UPDATE: Black Hills National Forest Service supervisor Mark Van Every issued the following statement in regards to earlier claims the state never reached out to the forest service about Spearfish Canyon.
“When I said that the Forest Service was not consulted on the bill, I was unaware that several conversations about possible legislation had happened during the past two years. I apologize. Last week, I met with staff from Senator Thune’s, Senator Rounds’ and Congresswoman Noem’s office to identify ways we can work together to develop shared solutions that maximize mutual interests in providing quality experiences for recreation users in South Dakota. I am also working to set up a meeting soon with the Governor’s office to have similar discussions," Van Every says this week.
Van Every became forest supervisor earlier this summer.
The U.S. Forest Service opposes a plan put forth and supported by South Dakota’s congressional delegation to transfer a chunk of national forest land to the state.
US Senator John Thune’s proposal creates a 1400 acre state park in Spearfish Canyon.
Black Hills National Forest Supervisor Mark Van Every says a typical land exchange process is done administratively between two willing parties with a mutually beneficial exchange. He says he IS concerned about the precedent Senator Thune’s land swap legislation may set.
That legislation helps create a 1,400 acre state park in Spearfish Canyon, as well as transfers 500 acres of the Bismark Lake area to the state. In exchange, the state forks over 2,000 acres of grazing ground to the federal government.
Van Every says the state never approached the forest service about the land transfer…
“I have contacted and talked with our other staff here, and with the previous forest supervisor, while there was a brief mention of the fact that this was going to happen late last year, early this year," Van Every says. "There was never any discussion about ‘What do you think about this proposal? What are your concerns? And how can we work together to develop this?’”
But the governor’s office says they’ve been in contact with the Black Hills National Forest Service since before the issue went public.
Governor Dennis Daugaard’s spokesperson Tony Venhuizen says the forest service is a federal bureaucracy dragging its feet.
“They put their processes against common sense,” Venhuizen says. “It’s pretty clear the plan we’ve put forward would be good for South Dakota, good for the people of South Dakota. And that’s why we appreciate so much that Senator Thune, along with Senator Rounds and Congresswoman Noem are advancing this in Washington, because this is a good idea and we just need to get it done. We shouldn’t have to wait around for years of Washington bureaucracy to figure out that it’s the right thing to do.”
Venhuizen says he isn’t surprised at the forest service’s position regarding the land transfer. He says the governor remains optimistic about the proposal despite the opposition.