DENVER (CN) – Environmental groups say the government is not living up to its goals for the Norbeck Wildlife Preserve in South Dakota’s Black Hills, and that logging and grazing will harm animals there, including elk and bighorn sheep. Friends of the Norbeck and the Native Ecosystems Council want the U.S. Forest Service enjoined from implementing the Norbeck Wildlife Project, ostensibly created to enhance forage for game species.
But the groups say the project’s logging and burning on nearly 6,000 acres will hurt rather than help elk and bighorn sheep, which were reintroduced for game after being hunted extinct there in the 1800s. Non-native mountain goats were also stocked in the preserve after it was formed in 1920.
Environmentalists claim that the definition of “game animal” is too narrow, since it does not include bison, which have not been reintroduced though they are native.
Although clear-cutting is supposed to increase forage for elk, it will harm “focus species” including the song sparrow, which would be more susceptible to nest parasitism by the cowbird, the groups say.
Cattle grazing in the preserve will be allowed, although cattle compete with elk and deer for forage, the wildlife advocates say.
In addition, the project failed to consider the effects of logging on water quality in lakes and streams, which will be subject to higher temperatures and sedimentation. The project also opens unauthorized and previously closed roads.
Friends of the Norbeck and the Native Ecosystems Council, represented by John Meyer of the Cottonwood Environmental Law Center in Bozeman, Mont., want the project enjoined.
The Black Hills, or Paha Sapa, were granted by treaty to Sioux tribes in the 19th century, then taken away when gold was discovered there. The treaty violations and mass incursion by white men set off the last great war with the Sioux, which culminated in the Native American victory at the Little Bighorn River in Montana.