A controlled burn of nearly 600 acres in the Norbeck Wildlife Preserve could come in the fall, but it isn’t the portion of the preserve hotly debated by local environmentalists.

Norbeck Wildlife Preserve “Section 2” is about 12 miles south of the primary portion, on the southwest corner of Custer State Park and northwest corner of Wind Cave National Park.

It is a disjointed piece of the Norbeck Wildlife Preserve left over from boundary changes decades ago, Hell Canyon District Ranger Lynn Kolund said.

“It’s actually pretty difficult to access. There is a bumpy, two track road that isn’t very fun to drive. There are some access issues because it is at that triangle between Custer State Park and Wind Cave National Park,” Kolund said.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court chose not to hear a petition from two environmental groups to stop logging operations in Norbeck Wildlife Preserve. The groups had argued the project was contrary to provisions of federal law.

Inside that Norbeck section, Lynn said, his office has not yet made a decision whether to prescribe burns inside the Black Elk Wilderness, which would be unprecedented. The Norbeck area outside the wilderness area will have a controlled burn, but exactly when isn’t known, he said.

Most of the 35,000-acre Norbeck Wildlife Preserve is covered by a detailed plan to fight the mountain pine beetle infestation and protect wildlife. Section 2, however, is not included in that plan.

Fire personnel from Custer State Park, Wind Cave National park and the Black Hills National Forest will combine for the Section 2 burn, which could happen this fall if weather cooperates.

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“To me that is the exciting part, is the opportunity this affords three distinctly different agencies to work together to implement a prescribed burn,” Kolund said.

The public has 30 days to comment on the proposed burn plan.

Contact Ryan Lengerich at 394-8418 or ryan.lengerich@rapidcityjournal.com.

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