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Gov. Kristi Noem’s Custer State Park expansion bill “dead on arrival”

The bill to create 176 new campsites in Custer State Park has been met with resoundingly negative reception.
Groups are not sure the state is taking the environment into enough consideration for the park...
Groups are not sure the state is taking the environment into enough consideration for the park expansion.
Published: Jan. 26, 2022 at 7:25 AM MST
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PIERRE, S.D. - The South Dakota State Legislature is preparing to kill a bill proposed by Governor Kristi Noem that would add 176 campsites to Custer State Park.

HB 1048, would make a $9.8 million dollar allocation to Game, Fish, and Parks (GFP) for the sake of creating the campsite, which would also include the construction of four “modern comfort sites,” and roads to service the campgrounds.

But several seasoned lawmakers say they have received more negative reception on this bill than any other they have ever encountered in Pierre.

“Over one thousand emails against and one for it,” said State Rep. Tim Goodwin (R-Rapid City).

Goodwin, who has Custer State Park in his district, said his normal approach to legislation is to at least let it get a hearing before he decides it should be killed. However, the opposition to this one was just too strong.

“I was hoping that that we could come up with some type of compromise,” Goodwin explained. “Since then, I have gotten the most emails I have ever gotten on any subject.”

The bill as currently written, would “declare an emergency,” meaning that it would require 2/3rds of both chambers to pass. Additionally, it would allow GFP to begin construction almost immediately upon passage.

Some of the primary concerns brought up by opponents include increased traffic and urbanization of the area, and the potential impact the developments could have on wildlife in the area.

“I do not even know if they will get one vote in committee,” said State Rep. Charlie Hoffman (R-Eureka).

Hoffman vice-chairs the House Agriculture and Natural Resources committee, where HB 1048 would have to go prior to heading to Appropriations.

“There are so many areas of the Black Hills to put campsites, besides Custer... In short order, we could be killing the natural beauty of the entire area,” Hoffman explained.

The bill has yet to receive an initial hearing date, meaning that the Governor’s office could still pull the bill from consideration before it is even an assigned to a committee.

The Governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the bill or its reception.

“I would say that the Governor should probably learn how to read the room, and not drop this bill,” said State Sen. Troy Heinert (D-Mission).

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