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Spearfish Canyon Proposal
Courtesy photo

South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks officials have released more information regarding the state's position in favor of the proposed land-swap of Spearfish Canyon State Park and Bismarck Lake areas in the Black Hills.

The office of Gov. Dennis Daugaard on Friday sent out a news release with a list of frequently asked questions, which is attached to this article at rapidcityjournal.com.

"This proposed trade is an important opportunity to preserve these important sites and allow more visitors to enjoy them. We want South Dakotans to have the best information about this proposal and the process as it moves forward,” said GF&P Secretary Kelly Hepler in the release.

In January, Daugaard announced a plan to provide for the establishment of a new state park in Spearfish Canyon. His plan called for a land exchange with the Black Hills National Forest to pave the way for the creation of a 1,600-acre state park in the Little Spearfish Canyon area.

“Spearfish Canyon contains some of the most renowned natural, scenic and cultural resources in the country,” Daugaard said in a written statement. “Our state’s Game, Fish and Parks agency has acquired, improved and preserved many resources in the canyon in the last decade when they were in peril from overuse and misdirected management. We have an opportunity to extend that same kind of responsible stewardship with the creation of Spearfish Canyon State Park.”

In July, U.S. Sen. John Thune introduced legislation in the Senate to facilitate the transfer, a move supported by U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds and U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem.

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Friday's move comes on the heels of some public officials voicing opposition to the proposal. Last week, Leslie Weldon, deputy chief of the National Forest System, testified against Thune’s bill and said in a written statement that “the bill is unnecessary and contains provisions that raise concerns.”

Earlier this week, the new supervisor of the Black Hills National Forest, Mark Van Every, also spoke out against the proposal, saying the plan does not fairly compensate the Forest Service for investments made at Bismarck Lake and also for anticipated revenues from the campground.

Some local residents have expressed opposition because they don't want to pay a fee to visit Spearfish Canyon, which is now free for visitors.

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