A coalition of several water-focused organizations in the Black Hills wants the Rapid Creek watershed west of Rapid City designated as a National Recreation Area.
The group’s intent is to lift all mining claims in the watershed and ban mineral exploration.
The Rapid Creek Watershed Action is comprised of members from several water-focused groups, including Black Hills Paddlers and Clean Water Alliance.
They want South Dakota’s congressional delegation to move legislation to designate the several hundred square mile area a national recreation area. The area includes Rapid Creek west of Rapid City, Pactola Reservoir, Deerfield Lake and Castle Creek.
The forest service currently administers 22 natural areas. They say the designation would look similar to the Sheridan Lake Complex also in the Black Hills.
Justin Herreman is the spokesperson for the group. He wants the Rapid Creek watershed to get the 23rd designation.
“It should be protected by a federal designation as other similar areas are,” Herreman says. “Part of this designation should be the withdrawal of mineral claims in this part of the watershed so that recreation, the economy and natural resources—including Rapid City’s drinking water—are protected.”
Herreman says the intent is to ban mining claims in the area and keep the focus on recreation.
Earlier this year, the City of Rapid City passed a resolution expressing opposition to gold exploration and potential gold mining in the Rapid Creek watershed.