Archives for March 2008

NPS Develops Management Plan for Badlands South Unit

The National Park Service has begun working on a General Management Plan for the South Unit of Badlands National Park. The public is invited to submit comments (59 KB PDF) and make suggestions during this important process. Comments on Newsletter #1 Winter 2008 (693 KB PDF) are due April 11, 2008.

Some of the issues under consideration in the plan include:

General Management Plan (GMP) – As Described in Newsletter #1 Winter 2008

According the GMP, The following concepts range from continuation of current management or shared management to management by an entity other than the NPS. Congressional action would likely be required to put into effect alternatives based on these concepts.

CONCEPT #1
The NPS would continue to manage the South Unit as one of two units of Badlands National Park. All the laws, regulations and policies pertaining to units of the National Park System would remain in effect, as would the specific enabling legislation that established the park. In addition, the 1976 Memorandum of Agreement between the NPS and the OST would remain in effect.

CONCEPT #2
Management of the South Unit of Badlands National Park would be shared by the NPS and the OST. The NPS and OST would work together to manage resource protection and visitor use in the South Unit. The laws, regulations, and policies pertaining to units of the National Park System would remain in effect, as would the specific enabling legislation that established the park and any appropriate OST ordinances and resolutions. The NPS and OST would renegotiate the 1976 Memorandum of Agreement to reflect the changed relationship between the two parties. The NPS and the OST would each contribute funding and staff for management of the South Unit.

CONCEPT #3
The South Unit of Badlands National Park would be managed by the OST with technical assistance provided by the NPS. The primary management responsibility for the unit would rest with the OST, while NPS could assist the OST with technical guidance in resource management and visitor use as requested, or as required by authorizing legislation. This concept could be implemented by recreating the South Unit as an affiliated area of the National Park System or by establishing a separate new unit of the National Park System. In either instance, all the laws and policies pertaining to units of the National Park System would remain in effect. The mechanism for funding varies depending on whether the South Unit would remain within the National Park System or become an affiliated area.

CONCEPT #4
The lands of the South Unit would be managed by OST as a Tribal Park/Preservation Area or in some other manner determined by the Tribe, in accordance with Tribal ordinances and resolutions. Staffing and funding would be the responsibility of the Tribe. This concept would deauthorize the South Unit of Badlands National Park and end NPS management there.

Note: If Concept 4 were to be selected, a GMP would not be needed, because the South Unit would no longer be a part of the National Park System. In that case, the following information about resource management and visitor use options would not apply.

Prairie Dog Management Plan and Environmental Assessment

  • The NPS favors the creation of a series of zones for prairie dog management.
    • Prairie Dog Buffer Zone – In this one-quarter mile buffer on park lands adjacent to private lands, prairie dog control would be initiated by private landowner complaint. If 80% of the problem prairie dog colony lies within the buffer zone and encroachment is evident, the entire prairie dog colony would be controlled. All other buffer towns would be managed so that the aggregate buffer zone acreage does not exceed the estimated 2006 acreage of prairie dog colonies in the buffer zone.
    • Bison Management Zone – In the bison management zone, prairie dog populations would be managed to balance their food needs with the forage requirements of the bison. Prairie dog populations would be allowed to fluctuate naturally in densities and acreage until the point that the acreage of prairie dogs plus the acreage used by the bison herd exceeds roughly one-half, or 50-60%, of the available suitable habitat for both species.
    • Prairie Dog Free Range Zone – In this zone, prairie dog populations would be allowed to fluctuate naturally in numbers and in total acreage of colonies. Any prairie dog control would be limited to administrative areas where prairie dog colonies conflict with other park management goals or objectives.
    • Prairie Dog Control Zone – In this zone, prairie dogs would be managed to occupy from 7 to 15% of the available suitable habitat (currently they occupy 7% of suitable habitat in this zone). This zone includes the remainder of North Unit lands that are not managed under one of the other three zones. 

      *Maps of each zone are included in the report.

ORGANIZATIONS FROM FIVE STATES JOIN TOGETHER TO ADDRESS PROPOSED URANIUM MINING

PRESS RELEASE

March 17, 2008

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ORGANIZATIONS FROM FIVE STATES JOIN TOGETHER

TO ADDRESS PROPOSED URANIUM MINING

ALSO: Uranium Hearing in Rapid City, SD
April 2 and 3, 2008 – Wed. and Thurs. 8:30 AM (MDST) (more below)

CASPER, WY – Organizations from Wyoming, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, and Colorado met in Casper, WY, on Saturday, March 15, to discuss their joint concerns about uranium mining in the Northern Great Plains. Citizens from ten organizations are voicing their concerns about surface and ground water, human health, and local property values.

Defenders of the Black Hills, South Dakota Sierra Club, and ACTion for the Environment attended from South Dakota, which faces mining proposals along the southern Black Hills. The Powder River Basin Resource Council and Biodiversity Conservation Alliance came from Wyoming, where exploratory and mining permits have been applied for in the state. Coloradoans Against Resource Destruction traveled from the northern part of Colorado where uranium mining is also proposed near Fort Collins. Western Nebraska Resources Council, Nebraskans for Peace, and Nebraska Sierra Club arrived from northwest Nebraska where Crow Butte Resources is seeking to expand their uranium mining operations. Members of Dakota Resource Council from northwestern North Dakota are also facing new plans for uranium mining in their part of that state.

In all five states, companies plan to use ‘in situ’ leach mining (ISL) which injects a dissolving solution underground into suspected uranium deposits. The solution dissolves the uranium and its radioactive decay products, as well as heavy metals. This radioactive solution is pumped to the surface. The uranium is then removed and shipped to a mill for concentration into “yellowcake.” The water is re-treated and then injected back underground in a cycle that continues until all the uranium has been extracted. Reverse osmosis is then often used to remove some of the toxics from the water, and the remaining liquid is either injected underground or retained in shallow ponds. Numerous uranium mining companies are making plans throughout the West as a result of recent increases in the price of uranium.

“In Wyoming, there are significant questions about regulation and oversight of uranium operations,” according to Wilma Tope, Powder River Basin Resource Council Board Member. “Citizens need to have a stronger voice in uranium activities.” Wilma’s family owns a ranch in Crook County, WY, and has banded together with other local residents to pressure regulators to ensure adequate protection of local water supplies – both quality and quantity.

In South Dakota, Powertech Uranium Corporation has started drilling more uranium exploratory wells in an area where they already have 4,000 wells in the southwestern Black Hills. “It’s already been proven world-wide that ISL mining contaminates aquifers and then those aquifers cannot be restored to their previous state,” said Charmaine White Face, Coordinator for Defenders of the Black Hills. “South Dakota relies very heavily on aquifers for drinking water and livestock use. We’ve been in a drought for the last ten years and the last thing we need to do is poison our water,” she said.

ACTion for the Environment is very concerned that South Dakota taxpayers will once again have to take on the toxic messes that are left when a mining company leaves as happened previously with Canadian companies. Powertech is a Canadian company. “The Board of Minerals and Environment should remember what happened when they gave approval for the Brohm gold mine. Now SD people are paying for that mess. Are we going to have to pay for a radioactive mess left by another Canadian company?” said Gary Heckenliable of ACTion for the Environment. “Not only South Dakota residents but all the taxpayers of the United States are going to have to pay for this for many, many years to come,” he said.

Coloradoans Against Resource Destruction (CARD), formed last year in response to Powertech’s proposal to mine in the rapidly-growing area near Fort Collins. “Of course uranium mining always causes some form of contamination. Water at in situ leach mining sites is not returned to its original condition,” said Jackie Adolph, a member of CARD. “Most people don’t know that federal policies that subsidize the nuclear industry aren’t just about power plants. The nuclear industry’s largest negative impacts have always been in uranium mining and milling processes.”

In Nebraska, Crow Butte Resources (a subsidiary of the Canadian company Cameco Corp.) is seeking to expand one the largest and oldest ISL mines in the country. Organizations have intervened in the NRC’s licensing procedures. “We are particularly concerned about protection of local water supplies and cultural resources,” said Buffalo Bruce, Vice Chair of the Western Nebraska Resources Council. “The NRC has failed to fulfill its duties under the Trust Doctrine, which protects indigenous rights granted to Native American populations under U.S. treaties.”

North Dakota just recently started public hearings to accept comments on ISL mining in that state. Ken Kudrna, a member of Dakota Resource Council, lives only a few miles from where uranium mining is planned to begin.

The groups have issued a common statement:

“We want the uranium industry to know that we stand together on this issue. Whether in a rural setting or a populated area, uranium mining causes radioactive contamination. Past uranium sites continue to contaminate the air, land, and water. Any bonds designed to pay for clean-up of former mining areas have not been sufficient, and taxpayers have been forced to pay the bill. We call on the public and all elected officials to do everything possible to protect the water, land, and local economies from proposed uranium activities.”

More information can be found at:

Defenders of the Black Hills: www.defendblackhills.org

Coloradoans Against Resource Destruction: www.nunnglow.com

Powder River Basin Resource Council: www.powderriverbasin.org

Nebraskans for Peace: http://www.nebraskansforpeace.org/

Contact: Charmaine White Face: (605) 399-1868 Shannon Anderson: (307) 763-1816

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Uranium Hearing in Rapid City, SD
April 2 and 3, 2008 – Wed. and Thurs. 8:30 AM (MDST)

On March 12, 2008, the SD Water Management Board held a hearing in Pierre, SD, on changes to the rules for Chapter 74:55:01 – 74:55:01:61 Underground Injection Control — Class III Wells. The changes are being made to coincide with the changes that the Board of Minerals made last year to accommodate ‘In Situ Leach’ uranium mining. However, as the Board violated state law in cutting off the time for submitting written comments to three weeks before the hearing, a continuation was sought and obtained.

The Water Management Board has continued the hearing for April 2 & 3, 2008, in the Angostura and Deerfield Rooms at theRadisson Hotel on Mount Rushmore Road and Main St., Rapid City, SD. The Hearing will begin at 8:30 AM with a presentation on ISL Uranium Mining by Powertech Uranium Mining Company. General comments and specific comments for changes to the rules will follow. The Board is asking that spokespersons for groups present their comments and not repeat what has been stated previously.

One of the most important rules being considered is 74:55:01:24, Designation of exempted aquifers. With a ten year drought in the Region, with changing weather patterns and global warming, it is very important to maintain underground sources of wa
ter for the years to come. We strongly encourage everyone to ask for a copy of the rules by calling 605-773-3296, on the Internet at http://www.state.sd.us/denr/DES/Ground/grundprg.htm

We also ask as many people as possible to attend this hearing to show your support for keeping our groundwater intact and unpolluted with disturbed uranium. In every place in the world where groundwater has been disturbed for In Situ Leach uranium mining, the groundwater has NOT been able to be restored to its previous condition.

THIS IS A VERY IMPORTANT MEETING FOR THE FUTURE OF THE REGION’S GROUNDWATER SOURCES.

 

Oglala Tribe to Amend Constitution and Bylaws

On Tuesday April 22nd, the Oglala Sioux Tribe will host a secretarial election to amend the Constitution and Bylaws for the Pine Ridge Reservation of South Dakota. The opinion article by Tim Giago from the Mitchell Republic Newspaper posted below outlines some of these amendments and raises concern that to be eligible to vote in this election tribal members must have resided within the reservation boundaries for a period of one year prior to the election. While this excludes a large percentage of tribal members (e.g. those who live off the reservation), it is based on Title 25, Code of Federal Regulations Part 81.11 and Article VII of the existing Constitution and Bylaws of the Oglala Sioux Tribe.

Based on the number of phone calls I have received, it is clear that there is a great deal of confusion among tribal members about the intent and implications of these amendments but also the eligibility criteria for voting. I would like to invite readers of this blog to post their concerns and reactions to these issues on this blog so we might expand the range of the dialogue and share more perspectives on these important issues.

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Tim Giago syndicated columnist
Published Monday, March 17, 2008
From http://www.mitchellrepublic.com

There are many Oglala Lakota people that are not living on the Pine Ridge Reservation of South Dakota that are under the false impression that they are still citizens. Wrong!

One of the most important secretarial elections in the history of the Oglala Lakota will be held on April 22 and in order to vote in that election a supposed tribal member must live on the reservation and must have lived there for at least one year.

Election Board Member George Patton said, “We need to make it very clear that if you want to vote in the upcoming secretarial election you have to be registered and in addition to returning your registration form you need to have lived on the reservation for at least one year to vote.”

A secretarial election is one that is sponsored by and must be approved by the Secretary of the Interior. This election will bring nine very important changes to the Constitution of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. Keep in mind that the secretarial elections in 1985 and 1997 allowed ALL tribal members to vote. But now, because of a lack of funds, nearly 50 percent of the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s citizens will be disenfranchised.

Nine changes to the OST Constitution will be on the ballot. All nine will affect the lives of the Oglala Lakota people whether they live on the reservation or not. Keep in mind that many Oglala Lakota left the reservation to find jobs because of the nearly 50 percent unemployment rates on the reservation. And now, because they left home in order to provide for their families or to go to college, they are to be denied the right to vote on their own future.

There are nine changes to the OST Constitutions on the ballot.

  1. Four year staggered terms for tribal council representatives and four year concurrent terms for the president and vice president.
  2. Instead of quarterly council meetings the council would be mandated to meet at least one day each month, the last Tuesday of each month.
  3. Restructure the judicial power of the OST by creating a true separation of powers between the council, the courts, and the executive by having a court system created by the Constitution not by the council, by establishing a process to appoint and remove judges and by revising the jurisdiction of the OST.
  4. Revise the process of becoming an enrolled member of the OST by removing the residency requirement from the membership enrollment criteria.
  5. To insulate the OST Treasurer from the political process and remove the Treasurer from the OST executive board, select for a six year term with a requirement of CPA background with five years of tribal government experience.
  6. Mandates the council to adopt a code of ethics within one year of passing which may be revised only by referendum vote.
  7. Establish a bill of rights for members and non-members.
  8. Strengthen and clarify the removal and recall process for elected officials of the OST.
  9. Provide an opportunity to vote on a new name for the tribe: Oglala Lakota Nation, Oglala Lakota Oyate or keep the same name, Pine Ridge Reservation.

Why all of these Constitutional amendments? “We are hoping to streamline the election process. We want to provide an opportunity for as many people as possible to vote on these proposed constitutional changes,” Bob Ecoffey, an election board member and Pine Ridge Agency Superintendent said.

There is little doubt, and all tribal members know this whether they live on or off of the reservation, that these changes to the OST Constitution are badly needed. We have seen council members and even tribal presidents recalled or removed from office without due process. The removal of President Cecilia Fire Thunder is one glaring example.

The newly established Secretarial Election Board includes Bob Ecoffey, BIA superintendent, George Patton, OST attorney, and Craig Dillon, tribal council representative from the LaCreek District.

If the rumors are true that nearly 50 percent of the Oglala Lakota people are to be disenfranchised because of the lack of funds to include them in the election process, then something is seriously wrong. A Nation does not deny its own people the right to vote.

Every Oglala Lakota is included in the head count when it comes to establishing the population of the tribe. And now, if they move off the reservation to go to college or to find a job to provide for their families, they are denied the right to vote in an election that will also have a profound impact upon their lives. It is wrong!

If you are an Oglala Lakota and also find this wrong, call Warren LeBeau at 605-867-5125 and get the information you need to protest this miscarriage of justice. Or call members of the Secretarial Election Board or even the office of the Secretary of Interior himself.

Indian trust trial could lead to big U.S. payout

by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City

Reposted From: www.indiantrust.com

WASHINGTON — Committed to ending a long-running and contentious lawsuit, a federal judge Wednesday ordered a June trial that may determine whether the federal government owes billions of dollars to American Indians for mismanaging their trust accounts.

“It is time to bring this matter to a close with a decision of one kind or another,” U.S. District Judge James Robertson said at a hearing.

Robertson, the second judge to preside over the class-action lawsuit filed in 1996, gave the Indian plaintiffs two weeks to file a claim detailing how much money has been lost by individual Indians since 1887 because of the government’s breach of its trust duties.

He gave government attorneys a timetable for responding and said he would begin a trial on June 9.

“I am absolutely committed to getting this case resolved with something like a final judgment this summer,” Robertson said.

Dennis Gingold, the lead attorney for the Indians, said after the hearing on Wednesday that he didn’t know how much money the Indians would seek but that it would be in the billions.

When Congress was working to resolve the case legislatively two years ago, the Indians said that they would accept $27.5 billion.

Gingold said he didn’t know whether the claim now would be more than that.

Background on the case
The lawsuit filed in 1996 has taken many a winding trail since the Indian plaintiffs first accused the government of mismanaging their trust accounts and asked for a proper accounting of their funds.

The trust accounts were created to hold the proceeds from oil and gas drilling, grazing, timber cutting and other uses on individual Indians’ land. There are about 300,000 individual account holders, an estimated 53,000 in Oklahoma.

After decades of complaints about mismanagement, Congress passed a law in 1994 requiring reforms in the trust system and an accounting of how much money Indians should have. The Indians sued under that law, claiming the government was not complying.

Robertson ruled in January that accurate re-creations of accounts going back more than a century would be impossible and said it was time to end a case that has seen several trials, top government officials held in contempt of court, numerous appeals and the removal of the first judge in the case.

His ruling was a victory for the Indians, who had long claimed that an “historical accounting” couldn’t be done because millions of records had been lost or destroyed.

U.S. Justice Department attorney Robert Kirschman told Robertson on Wednesday that the Indians weren’t entitled to “damages” in the case because they didn’t seek them when they filed the case.

Pine Ridge Study Tour: June 7th – 14th, 2007

Village Earth and its community partners on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota are putting together a study tour June 7-14th, 2008.

If you are interested in participating please contact [email protected].

Schedule subject to change. Please keep visiting this post for updated information.

Below are some highlights of some of the things to expect. 

Bison on Pine Ridge 

Visit Village Earth’s Community Partners and Their Projects Across the Reservation.

Grass Survey

Participate in a Bison Land Stewardship Assessment

Lend a Hand In Community-Based Projects
Above Photo taken at the 2005 Sustainable Nations Training on Pine Ridge

Community Projects

Become a Part of Land Recovery and Bison Restoration on Pine Ridge