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Contact: Eric J. Brunnemann, 605-433-5281
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis today announced the release of the final General Management Plan (GMP)/Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the South Unit of Badlands National Park, recommending the establishment of the nation's first tribal national park in partnership with the Oglala Sioux Tribe (OST).
"Our National Park System is one of America's greatest story tellers," Salazar said. "As we seek to tell a more inclusive story of America, a tribal national park would help celebrate and honor the history and culture of the Oglala Sioux people."
The National Park Service (NPS), OST, and Oglala Sioux Parks and Recreation Authority (OSPRA) have been working cooperatively on the development of this GMP/EIS since early 2006. Implementation of the preferred alternative (the alternative selected for managing the South Unit after consulting with stakeholders and the public) will begin immediately upon signature of the Record of Decision ROD. The preferred alternative promotes understanding of Oglala Sioux history, culture, and land management principles through education and interpretation.
"Continuing our long-standing partnership with the Tribe, we plan to focus on restoration of the landscape, including the reintroduction of bison that are integral to the cultural stories and health of the Oglala people," said Jarvis. "We will offer expanded access and opportunities for visitors to experience the beauty and utility of the prairie as the Oglala Sioux have for centuries."
Jarvis recently released "A Call to Action," a plan for the next 100 years of NPS park stewardship. In it he states that a national system of parks and protected sites that fully represent our natural resources and the nation's cultural experiences are necessary as we move into the agency's next century. The "Call to Action" goal of engaging youth has already begun at Badlands where tribal and non-tribal students will work together as seasonal NPS employees this summer, receiving training and experience in the responsibilities of being part of the National Park Service.
"These are our future rangers," said Badlands Superintendent Eric Brunnemann. "These are the young people that may lead a tribal national park into the future. I do see a time when our rangers will routinely work side-by-side with tribal biologists, archeologists, and paleontologists."
NPS Midwest Regional Director Mike Reynolds is anticipating an even stronger working relationship with our tribal partners following the signing of the Record of Decision. The staffs from both Badlands National Park and OSPRA have been working together as partners since 1976. Reynolds stated, "We are ready for the next step. We're all pleased to see the planning process is nearing completion. We are looking forward to working closely with the Tribe to turn this vision into reality."
In 2010, nearly 1 million visitors visited and enjoyed Badlands National Park and spent $23 million in the park and surrounding communities. This spending supported more than 375 area jobs. With expanded future opportunities for recreation and education in the South Unit, the prospect of a tribal national park is an exciting prospect for South Dakota.
The NPS will be celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2016. The preservation of public lands as national parklands has long been credited as one of this country's greatest ideas, as something purely American. NPS and OST have been partners for almost 40 years, managing the South Unit with OSPRA. Together we can move into this new century of park management with a shared vision of the future.
Brunnemann states, "As we all consider the long road that has brought Badlands National Park to this point, we are ready to continue on this journey." Referring to the 6 years of public meetings both on and off the reservation, he declares, "Now we go forward."
National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst. - Wallace Stegner, 1983