How two dead South Dakotans continue to feed the world

There are politicians who spend their entire careers pursuing power and fame, and there are others who set aside those ambitions long enough to make a lasting difference.

A reminder of that truism arrived recently in the form of a news release from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The release said the department is awarding a combined $455 million of funding through two international food initiatives: Food for Progress, and the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrit

Jury awards $400,000 in Black Hills National Forest gender discrimination case

A jury awarded $400,000 in damages Saturday to a former Black Hills National Forest district ranger in her discrimination case against the federal government.

The verdict came after a week-long trial in federal court at Rapid City.

The jury found in favor of Ruth Esperance’s claim that she suffered gender discrimination. The jury also found that the Forest Service had not proven Esperance would’ve been reassigned to a different job regardless of her gender.

Esperance was the ranger of the Bla

New approach needed as Forest Service fumbles on Black Hills leadership

When I reported back in May that the Black Hills National Forest was on its eighth supervisor in seven years, I made it sound like that was a lot of turnover.

Since then, there have been two more supervisors.

That brings the tally to 10 in the past seven years, and five this year alone.

The current year’s turnover began in the spring with the departure of Jeff Tomac, who was the last person to hold the job without an “acting” tag. He’s been followed in rapid succession by Acting Supervisors B

Trump rally highlights Republican division with booing of absent Thune, Rounds, Johnson

RAPID CITY — A Friday event intended to rally the South Dakota Republican Party around Donald Trump’s visit to the state instead showcased division at the party’s highest levels.

The state’s all-Republican, three-member congressional delegation — Sens. John Thune and Mike Rounds, and Rep. Dusty Johnson — did not attend the event in the ice arena at The Monument. Their absence was loudly noted several times by a crowd of about 7,000.

Gov. Kristi Noem took what some in the audience appeared to i

ACLU is 'RZNHELL' with state over specialized plate denials

It’s OK to be a “HELLCAT,” but not a “HELLBOY.” Don’t tell anybody to “HLDMYBR,” but it’s fine to go on a “BEERRUN.” And don’t say “IH8U,” but “YUH8ME” is acceptable.

Those are some of the inconsistencies in state government’s evaluation of specialized vehicle license plate requests, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota. The ACLU sent a letter to state officials Tuesday citing what the organization described as actual examples of approvals and denials.


With reorganization plans squashed for now, VA celebrates new Rapid City clinic

RAPID CITY — The long-debated, evolving plans for veterans’ health care in the Black Hills took a step forward Thursday with the grand opening of a new outpatient clinic.

The 49,000-square-foot Rapid City facility is triple the size of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ previous clinic in the city.

That’s a welcome development for Ricky L. Robertson, an Air Force veteran at Thursday’s opening ceremony who said the VA outgrew the prior site.

“That building down there, it was in terrible shape

Lithium exploration planned near Hill City

A company looking for lithium in the Black Hills is planning another drilling project, this time near the southern edge of Hill City.

The company is SDO Services, the South Dakota subsidiary of Swiss-based Midwest Lithium.

Michael Schlumpberger works in Rapid City as Midwest Lithium’s chief operating officer. The company’s previously announced drilling plan, at a location 2 miles from Mount Rushmore, drew criticism from a local environmental advocacy group.

Schlumpberger said the company will

The holy Sturgis trinity: Noem, Jesus and family

A warning to all non-South Dakotans: If you bring your family to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally expecting to meet Jesus, you’re likely to be disappointed. Maybe even offended.

That public service announcement has become necessary to correct the record after a glowing assessment of the rally’s rectitude last week from Gov. Kristi Noem.

She started her weekly newspaper-style column on Friday with this observation: “I didn’t think I’d find so much Jesus at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.” That was in

Noem, Trump and the politics of inaction

Fear and speculation were rampant as the coronavirus swept into the state. Noem issued an executive order with instructions for South Dakotans and held a press conference to discuss it.

Her choice of language was peculiar.

She told South Dakotans what they “should” do. In fact, she used the word 13 times during a press conference that was less than 12 minutes long.

The word also prefaced every instruction in her executive order. Employers “should” implement social distancing, it said. Health

Company looking for lithium in Black Hills plans to drill 2 miles from Rushmore

A company’s plan to conduct exploratory drilling for lithium in the vicinity of Mount Rushmore has sparked criticism from an environmental group.

The company is Midwest Lithium. Its South Dakota subsidiary, SDO Services, plans to drill up to 55 holes in an area that was historically mined for lithium about 2 miles northwest of Keystone and 2 miles northeast of Mount Rushmore National Memorial. The former Etta mine, near the project area, was the largest source of lithium in the U.S. for decades

Cleanup of abandoned Black Hills mine on hold for potential re-mining

Aspects of a two-decade-long cleanup at an abandoned Black Hills gold mine are pausing because a company might want to re-mine it.

The Gilt Edge Mine was abandoned in 1999 when its operator, Brohm Mining, went bankrupt. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency took over the site the next year.

The EPA’s Joy Jenkins, of Denver, oversees the cleanup. She did not have an updated tally Monday but said the cleanup costs totaled $120 million as of five years ago, and have recently been around $2 mil

South Dakota lacks transparency in lobbyist spending

Lobbying is one of the least transparent political activities in South Dakota, and an interest group’s inclusion of three legislators on a recent tour of the U.S.-Mexico border provides an example.

The three legislators are Sen. Casey Crabtree, R-Madison, Rep. Will Mortenson, R-Pierre, and Rep. Tony Venhuizen, R-Sioux Falls.

I’m picking on their trip because it’s a handy example. They deserve some credit for speaking publicly about the trip and acknowledging it was paid for by the Americans fo

State predicts no trouble at future Rushmore fireworks, despite clash in 2020

Protesters physically clashed with law enforcement officers the last time there was a fireworks display at Mount Rushmore, but state officials are telling the federal government there’s no reason to believe something similar would happen again.

The state Department of Tourism applied Wednesday to the U.S. Department of the Interior for a special use permit to conduct a fireworks display next year, on or around the Fourth of July. The Interior Department includes the National Park Service, which

Noem is investor in ethanol plant partnered with carbon pipeline company

Gov. Kristi Noem is an investor in an ethanol plant that’s partnered with a company proposing a controversial carbon dioxide pipeline.

The ethanol plant is Granite Falls Energy in Granite Falls, Minnesota. Noem’s financial disclosures from her former service in Congress and her current time as governor reveal that she and her husband are investors in the plant. Summit Carbon Solutions, a company proposing a carbon pipeline through South Dakota, lists Granite Falls Energy as one of its partners.

Noem plans to use emergency and disaster money to pay for border troop deployment

Gov. Kristi Noem’s funding source for a troop deployment to the U.S.-Mexico border is the state’s Emergency and Disaster Fund, a revelation that caused a top-ranking legislator to criticize the plan and question its legality.

Noem announced the impending troop deployment Thursday in a news release, saying she plans to send at least 50 National Guard soldiers to help secure the nation’s southern border this summer. She and 12 fellow Republican governors are responding to a request for assistance

Eight supervisors, seven years: The 'challenging' Black Hills National Forest

The Black Hills National Forest has its eighth supervisor in the past seven years, and if recent history is any indication, he probably doesn’t fully recognize what he’s up against.

Carl Petrick, most recently the supervisor of the Idaho Panhandle National Forests, won’t stay long in his new Black Hills post. He’s an acting supervisor, like five of the prior seven people in the job.

His predecessor, departing Acting Supervisor Bryan Karchut, said during a recent public meeting that the Forest

Rule change would make foreign purchases near Ellsworth reviewable

When a Chinese company was on the verge of building a corn milling plant last year near an Air Force base in North Dakota, people concerned about national security wondered why the federal government hadn’t stopped it.

As it turned out, a federal committee tasked with reviewing foreign investments in the U.S. lacked jurisdiction over the area around Grand Forks Air Force Base.

After Congress passed a law in 2018 empowering the committee to review foreign purchases of real estate near sensitive

New state grant program aims to lure last-minute summer tourists

RAPID CITY — Gov. Kristi Noem announced the creation of a $200,000 grant program for tourism businesses Wednesday at Reptile Gardens in the Black Hills.

Noem cited industry data indicating 91% of this summer’s travelers already have their trips planned. She wants the grant money to help South Dakota businesses target the remaining 9% of travelers.

“We want to make sure those that have a change in plans or haven’t decided yet, that they decide to come and visit us,” Noem said.

The Tourism Adve

Tardiness in recognizing water needs could lead to 'unacceptable consequences'

As recently as nine years ago, I thought Rapid City had enough water for decades to come.

I got that idea from covering an event in 2014 where then-Mayor Sam Kooiker spoke.

“Unlike many other cities in the West, Rapid City does not have a water supply problem,” he said, adding that the city of 73,000 had “enough water in this area to serve more than 170,000 people.”

Time and new developments have altered that impression.

Four years ago, I reported on a study commissioned by the West Dakota W

Grants could add 2,400 openings at child care centers

Money from the federal government could soon help add about 2,400 openings for kids at new and expanding child care centers in South Dakota.

The money comes from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, which Congress passed and President Joe Biden signed into law in 2021. The legislation was a response to the economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The state Department of Social Services is making $17 million of remaining funding from the law available as startup and expansio
Load More