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Wildlife and Recreation Lands

Wildlife, Wilderness, and Recreation Lands—July 2004

In the 1940s, Aldo Leopold, father of the modern conservation movement, wrote: “There is as yet no ethic dealing with man’s relation to land and to the animals and plants which grow upon it. The land-relation is still strictly economic, entailing privileges but not obligations.” The National Environmental Policy Act of 1970 and the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA) provided the dawn of such an ethic. More than three decades later both are still under fire. Privately owned lands and far too much public land continue to be abused because, said Leopold, “we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect. There is no other way for land to survive the impact of mechanized man, nor for us to reap from it the aesthetic harvest it is capable, under science, of contributing to culture.”

The philosophy of western civilization is that all things were created for man’s use and that technology will give him the power to solve all problems. The result is that wildlife and wilderness are being exploited and destroyed. Native plants, insects, and non-game fauna are losing out, even on publicly owned land.

Some areas must be set aside where the seedbed of life can carry out its experiments in variation and selection to provide the germ plasma of the future. The areas set aside as wilderness are nuclei of the continuing processes of nature. These are the only areas left where the rights of wildlife have precedence over the rights of man. Small protected areas are important but whole ecosystems must also be protected and wisely managed if the chain of life itself is to survive and thrive.

The South Dakota Resources Coalition (SDRC) believes that everything on earth is connected to everything else. In the hubris of human greed and limited knowledge, we know far too little to play God with the intricate parts of the community of life called earth. We believe our role under God to be that of caretakers, defenders, and lovers of what we have been given. To this end the SDRC:

Strongly supports the ESA and its strengthening amendments.

The disappearance of species as a result of human activities is already having profound impacts on the world’s food supply, health, scientific research, and other factors necessary for human well-being and survival. Beyond the practical reasons for conserving species, is an ethical one. We believe that every species, after adapting for thousands-even millions-of years to survive in a constantly changing environment, has intrinsic value and a right to exist. Destruction of a species, either directly or by its habitat loss, is both short sighted and wrong. The ESA injected an overdue ethical obligation into a US conservation system based solely on economic self-interest and greed. Along with ethical considerations came a growing understanding that no creature, including human beings, exists in isolation. Each functions in a complex ecosystem of biological, chemical, and geological processes and interrelationships. Therefore, the loss of a single species can set off a chain reaction affecting many others, the significance of such losses is seldom obvious. We know so little and long-term impacts are difficult to predict.

Supports protecting biodiversity

The stability and productivity of an ecosystem rests upon the richness of its biological diversity. Biological diversity is wholly dependent upon the preservation of the habitats needed by given species, plant, as well as animal. Subspecies as well as species are important contributors to the richness and stability of given biotic communities. Even though a species may be protected and flourishing elsewhere, the local niches they occupy and the genetic diversity they contribute are necessary for stability of the ecosystem they occupy.

Supports the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act (P.L. 73-121) requiring full mitigation of wildlife resources disrupted by public and private projects.

We oppose designation of inferior, badly located habitat as mitigation for higher quality habitat.

Supports management of the Missouri River to mimic its natural flows.

The altering of the river’s flow below dams has reduced three species-the least tern, the piping plover, and the pallid sturgeon-to threatened or endangered status. The survival of these species and restoration of the natural watershed to the greatest extent possible should be the priority for river management.

Supports the adoption of minimum instream flows for the streams of South Dakota.

South Dakota is one of only six states without minimal flow safeguards necessary for the survival of aquatic and riparian wildlife.

Supports continued acquisition of land for preservation and restoration of wildlife habitat and creation of a tax on all outdoor recreational equipment for this purpose.

Supports wilderness designations proposed by the Wilderness Society, the Utah Wilderness Alliance, the Alaskan Wilderness Coalition, and other national and regional groups who know the areas proposed.

We believe much more Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and de facto forest wilderness areas are eligible for such designation and urge ongoing consideration of eligible lands. As human population increases, more and more wilderness will be needed. Many designated wilderness areas are already overused and/or available only by reservation.

Urges the protection of all de facto wildernesses from energy development, road building, and other uses that would render them ineligible for wilderness designation until such areas have been adequately studied and officially categorized.

Supports the “small” family farm where responsible environmental practices are followed. Such family farms not only benefit wildlife but may offer more employment for people in small communities.

Supports expansion of wild, recreational, and scenic river designations, natural park areas, nature trails and the like, which tend to increase undisturbed wildlife habitat.

More programs that require limited or no facilities, such as the Big Sioux River Canoe Trail, are recommended. We oppose the use of personal motorized watercraft on designated wild, scenic, and recreational rivers and on water bodies adjacent to or within hearing of natural area users or where wakes may have a negative effect on riparian vegetation or wildlife.

Supports open, democratic involvement of all citizens in planning, funding, and construction of facilities involving changes in land use with an impact on wildlife, particularly those involving public lands or monies.

Supports controlled burning of Black Hills forestland and South Dakota prairies (including waterfowl production areas, public shooting areas, etc.) to re-establish and maintain the habitats and diversity of species present before human intervention.

Supports increased numbers and expansion of national and state grassland parks and recreation areas.

Many people are unaware of the beauty and diversity of natural prairies. The BLM has millions of suitable acres for parks and recreation areas under its control. The designation of such areas for human use would contribute to their survival and to the survival of wildlife, whose habitats they are, particularly grassland birds, which are rapidly decreasing.

Supports cooperation with ranchers and landowners to support sustainable use of our private and public grasslands.

Wildlife use of public lands must have priority over domestic stock. Grazing permits must take wildlife use into account so that public lands remain in good condition and water sources not despoiled. Grazing permit fees should not be less than 50 percent of average rent on privately owned pastureland in the region. Animal numbers, grass conditions, and effects on water sources should be carefully monitored. Permittees who fail to abide by the conditions of their grazing permits should lose their permits.

Supports required fencing of shelterbelts planted with federal cost-share if cattle are likely to wander into them.

If shelterbelts are grazed, the landowner should be required to repay the cost-share received.

Supports changes to the state’s meander laws to eliminate exploitive use by adjacent landowners of public wetlands during dry years.

Supports the concept that at least one member of the politically appointed South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission be an ecologically oriented, qualified biologist.

Opposes stream channelization.

Such projects have provided minimal benefits to only a few persons and have resulted in the loss of irretrievable environmental values. Stream channelization destroys wildlife and riparian habitat through wetland drainage, pollutes downstream lakes and reservoirs with excess nutrients, chemicals, and silts, increases erosion upstream and flooding downstream, and lowers ground water tables. Recognizing flooding as a natural method of enriching and designing our landscape, we support flood plain management using development restrictions and zoning as a primary means of reducing property loss and personal injury. We oppose flood control by means of large-scale dams, which flood valuable agricultural lands, stream habitat areas, and homes.

Opposes wetland drainage.

Wetlands are the pollutant and water regulating systems of our land and are of special importance in agricultural areas. They trap, store and clean polluted runoff, thus helping maintain the quality of our streams and lakes. They help recharge and stabilize water-table levels and are of prime importance to wildlife because of their plant species diversity and relatively undisturbed character.

Opposes over modernizing park and recreation areas where natural area values are high.

Playground equipment, electrified campsites, manicuring of vegetation, etc., have no place in such areas. These unique areas are easily destroyed if overused. SDRC recognizes the need for recreation areas near population centers where the main purpose is not the appreciation and study of natural ecosystems.

Supports mowing of roadside ditches only after the time of prime pheasant hatch.

Ditches are one of the most used areas by nesting pheasants. They are also used by other wildlife, especially in the spring before plowed fields are producing feed and clover. We oppose spraying of herbicides in roadside ditches. Herbicides are detrimental to wildlife, plants, and humans. Where noxious weed or brush control is required, mowing and hand labor are viable alternatives. Trees and brush along rights-of-ways on secondary roads are also important to wildlife. Clearing vegetation at some intersections may be required for safety reasons, but lower vehicle speeds on other portions of these roads could provide adequate safety.

Opposes off-road vehicular travel in state and national parks, recreation areas, grasslands, and forests.

Vehicles, including off-road vehicles, should be allowed on primary and secondary roads only. These include motorcycles. Trail bikes and snowmobiles must use designated trails and areas.

Opposes aerial hunting of predators except where local predators are overpopulated and causing undue economic hardships.

Aerial hunting should be done by government trappers only.

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In summary, a continuous effort must be made to encourage government at all levels to identify, and protect those areas that contain the natural heritage of the region, to encourage land use patterns in harmony with the landscape, and to insure that adequate wildlife habitat is preserved for both game production and non-game wildlife. Greater protection should be given to unique natural areas. Abuses must be eliminated from public lands so that they may regain their ecological productivity. This is especially true of the National Grasslands and National Forests.

The South Dakota Resources Coalition recommends that:

  1. Areas set aside for wildlife should be managed as much as possible to reflect what nature evolved in the area. Natural succession will furnish the genetic variation that can adapt to the environment of the future.
  2. The plant composition native to an area must be given primary consideration because this is the basis for what variety the community is able to produce. It provides the complexity that leads to stability of an area.
  3. The total fauna interacting with primary producers (plants) must be considered, not just one species in the food chain; deliberate manipulation of the system to the advantage of one species should be avoided.
  4. Total ecosystem management, therefore, means that physical factors and biological factors are allowed to interact without human intervention except in cases where outside forces threaten to disrupt it.

Adopted by the Board of Directors of the South Dakota Resources Coalition at its July 31, 2004 meeting

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