National Park superintendent Eric Brunnemann says his reason for doing so was based upon reports from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Oglala Sioux tribal officials about confusion among those attending the first meeting.
“The more it became clear from our partners as well as just speaking with people…members of the tribe…that there was immense confusion about the operational aspect of buffalo and that connection to the legislation,” comments Brunnemann.
The legislation Brunnemann refers to is intended to turn the South Unit into the first Tribal National Park.
Brunnemann notes that the comment period for bison management in the South Unit has been extended from May 26 to June 6 to compensate for the cancellation of the public meetings.
He encourages anyone with comments on the topic to submit them to the National Park Service and for anyone with questions to call him directly.
For electronic comments regarding bison management in the South Unit of Badlands National Park, go to: go.nps.gov/bisoncomments
Written comments should be mailed to:
Bison Management EA
Badlands National Park
PO Box 6
Interior, SD 57750
The telephone number for Badlands National Park is: 605.433.5361