Environmental issues

Small Hog Confinement Brings Unknown To Gregory County

Aug 29, 2018

Pork production in South Dakota has risen by almost 25 percent in the last decade. The South Dakota Pork Producers Council says that’s due in large part to an increased number of hog confinements in the state.

That includes projects like a proposed nursery operation in south central South Dakota.

In The Moment ... August 9, 2018 Show 397 Hour 1

MIT Solve Fellow Phyllis Young previews the Oceti Sakowin Energy Summit August 12-13 on the Standing Rock Reservation.

Fellows will bring ideas and advice on renewable energy, food, water, economic prosperity, sovereignty and more.

Young is also an organizer for the Lakota People's Law Project.

Adria Botella

In The Moment ... July 31, 2018 Show 390 Hour 2

Last week the Black Hills Forest Service signed a post-Pine Beetle Epidemic initiative meant to strengthen the forest against future infestations and wildfires.

Black Hills National Forest Supervisor Mark Van Every says the Black Hills Resilient Landscape Project should prevent another infestation going forward.

SDPB's Lee Strubinger sat down with Van Every for a look at the project, and current forest health. 

Black Hills National Forest

Park Service officials with the Black Hills National Forest are signing a post-Mountain Pine Beetle epidemic management plan to prevent future infestation and fuel loads for potential fires.
Forest Supervisor Mark Van Every says the goal is to get the forest back in balance.


As Governor Dennis Daugaard reaches the waning months of his tenure, he says he’s growing an interest in pollinators.

While he might not be going full time into bee keeping, Daugaard says he is looking to convert around five to ten acres of farmland into pollinator habitat.

Daugaard says he met with a habitat advisor, who pointed out certain areas the family was losing money by farming.


The National Park Service is partnering with several states in the Rocky Mountain region to limit the spread of a disease found in bats called White-Nose Syndrome.

In June, the disease was found at Badlands National Park, and the nearby Fort Laramie Historic Site in Eastern Wyoming.

The park service says interagency efforts are underway to limit the spread of this deadly fungus into cave areas in northern Colorado, Wyoming and South Dakota.

Holly Krake is a spokesperson for the park service.

Officials Increase Releases From Pactola Reservoir

Jun 18, 2018

Officials are increasing Pactola Reservoir releases due to substantial amounts of precipitation in the area around the reservoir and Rapid City.

A press release from Rapid City officials states the increase is from 105 cubic feet per second, to 125 feet per second.

Darrell Shoemaker is a spokesperson with the city. He says the increased releases took place at 9 am Monday morning.

A dozen concerned citizens are calling for the South Dakota Department of Natural Resources to hold public forums when issuing any water permits for mining operations.

The group staged a protest outside of the DENR offices in Rapid City.

Carol Hayse presented a list of demands from the agency.


Observers say snowpack levels in the Northern Rockies are like those in 2011. That snowmelt in part brought historic flooding along the Missouri River basin through South Dakota.

However, those with the National Weather Service aren’t raising the alarm just yet.

Some snowpack levels in western Montana are anywhere from 120 to 130 percent above normal.

Those numbers are similar to levels in 2011, when the Missouri River flooded and displaced many people for weeks.

Lee Strubinger / SDPB


The mountain pine beetle epidemic is over for now, but that doesn’t mean forest officials are resting on their laurels.

The Black Hills Resilient Forest Strategy hopes to combine state, federal and private groups to help prevent another epidemic, as well as large scale wild fires.

Ponderosa pine is a pesky species and managing those trees for forest health can be a challenge.

The state wants to create a Black Hills forest that can handle changing conditions, while promoting long-term economic, social and ecologic sustainability in the region.

In The Moment--SD Cold Weather Story Airs On BBC

Jan 9, 2018

The cold snap that came to South Dakota in late 2017 and extended into 2018 caught the attention of the British Broadcasting Corporation last week.  SDPB's Gary Ellenbolt shared an essay on life in the northern U.S. on the BBC's Good Morning, Scotland program.  He discusses the experience with SDPB's Lori Walsh on a recent In the Moment:

Custer State Park Officials Check In On Wildlife

Dec 15, 2017
Courtesy Custer State Park

Now that fire crews have some sort of a handle on the Legion Lake Fire, Custer State Park staff are evaluating any wildlife casualties.
Officials say they’re having trouble locating half of the burro herd. They believe the burro’s did not survive the extreme fire growth from Tuesday night.
According to officials, a majority of the bison herd is accounted for.
Scott Jacobson is a Public Information Officer for the Legion Lake Fire. He says some of the buffalo were singed by the fire.

Legion Lake Fire Spreading Quickly By Wind

Dec 11, 2017
Custer Co Emg Mgmt Twitter

A forest fire in Custer State Park is estimated at 2,500 acres, and observers say it’s likely to grow.

About 200 fire fighters are on the scene, with more on the way.

Five residences are evacuated.

Scott Jacobson is the public information officer for the Legion Lake Fire. He says the fire is fed by windy conditions.

“It’s wind driven. They’ve got zero containment on it right now,” Jacobson says. “With the weather forecast the way it is the next several days, this is going to go into the rest of the week, we’re guessing.”

Lee Strubinger / SDPB

Representative Kristi Noem met with Black Hills Forest Service officials to discuss legislation that she says will help the organization better manage the forest.

The Resilient Federal Forests Act passed the House and is now on its way to the Senate. Noem says the Forest Service has to use money from their operating budget to fight wildfires.

TransCanada Adds More Crew To Clean Up Oil Spill

Nov 20, 2017

TransCanada has doubled the number of crew members working to clean up the area where the Keystone Pipeline leaked more than 200-thousand gallons of crude oil.
Company officials say the incident is under control and the area presents no threat to public safety. But local leaders are still concerned.
In a statement on Sunday, TransCanada officials say they’ve also put measures in place to deter wildlife from reaching the contamination site. They’re also using air-monitoring systems to keep a watch on air quality.


Around 75 TransCanada crew members are working to excavate the pipeline oil spill site in northeast South Dakota near Amherst.

Over 200,000 gallons of crude oil leaked from the Keystone pipeline. TransCanada says it shut down the pipeline after noticing a drop in pressure.

TransCanada officials say they’ve controlled the pipeline leak and the spill is not a threat to public safety. They say crews are working around the clock to manage the site.

Keystone Pipeline Spills Oil In Northeast South Dakota

Nov 16, 2017

About 75 TransCanada representatives are securing the oil spill site near Amherst, South Dakota.

TransCanada Corp. says its Keystone pipeline has leaked an estimated 210,000 gallons of oil in South Dakota.

The spill occurred Thursday morning.

Brian Walsh is with the South Dakota Department of Energy and Natural Resources. He says TransCanada is responding according to state agreements with the company.

In The Moment ... Images Of The Past / Big Bend Dam

Nov 6, 2017
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

In The Moment ... November 6, 2017 Show 214 Hour 2

This week's Images of the Past feature focuses on a film that shows the different stages of construction of the Big Bend Dam on the Missouri River near Ft. Thompson. 

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began construction in 1959.  The dam project was completed in 1966.

SDPB's Brian Gevik speaks with Rick Clark, superintendent of the Missouri National Recreational River in Yankton about the challenging aspects of trying to manage a major river system.

Sixteen More Indicted For Trafficking Eagle Parts

Sep 29, 2017
Lee Strubinger / SDPB

The South Dakota United States Attorney is announcing 16 additional indictments in the underground trafficking of eagles and other migratory birds in South Dakota.

That brings the total number of defendants to over 30 in the two-year Project Dakota Flyer undercover operation.

US Attorney Randy Seiler says around 240 eagles, 150 hawks and owls, and migratory birds from every continent in the world except Antarctica were discovered during the Project Dakota Flyer operation.

Sixteen More Indicted For Trafficking Eagle Parts

Sep 29, 2017
Lee Strubinger / SDPB

The South Dakota United States Attorney is announcing 16 additional indictments in the underground trafficking of eagles and other migratory birds in South Dakota.

That brings the total number of defendants to over 30 in the two-year Project Dakota Flyer undercover operation.

US Attorney Randy Seiler says around 240 eagles, 150 hawks and owls, and migratory birds from every continent in the world except Antarctica were discovered during the Project Dakota Flyer operation.

Victoria Wicks

The Great Plains Native Plant Society is building a memorial garden and visitors center just south of Hermosa. It takes up a small corner of the 340 acres of land dedicated to the cause by South Dakota rancher Linda Hasselstrom.

People can go there and hike over grassland--or sit on it, or lie on it--to discover the diverse ecosystem in South Dakota's slice of the Great Plains.

Extreme Drought Spreads in South Dakota

Jul 27, 2017
U.S. Drought Monitor

The drought has expanded in South Dakota. Officials say extreme drought is spreading to new areas of the state. Forecasts show no major improvements are expected in the next couple of weeks. 

Sections of west central, south central and central South Dakota are now in extreme drought. Some drought areas have seen small improvement due to rainfall but dry conditions are expected to persist.

Kelly Serr with the National Weather Service says it will take widespread precipitation for the state to recover.

Smoke Covering Black Hills From Montana Fire

Jul 21, 2017
Lee Strubinger / SDPB

Smoke from several fires in Montana is blanketing the Black Hills this afternoon.

Spearfish Fire Chief Mark Sachara says the northern hills have experienced thick smoke all morning.

That smoke started creeping into Rapid City around noon.

Sachara says the smoke is from a 30,000 acre fire.

“That fire is by Miles City. That’s the one that’s predominantly sending the smoke our way. With that many fires across the whole part of Montana, the wind is aligned just perfectly. It brought the smoke our way.”

Peregrine Falcons found in South Dakota

Jul 20, 2017

Peregrine falcons have been confirmed nesting the South Dakota Black Hills. These are the first nesting locations to be confirmed in the state in the last fifty years.

The peregrine falcon was put on the National Endangered Species List back in the 1970's. Though the national population has stabilized since then, the peregrine is still an endangered species in South Dakota.

Drought Conditions Expand in South Dakota

Jul 13, 2017
US Drought Monitor

Drought conditions have continued to expand over the last week in South Dakota officials say the drought is currently expected to get worse before it starts getting better.

Since last week the drought in South Dakota has expanded throughout the state with little rain to help lessen its effects. Travis Tarver is a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Aberdeen. He says drought conditions have worsened across the state with the northern part of the state seeing the worst of it.

Lee Strubinger / SDPB

Fifteen people are being indicted in South Dakota for the illegal trafficking of hundreds of migratory birds. Officials with the US Fish and Wildlife Service say it’s one of the largest cases of bird trafficking they’ve uncovered.
They are charged with trafficking eagles and other migratory birds.
The indictments are a result of a two-year investigation into bird trafficking. They say roughly 250 eagles, and over one-hundred hawks and owls have been trafficked during this time.

Pretty Flower Fire Evacuations Lifted; Officials Report No Structures Lost

Feb 21, 2017
Sandy Shaughnessy

UPDATE: Officials say the Pretty Flower Fire is around 10 percent contained but they expect that number to increase as the evening wears on.

All evacuation orders and road closures put in place after the wild land fire sprang up between the towns of Hermosa and Keystone are lifted. No structures are reported lost.

The public information officer for the Pretty Flower Fire, Lt Jim Bussell, says the incident is a case where receptive fuels, like dead and dry grass, burned readily. He says the fire was made worse by high winds.

Spearfish Canyon Land Swap Proposal Only The Beginning

Jan 31, 2017
Lee Strubinger / SDPB

The first of four public input sessions was held last week regarding a land transfer between the state of South Dakota and federal government.

On the table is a similar amount of grassland acreage for an area of Little Spearfish Canyon. Governor Dennis Daugaard says he’d like to see a state park. Critics of the land swap want to see the land stay in the hands of the National Park Service.

I’m walking along the Roughlock Falls Hiking Trail with my friend Marcel. The trail winds along Little Spearfish Creek from the dam near Savoy and on back.

Melisa Hamersma / SDPB

Native American Activists say they’re heading back to the Oceti Sakowin camp near Cannonball, North Dakota, following President Donald Trump’s memorandum regarding two controversial pipelines.
Tribal Leaders in the Standing Rock Reservation say the fight is now political, and should be fought in the nation’s capital.

Defenders Of The Black Hills Disbands

Dec 13, 2016

A non-profit environmental group founded with the intent of protecting the Black Hills and surrounding areas from development and encroachment is disbanding.

The Defenders of the Black Hills was founded to “preserve, protect and restore the environment of the 1851 and 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty Territories. Treaties made between the United States and The Great Sioux Nation.”