Drought Causes Fire Restrictions In National Grasslands

Jul 20, 2021


Drought conditions in South Dakota are getting worse. The situation is taking hold in the fields and prompting new restrictions in and around the national grasslands near the Black Hills.  


Fire restrictions now cover part of the South Dakota grasslands in sections of Custer, Fall River, Pennington and Jackson Counties in the west. 


Ryan Cumbow who is the acting zone fire management officer, said firearms are still permitted. Precautions have helped the park keep fires to a minimum in the area.  

“We haven’t really had anything on the forests or on the grasslands recently but there has been some in the past,” Cumbow said. “Luckily, they’ve been very small, the fire departments have been getting on them real quick.” 


Stage one fire restrictions mean park visitors cannot build fires outside of designated metal firepits or set off any kind of explosive device. Also prohibited – fireworks, smoking and chainsaw operation without a spark arrestor. 


June was the driest month on record in South Dakota. The National Center for Environmental Information reports that the drought conditions are evident in the fields. 


USDA meteorologist Brad Rippey said crops such as corn and soybeans are taking a hit.  

“We know we do have serious problems in parts of the Dakotas, much of the Dakotas and parts of Minnesota at this point so it’s a little early to know,” Rippey said. “I mean we just had this crop heading into reproduction now, but we know the forecast is not all that particularly favorable for the same areas that are hurting.”  


Drought conditions also affect crops like wheat and barley. 


This story comes from a recent interview on SDPB's weekday radio program, "In the Moment." Listen to the full interview below.