Against all odds, a 78-foot-high Black Hills spruce tree arrived in Washington D.C. on November 28, 1970 to serve as the White House Christmas tree during the Richard Nixon administration. The tree was decorated with blue, yellow and green bulbs and featured a wire, tear-drop-shapped top ornament.
On its way to Washington, the tree had more than its fair share of difficulties. Not only did the train transporting the tree derail twice, but the tree had also been toppled over by gusting winds just days before the tree lighting ceremony. Several new branches were attached to the tree in order to fill out the gaps left by the damaged branches.
The tree’s troubles did not end once it reached the White House, however. Electrical sockets connected to the lights on the tree had been coated with liquid fireproofing spray, which caused the lower bulbs on the tree to explode.
The White House has put up a Christmas Tree since 1889. The First Christmas tree was placed in the Yellow Oval Room by the Benjamin Harrison administration. During Herbert Hoover’s presidency, First Lady Lou Henry Hoover started the custom of placing the “official” Christmas Tree in the Blue Room. Spruce trees have been the most popular White House Christmas trees, with a total of 48 used in Blue Room since 1961.
The Mystic Ranger District Office, located at 8221 Mount Rushmore Road in Rapid City will remain open ahead of a fee increase slated for the Federal Recreational Lands Senior Pass, according to KOTA News. The Senior Lifetime Pass is set to increase from $10 to $80 after August 27th.
The Mystic Office will remain open this weekend from 9-3pm for those interested in purchasing the senior passes for $10 ahead of the increase. The price of the pass is increasing as the U.S. Congress approved the National Park Service Centennial Act last December, which increases fees in order to improve visitor experiences in national parks as well as providing more opportunities for volunteers.
To read more about issues related to the environment and conservation, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s online news archive.
The Golden Coyote training exercise will take place over the next two weeks in the Black Hills reports the Rapid City Journal. Thirteen states, two territories, and one national territory will come to the area to partake in the event. The South Dakota National Guard began the training exercises in 1984 with cooperation from the National Forest Service and Custer State Park.
Initial processing will take place at Ellsworth Air Force Base and then troops will be dispersed to West Camp Rapid, Custer State Park, and the Northern Hills for the 14 days of exercises. Training tactics will include convoy travel, first-aid, firearm use and more. Participants are able to gain on the job experience thanks to these efforts.
To learn more about the Golden Coyote, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network online news archive. You can learn more about work and economy in the area by visiting the Black Hills Knowledge Network community profile.
U.S. Forest Service officials have recently declared an end to the 20-year pine beetle infestation in the Black Hills, but plans are moving forward with how to prevent future pine beetle epidemics from lasting as long. The Rapid City Journal reports that if approved, the plan currently being formulated, called the Black Hills Resilient Landscapes Project, will seek to make the forest more resilient and better able to handle the beetles whenever the next wave of infestation strikes the Hills. The plan will include removing some dead trees, cutting encroaching pines out of aspen and oak stands and away from grassy meadows, culling some old or young pines to encourage a healthier mix of tree ages, and other steps.
To read up on past and current news articles related to the pine beetle epidemic, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network's online news archive.
For more information on the pine beetle infestation in the Black Hills, check out this Black Hills Knowledge Network Issue Hub page.
With just 2,500 acres affected by pine beetles in 2016, the pine beetle epidemic in the Black Hills has ended, reports the Black Hills Pioneer. As noted in its 2016 Forest Health Report, the number of trees impacted by pine beetles in 2016 was significantly lower than the 15,000 affected acres in 2015. Over 94 percent of areas studied had low infestation levels in 2016.
Pine beetle infestations are not uncommon in the Black Hills region, although the most recent may have been the longest recorded at approximately 20 years. Typically lasting 8-13 years, epidemics have been recorded as early as 1890 in the region. Subsequent epidemics occurred in the 1930s, 1940s, 1960s and 1970s.
After five years, a 2,300 acre tract of tribal land known as Pe'Sla has been put into federal trust, KOTA reports. The land was purchased in 2012 for $9 million by the Shakopee Mdewankanton Sioux Community, Crow Creek, Rosebud and Standing Rock Sioux Tribes, and approved by the Pennington County Commission to be put into federal trust in 2015. According to Joe Buck, who will be helping restore the property, the goal is to now restore but also keep the land as natural as possible. Concerns were made over the construction of a casino, but Buck claims there are no plans to build a casino on the land.
Buck also says he wants to bring back herd of buffalo to the land.
A new app for tablets and smart phones was released by the Black Hills National Forest, reports KOTA News. The app will provide users with information including area wildlife, camp sites and more. Users will be able to locate trails and picnic grounds in their vicinity with a “near me” feature. The app will also alert users of closures within the forest.
To read more news about the Black Hills National Forest, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s online news archive.
The reaction of many West River legislators to Gov. Dennis Daugaard's State of the State address cited one common theme--leave Spearfish Canyon alone. The Rapid City Journal has pointed out that support for Daugaard's attempt to turn the canyon into a state park is very low among legislators who believe that the agreement in place now with the Spearfish Canyon Foundation is working and the state should not interfere in it. They also cite its current popularity and believe that making it a state park will encourage the state to charge access fees, turning away many residents.
To read up on past and current articles related to 2017 Legislative session, click on this archives link.
For more information on the current legislative session, be sure to check out the Legislative homepage.
Permits for the winter burning season are now available for the Black Hills Forest Fire District, according to a news release by the South Dakota Department of Agriculture. The permits may be used only for burning slash piles in areas where at least two inches of snow surrounds the pile and winds are less than 15 miles per hour.
Winter burning permits help keep fire managers informed of managerial burns in order to reduce the number of false alarm calls to fires. The Department of Agriculture cautions burners to be aware of weather conditions when burning.
To read more about fires in the Black Hills region, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s online news archive.
In an effort to reduce the chance of future wildfires, the U.S. Forest Service has begun burning slash piles in the northern Black Hills, reports KOTA TV News. Recent snowfall in the region has made for good conditions for burning.
Black Hills National Forest Fire Management Officer Todd Pechota emphasized the importance of reducing insect populations and future wildfires. Firefighters regularly monitor the slash piles, which will continue to be burned so long as conditions allow.
To read more about the Black Hills National Forest, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s online news archive.
The turkey population in the Black Hills remains high, although a decline has been seen across South Dakota, reports the Rapid City Journal. A lack of available space for nesting as a primary reason for the drop in the turkey population.
Due to the decline in population, South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks officials are reducing the amount of turkey tags issued in the spring. One-tag male turkey licenses will be reduced by 52 while two=tag male turkey licenses will be reduced by 600.
To read more news about wildlife in the Black Hills, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s online news archive.
The South Dakota Department of Agriculture is seeking public input on management of South Dakota’s forests, as indicated in a news release by the State of South Dakota. The agency is making updates to the state’s Forest Action Plan, which includes forest resource strategies over the next ten years.
Anyone interested in providing feedback can respond to the SD Department of Agriculture’s survey here.
For more information about agriculture in the Black Hills region, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s online news archive.
The U.S. Forest Service published new information on the history of pine beetles in the Black Hills this week, as reported in a press release by the agency and KOTA TV News. The agency also offered presentations of the report this week at the Mystic Ranger District Office and the Black Hills Experimental Forest.
The report highlights the history of pine beetles, going back to 1902 when they were first described until 1985, when significant studies were conducted on the species. Forest Researcher Russell T. Graham noted that beetles fall subject to inbreeding which causes their populations to become unhealthy. As a result, the population declines.
Last week, the Black Hills National Forest received the 2016 Accessibility Accomplishment Award, according to a news release by the forest service unit. The award recognizes dedication and commitment to supporting accessible design concepts.
The Black Hills National Forest has actively improved its rest areas, bridges, fishing docks and other areas to ensure ease of access. Accessibility of the forest’s recreational offerings was made possible through partnerships with various state and national agencies in the region.
To learn more about national forest accessibility guidelines, visit the agency’s accessibility webpage. the To learn more about the Black Hills National Forest, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s online news archive.
In late September, discussion surrounding a permit system for mountain bikers and other non-motorized trail patrons was raised at a Black Hills National Forest Service advisory board meeting, as reported by the Rapid City Journal. As the issue came up for discussion, Black Hills Mountain Bike Association Trail Coordinator Brent Kertzman said the association favored the idea and highlighted that motorized users also paid fees to use national forest land. Currently, motorized trail users pay $23.50 for seven days of use or $28.50 for annual use.
Implementing a permit system may help alleviate tension between forest service officials and mountain bikers, some of whom have built unauthorized trails in the Black Hills. While a fee system could help cover the cost of maintaining current and building new trails, forest officials still voiced concern over the labor and cost to do so.
To read more news about mountain bike trails in the Black Hills, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s online news archive.
The U.S. Forest Service is seeking public comment on a new plan aimed to increase resiliency of the Black Hills National Forest, as reported by the Black Hills Pioneer. The plan comes after the mountain pine beetle infestation destroyed 215,000 acres of pine trees in the Black Hills. The trees that have died and fallen as a result of the infestation have created an additional wildfire concern.
The management plan includes three different approaches which include fuel reduction and prescribed fire, enhancement of hardwoods and grasslands, and pine structural stage modifications. The Forest Service is currently accepting public comments on the plan, which are due September 23. Following the public comment period, the agency will ensure relevant laws and regulations are in place before implanting the plan, tentatively in 2018.
To read more news about the Black Hills National Forest, visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network’s online news archive.
Governor Daugaard stated that he does not want the state to have one name for the peak while the federal government has another. Although it would be possible to pursue overturning the decision of the federal board, the Governor and the state's congressional delegation believe the state has other priorities. Governor Daugaard will begin the discussion about how to best implement the name change to Black Elk Peak on all state produced items. The federal government, which manages the peak as a part of the Black Elk Wilderness of the Black Hills National Forest, has already begun to make their changes.
For more information on the name change, please visit the Black Hills Knowledge Network's news archive.
To read an argument advanced in favor of the name change by historian Eric Zimmer of the Center for American Indian Research and Native Studies (CAIRNS), see the attachment below.
The U.S. Board on Geographic Names has renamed Harney Peak in the Black Hills to Black Elk Peak. The Rapid City Journal reports that the decision was based on the concerns from Native Americans in the area that using Harney's name on the mountain was derogatory towards them as General Harney's soldiers killed numerous Native Americans in September, 1855. State officials were surprised at the decision after the state Board of Geographic Names upheld the use of Harney Peak after a lengthly public comment period and are currently determining what options are available to them.
To read up on past news articles related to Harney Peak and its proposed changes, be sure to click on this archives link.
As of Monday, the Crow Peak Fire has been fully contained and control has been handed over to a Type 3 Incident Management Team, reports the Black Hills Pioneer. Since its start by lightning strike June 24th, the fire has burned 2,733 acres.
170 people continue working on Crow Peak to maintain containment and extinguishing hot spots near the fire’s 11-mile perimeter. Over 526,000 gallons of water and 124,500 gallons of retardant were flown in and dropped on the flames. No structures were damaged in the flames, but many came close. Incident Commander Trainee Tom Roerick congratulated firefighters on their excellent safety record during this fire, during which only two crew members sustained minor injuries and about 50 were treated for poison ivy. Traffic in the area remains closed to non-residents and the Black Hills National Forest in the Crow Peak area also remains closed for public safety reasons.
Fire danger remains high in the Black Hills and several fires were started over the weekend, including two in Meade and Lawrence counties.
Mark Van Every will be replacing Craig Bobzien in August as Supervisor for the Black Hills National Forest, following Bobzien’s retirement in April, reports the Rapid City Journal. Bobzien has served as the supervisor since 2005.
Van Every has worked with the U.S. Forest Service for over thirty years and is coming into this position after supervising Texas’ National Forests and Grasslands. The Black Hills National Forest spans 1.2 million acres in western South Dakota and northeastern Wyoming.
Read more about the Black Hills National Forest on the Black Hills Knowledge Networ archive.