Justin Herreman, Spokesperson
Thank you for attending this press conference today. Welcome to the beautiful Rapid Creek on behalf of a new organization – Rapid Creek Watershed Action, which is a growing coalition of a variety of organizations.
Our purpose here today is to call on our federal representatives to legally designate the Rapid Creek watershed upstream from Rapid City as a recreation area. Outdoor recreation is the main activity and a major economic driver in that area, and it should be protected by a Congressional designation, as other similar areas are. Part of this designation should be the withdrawal of mineral claims in that part of the watershed, so that recreation, the economy, and natural resources – including Rapid City’s drinking water – are protected from mining.
According to the Outdoor Industry Association, sixty-nine percent of South Dakota residents enjoy outdoor recreation each year. And in our area, that means tens of thousands of local residents and tourists enjoy Pactola Reservoir and other parts of the Rapid Creek watershed in the Black Hills. Direct income from hunting alone in the Black Hills is about $89 million a year, and outdoor recreation supports 48,000 jobs in South Dakota.
In short, the well-being of our local economy depends on outdoor recreation and the protection of lands that Rapid Creek Watershed Action wants to see permanently designated as a recreation area by Congress. This isn’t just about recreation, though. Areas around Pe’ Sla, a special Lakota cultural site, would also be protected.
The well-being of our economy and communities also depends on plentiful, clean water. In April, the Rapid Creek watershed was designated as on of the most endangered rivers in America. This was due to the presence of gold exploration and the possibility of large-scale gold mining in Rapid City’s water supply, which would bring water contamination. Almost a quarter of the Rapid Creek watershed above Rapid City is currently subject to mining claims. The City of Rapid City has passed a resolution against gold exploration and mining in the watershed. The designation as a recreation area would protect our water supply, our economy, and recreation for the long haul.
We encourage members of the public to contact Senators Thune and Rounds and Representative Johnson and ask them to sponsor a bill to declare the Rapid Creek watershed west of Rapid City to be a recreation area, and to withdraw mineral claims in that area. Go to our website at rapidcreekwatershed.org or to our Facebook page – Rapid Creek Watershed Action – for more information. We also welcome additional organizations and businesses to join this effort,
Thank you for being here today.