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Elizabeth Cook-Lynn (from left) and Clyde Lynn watch Brian Brademeyer discuss mountain pine beetle infestations at a Saturday meeting of the environmentalist group Defenders of the Black Hills. (David Montgomery, Journal staff)

As some local leaders criticize the Forest Service for not doing enough to address mountain pine beetles in the Black Hills, a group of activists met Saturday with an opposite complaint -- the Forest Service was doing too much.

The Defenders of the Black Hills environmental group met Saturday in Rapid City to discuss concerns members had about logging, mining, road-building and other human activities in the Black Hills.

Dominating the first part of the meeting was the pine beetle problem. Participants at the meeting slammed plans by the state and by the Forest Service to control pine beetles with logging and tree-thinning.

"They're cutting 90 percent of the trees and claiming they've done it for the wildlife," said Brian Brademeyer, the group's treasurer, of loggers. "They're trying to use this beetle outbreak to get into areas."

Supporters of the logging claim that by cutting down pine-beetle-infested trees before the beetles can reproduce and spread to nearby trees, the infestation can be contained.

But members of the Defenders of the Black Hills were skeptical that logging would have any positive effect.

"Smokey Bear stopped the forest fires, and forest fires are the only things that can kill the beetles," said Charmaine White Face, the group's coordinator.

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The only impact logging has, members said, is to destroy trees and animal habitats.

Defenders discussed legal action they've taken to try to halt logging efforts, and a plan to try to greatly expand the Mount Rushmore National Memorial in the belief that trees in a national memorial would receive more protection than one run by the Forest Service.

The proposed memorial would be around 40,000 acres, Brademeyer said.

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Defenders of the Black Hills had a heavy component of Native American members and discussed hopes to protect sacred sites in the Hills as well as natural habitats.

Other issues raised at Saturday's Defenders of the Black Hills meeting included:

  • Concern about a proposal by Pennington County to reconstruct Rochford Road, which members thought would open up more wilderness to development.
  • How to oppose plans to mine for uranium in the Black Hills. White Face said the Defenders seemed on the verge of victory over a company called Powertech Uranium Corp., which hopes to mine uranium. "Powertech, we outlasted them," White Face said. "We kept hoping we could stall them and stall them until they ran out of money, and I think we won."
  • Efforts to stop, or at least impose conditions, on plans to expand gold mining operations in the Black Hills.
  • A petition to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius calling for more regulation of smoke from coal-fired power plants and coal strip-mining.

Contact David Montgomery at 394-8329 or david.montgomery@rapidcityjournal.com

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