Grazing District opposes proposed trail system
LEMMON, S.D. (AP)--Though much of the 150,000-acre Grand River National Grassland doesn't appear to have significantly changed over the years, change could be in store, but not without contention.
The Grand River Ranger District, which operates the Lemmon-area grassland along with the Cedar River National Grassland in North Dakota, wants to develop a seven- to 10-mile trail system that would tie into the reservoir system, located south of Lemmon, along with a campground, said Joby Timm, district ranger for the Grand River Ranger District.
However, at least one member of the Grand River Cooperative Grazing District, which has appealed the proposal, is opposed to it and says there are plenty of campgrounds in the area and it is not a good use of government money.
Portions of Grand River National Grassland are a grazing area for cattle. Along with that, people are allowed to hunt, horseback ride and hike there but cannot drive vehicles, besides on designated roads.
There is a designated 6.7-mile walking trail in section "Pasture 9'' of the grasslands, otherwise human disturbances are minimal.
A new trail would tie into the existing one and start in the neighboring section, "Pasture 8.''
"Many people prefer to have the trail system because of the unknown,'' Timm said.
There are no designated campsites in the grasslands but visitors are allowed to camp wherever they wish and there are no entrance fees.
Grand River Cooperative Grazing District Board Member Chet Anderson, of Shadehill, said the Grazing and Ranger districts nearly had a compromise but the issue of who would pay for fence around the campground is among the sticking points. How often and when it could be grazed is also of concern, he said.
"There doesn't seem to be a lot of demand,'' Anderson said about camping areas, saying spending public money on a campground isn't a good use of funds.
"There's 150,000 acres anyone can camp on right now,'' he said.
Timm said it's important to provide amenities.
"I completely understand some of the members believe the only reason the grasslands are here is for livestock grazing and that's just not the case--it's for multiple uses,'' he said. "We are talking about a pretty rustic campground to try to mitigate some natural resources issues so the public can enjoy their national grasslands.''
There are a number of other recreational facilities in the area. Among the more popular is the Shadehill Recreation Area, which is located on the edge of the grassland.
Anderson awaits the decision. He says it seems there is a push commodity to recreation.
"We were designated as a grazing area and the shift is to recreation and we think that could be devastating for ranchers who use the grassland,'' he said.
If it is remanded, the district will reevaluate the plan, Timm said. If parts are affirmed, they will work on portions that are approved and if the project as is gets the go ahead, they will move forward with planning and construction, Timm said.
The first phase of the project would include a trailhead with a bathroom and cost about $100,000, Timm said. Building a 10-unit campground would be roughly $150,000 to $200,000.
"One of my charges as district ranger--these are public lands and we want the public to use them,'' Timm said.
When the supervisor makes the decision, the public or a permittee, such as the Grazing District can appeal.
"The whole idea here is we are supposed to be working for the people of the United States,'' Smith said.