Black Hills



The health of the Black Hills National Forest for the next several decades could be determined by the decisions of the next few years. 

The U.S. Forest Service says it will spend those few years writing a new forest plan, which will require a difficult balancing act with logging.  

While the Forest Service’s own researchers say current harvest levels are unsustainable, timber officials say big reductions could wipe out their industry. 

Mineral Mountain Resources


A state board has awarded a water permit to a company looking for gold in the Black Hills.  

Mineral Mountain Resources has already drilled 49 holes for core samples. Many of those were near Keystone. The company has since moved its search north to the Rochford area.  

The drills need water for lubrication. The company has bought water from the city of Lead, and trucked it in 3,000-gallon tanks.  

Now the company plans to draw as much as 10 gallons per minute from a well near the drill sites.   

West Dakota Water Development

A public board is spending more money to study a potential Missouri River pipeline to the Black Hills area.

The board of the West Dakota Water Development District voted last week to spend up to $79,030 to keep investigating the idea. Most of that money will go toward a water-usage study to determine what entities might participate in the project, how much it might cost and whether it would be financially feasible.


In a historic moment, the Rapid City Council has voted to approve a resolution  that is valued at $20 million dollars that will “Resolve Three Outstanding Deeds Related to the Rapid City Indian Boarding School Lands,” in a 9-to-1 vote Nov. 16th.

Seth Tupper / SDPB

Lawrence County commissioners unanimously rejected a permit Tuesday for a gold mine near the rim of Spearfish Canyon.

Commissioner Brandon Flanagan said there are too many unknowns with the project, and although he supports mining, he could not approve the application.

“Normally, we get conditional-use permits and a lot of the detail is in there, as they’re supposed to be," Flanagan said. "In this one it’s a lot of just, ‘Permit what we’ve already got, and we’ll figure out the rest as we go.’ I’ve got a problem with that on a lot of levels.”

Seth Tupper / SDPB

A divided advisory board on Wednesday rejected Forest Service research calling for less logging in the Black Hills National Forest and instead recommended more logging.

Black Hills National Forest

Forest Service researchers spent the last several years studying the amount of timber in the Black Hills, and they concluded that logging should be reduced.

They said the sustainable annual range is a harvest of 70,000 to 115,000 CCF. One “CCF” is 100 cubic feet, which is a little less than a cord of firewood stacked 8 feet high, 4 feet long and 4 feet wide.

Seth Tupper / SDPB

Soaring gold prices are fueling a rush for the next big discovery in the Black Hills, but gold miners and prospectors are encountering opposition.

One reason for the surging prices is the down economy. Some people see gold as a safe investment, so they scramble to buy it in times of economic uncertainty. That sends the price higher.

In August, the price hit $2,000 an ounce for the first time ever.

That’s motivated some investors to do more than just buy gold. Some are also investing in the search for places to mine it.

Vernon Brown Talks Connectivity & Cyberhacking

Sep 29, 2020

In The Moment … September 29, 2020 Show 912 Hour 2

Courtesy photo

Four years ago, Russell Graham was the lead author on an exhaustive, 200-page report. It was a history of mountain pine beetle damage and control efforts in the Black Hills.

For him, the research was personal. He grew up in Sundance, on the Wyoming side of the Black Hills. He knew the importance of the national forest to the culture and economy of the region. He wanted people to use his research, to make better decisions about the tree-killing bugs.

But how do you get ordinary people to read a research report?

Seth Tupper / SDPB

A citizen panel wants Black Hills National Forest officials to write a new master plan.

The Black Hills National Forest Advisory Board unanimously approved the recommendation Wednesday. Drafting a new forest plan would require several years of research and public engagement.

Board member Greg Josten, who serves as South Dakota's state forester, hopes the Forest Service’s national office will ease the financial burden.

Seth Tupper / SDPB

Scattered around the Black Hills, tucked away in the forests and meadows, there’s a curiosity: privately owned vacation cabins on public land.

One of the oldest is the Durst cabin. A logging family built the cabin in a meadow along Flynn Creek around 1911.

Eight years later, Custer State Park was born. Its boundaries soon wrapped around the vintage cabin, with its dark wood walls, screened-in porch and outhouse. Today, the cabin still stands within the park.

South Dakota Department of Environment & Natural Resources

The owner of the only active, large-scale gold mine in South Dakota has to post millions more in bond money.

The Wharf Mine is near Lead, in the northern Black Hills. Coeur Mining is the Chicago-based company that runs the mine.

South Dakota requires Coeur to post bonds. That's in case the company ever goes bankrupt. If that happens, the state could use the bond money to clean up the mine.

The amount of the bonds is $64 million. But the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources said it's reviewed the amount, and it’s too low.


In The Moment … July 24, 2020 Show 866 Hour 1

Due to COVID-19, the Chamber Music Festival of the Black Hills has had to make some changes this summer. Beginning tonight, you'll be able to watch the Festival's "Greatest Hits" in a series of concerts on Facebook. Joining us with details and news of other events is executive director Michael Hill. Good Morning, Michael. Artistic Director Dawn Marie Edwards is also with us. For more information click here


Seth Tupper / SDPB

A work group in the Black Hills is doing some math that could influence the long-term health of the Black Hills National Forest and its timber industry. 

The Timber Sustainability Work Group consists of six members from the 32-member Black Hills National Forest Advisory Board. 

SDPB News: July 2

Jul 2, 2020

Where is the money coming from to fund the fireworks display at Mount Rushmore? This and more in today’s SDPB News Podcast. Find it on Apple Podcasts or Spotify today. 

Environmental Risks Of Fireworks

Jun 30, 2020

In The Moment ... June 30, 2020 Show 849 Hour 2

We're just days out from the 4th of July fireworks display and President Donald Trump's visit to Mount Rushmore. SDPB's Seth Tupper has been covering the environmental and wildfire risks of the fireworks.

Tupper joins In The Moment from the Black Hills Surgical Hospital Studio as we continue to learn about the size of the expanded events this week in the Black Hills.


In The Moment ... June 30, 2020 Show 849 Hour 1

U.S. Representative Dusty Johnson has introduced legislation to protect Mount Rushmore from alteration. The proposal comes just before President Donald Trump comes to the Black Hills for a large fireworks display at the monument - and while some Americans are reconsidering our country's founding and expansion.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is considered a shrine to American democracy, a top vacation destination, and, to some, a desecration of a sacred mountain.

Credit Josh Hoffman / Black Hills National Forest

Forecasts show an increased risk of wildfires in western South Dakota in the next few weeks after two of the wettest years in state history.

Darren Clabo is the state’s Fire Meteorologist. He says the past two seasons were very wet with minimal fires.  

South Dakota Fire Meteorologist's Wildfire Concerns

Jun 29, 2020

In The Moment … June 29, 2020 Show 848 Hour 1

A relatively calm 2018 and 2019 has some South Dakotans less aware of the risk of wildfires in the Black Hills and the western part of the state. As we head into a hot July, what's the wildfire outlook? Today we welcome Darren Clabo, Ph.D., to the program. Darren is a research scientist at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and the state's fire meteorologist.  

On The Other Hand: Presidents Visiting South Dakota

Jun 25, 2020

In The Moment … June 25, 2020 Show 846 Hour 1

As South Dakota prepares for fireworks over Mount Rushmore and a presidential visit, SDPB's Kevin Woster looks back at a previous presidential visit and the challenges of traffic and crowds in the Black Hills.  You can find Kevin's work on our website. 

Mineral Mountain Resources

A Black Hills group that advocates for clean water is suing the Forest Service

The Black Hills Clean Water Alliance wants information on exploratory gold drilling. The alliance filed a Freedom of Information Act request two years ago in 2018.  

Black Hills National Forest

The Black Hills timber industry is either logging itself to death, or logging sustainably.  

Both conclusions have been reached by opposing sides reading the same report.  

The report, written by Forest Service researchers, says there aren’t enough ponderosa pine trees in the forest to sustain current logging.  

The Black Hills Area Community Foundation connects people who care to causes that matter. The Foundation seeks to inspire people to invest as a community to improve the quality of life of the people living in the Black Hills area.  That's why, on this #GivingTuesdayNow, the Black Hills Area Community Foundation is behind two Coronavirus Response Funds that will help serve the community during this pandemic. With more information on the response funds, we welcome Liz Hamburg, executive director of the Black Hills Area Community Foundation. Thanks for being available for our program, Liz.

Images of the Past: Fred Farrar

Apr 20, 2020
Mark Slocum

In The Moment ... April 20, 2020 Show 799 Hour 2

The history and pictures of western South Dakota run deep. Fred Farrar captured the Black Hills from the turn of the century through the depression of the 1930s. As a young boy, Fred's mother read him "Last of the Mohican's" which ended up being a major influence on him when it came to nature and Native American culture. For today's Images of the Past, Mark Slocum tells us more of this pioneer. Mark is the executive director of the Minnilusa Historical Association and Pioneer Collection in Rapid City.


Seth Tupper/SDPB

New Forest Service research says the Black Hills National Forest could be depleted of trees suitable for logging in the next 30 years. 

Forestry Segment

Apr 2, 2020

In The Moment ... April 2, 2020 Show 787 Hour 2 Is the health of the Black Hills National Forest at a crossroads? Is the amount of timber being forested today sustainable in the wake of the pine beetle epidemic? What data do we have that helps us predict the future of the forest? Tomorrow the Forest Service Rocky Mountain Region hosts a formal stakeholder meeting and discussion to review data projections. SDPB's Seth Tupper will cover the meeting.

Moment In Sound: Heath Johnson

Feb 28, 2020

In The Moment ... February 28, 2020 Show 763 Hour 1

Heath Johnson is an Americana Country songwriter from Spearfish, SD. He organizes the South Dakota Songwriters group and activities around the Black Hills area and puts together songwriters rounds for other local artists. His musical influences range from classic country, to modern Americana, folk, and red dirt music.

Heath recently joined us for a performance and that performance is this week’s Moment In Sound.

Love In America

Feb 25, 2020

In The Moment ... February 25, 2020 Show 760 Hour 2

In November, we got to meet Scotte and Toni Burns, the Black Hills couple that seeks out unique, fun, and powerful stories for their video series Love in America. Today, we're going to get an insider's look at how their show comes together. How do they know when they have a great candidate for an interview? Where do they do to find people with compelling stories? 

Images Of The Past: Planes, Trains, & Motorcycles

Feb 24, 2020

In The Moment ... February 24, 2020 Show 759 Hour 2 From the foot-trails of indigenous people to the rumbling pipes of the Sturgis motorcycle rally, South Dakota has been home to a vast array of transportation developments. An exhibit at the Journey Museum and Learning Center in Rapid City explores the "Planes, Trains, and Motorcycles", and how they have transformed the Black Hills.  For today's Images of the Past, we're joined by the Journey Museum's Corey Christianson.