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Littering increased at Belle Fourche Reservoir this year

A pile of litter at the Belle Fourche Reservoir.
Bureau of Land Management
A pile of litter at the Belle Fourche Reservoir.

The federal Bureau of Reclamation said littering and dumping increased at the Belle Fourche Reservoir this year. Visitors left a range of objects in the area, including garbage, furniture and used tires.

Jay Leasure is a Natural Resource Specialist at Reclamation, which co-manages the reservoir with the Bureau of Land management and South Dakota Game Fish and Parks. He said it took multiple days for volunteers and agency employees to remove “loads and loads of trash” from the reservoir area.

“Every year at the end of the busy recreational season, we do a good patrol of the entire recreational area and locate and try to pick up and dispose of properly items and trash debris that the public has left,” Leasure said.

According to Leasure, the Bureau frequently deals with problems in the 3,000 acres it manages.

“We’ve even had people drop off old campers…mattresses, couches,” Leasure said. “We've had people [shove] mattresses and couches into bowl toilets, tear grab bars off, kick windows out [and] start fires inside. So it's a number of things that we deal with out there."

Leasure said misuse hurts Reclamation’s ability to provide services at the reservoir. Those services don’t generate revenue for the bureau.

To prevent littering, the Bureau of Reclamation has added dumpsters at locations around the reservoir in recent years. Leasure said the bureau also needs the public needs to take an active interest in the area’s health.

“Anybody hates to see public lands treated that way. People don't want to litter and dispose of things in their yard,” he said. “Well, we look at Belle Fourche and public lands as the same thing, we want to keep them clean.”

The bureau is asking visitors to contact the Butte County Sherriff’s office if they witness “suspicious or criminal activity” in the area.

Slater Dixon is a junior at Augustana University studying Government and Data Science. He was born in Sioux Falls and is based out of SDPB's Sioux Falls studio.