South Dakota’s congressional delegation has introduced bills calling for a state-federal land swap that would allow the expansion of Custer State Park and the creation of a state park in Spearfish Canyon.
Gov. Dennis Daugaard announced the Spearfish Canyon state park proposal during his State of the State speech in January. At that time, he said the state would need to acquire some federally-owned land. South Dakota’s congressional delegates introduced legislation toward that end Thursday.
Sen. John Thune introduced a bill in the Senate with co-sponsorship by Sen. Mike Rounds, and Rep. Kristi Noem introduced a companion bill in the House.
Daugaard issued a written statement Thursday thanking all three.
“There are still many steps to take before this vision can become a reality, but I’m hopeful we will get there,” Daugaard’s statement said.
If the swap is approved by Congress and the president, 1,468 acres of federally owned Black Hills National Forest land — including the Timon and Rod and Gun campgrounds — in the Spearfish Canyon area would be transferred to state ownership. Another 524 acres of federally owned land adjacent to Custer State Park, including Bismarck Lake and Camp Bob Marshall, would also be transferred to state ownership. Camp Bob Marshall is leased by the U.S. Forest Service to the Western Dakota 4-H Camp Association for youth camps.
In return, the state would transfer four state-owned parcels totaling 1,954 acres to the federal government.
Those parcels include 640 acres in Lyman County that would become part of the Fort Pierre National Grassland; two 640-acre parcels north of Badlands National Park in Pennington County that would become part of the Buffalo Gap National Grassland; and one 34-acre parcel in the Devils Bathtub area in Lawrence County that was recently donated by the Spearfish Canyon Foundation to the Department of Game, Fish & Parks and would become part of the Black Hills National Forest.
If the legislation proposing the swap becomes law, an appraisal would be ordered for all the affected parcels.
If the federal land is appraised higher than the state land, the state would have to convey additional land to the federal government, or pay additional money to the federal government, or a combination of both.
If the state land is appraised higher than the federal land, portions of the state land could be excluded from the swap to achieve an equal-value exchange.
Since the governor announced the state park proposal in January, the state used money from the Spearfish Canyon Foundation to acquire 73 acres of Spearfish Canyon land, including the site of Spearfish Falls, for $750,000 from Barrick Gold Corp. The pedestrian bridge leading to Spearfish Falls was not included in the purchase, because it was mired in litigation stemming from an easement dispute between Barrick and neighboring private landowners. The state has an option to purchase that additional small tract after the litigation is resolved.
The proposed 1,600-acre Spearfish Canyon state park would also include Roughlock Falls, which already is part of a designated state nature area. The state acquired Roughlock Falls as part of a $2.7 million deal in 2006 that included other land at the mouth of the canyon near Spearfish.