Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Future of shooting range goes before federal judge

Future of shooting range goes before federal judge
By Bill Cissell, Journal Staff Writer Wednesday, March 19, 2003

RAPID CITY � The future of a shooting range north of Sturgis is in the hands of a federal judge.

A hearing on a preliminary injunction to temporarily stop any further work on the project is set for 9 a.m. Monday, March 24, before U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier.

The judge also set 9 a.m. June 30 as the hearing date for a permanent injunction on the shooting range.

Construction has not begun; plans for the range are still in the design stage.

Five American Indian tribes � Northern Cheyenne, Rosebud Sioux, Yankton Sioux, Crow Creek Sioux and Standing Rock Sioux � filed a motion requesting the injunction.

They said noise from the Black Hills Sportsman's Complex, which is planned for more than four miles north of Bear Butte, will interfere with religious ceremonies at the butte, which is considered sacred by many Plains Indians. A grassroots organization called Defenders of the Black Hills also joined in the action.

The injunction request names as defendants Mel Martinez, U.S. secretary of Housing and Urban Development, the Black Hills Council of Local Governments, Sturgis Industrial Expansion Corp., city of Sturgis and Black Hills Sportsman's Complex.

The tribes also say they weren't contacted about the proposal, which they say is mandated by federal law.

The shooting complex would have pistol, rifle and archery ranges, as well as a place for law enforcement officials to practice and youth organizations to learn shooting safety.

Organizers said the range also gives local gun and ammunition manufacturers a place to test and demonstrate new products.

On March 17, in a telephone conference call that included attorneys for all those involved and Schreier, range developers agreed "to not proceed with plans but continue the planning process."

They said they hoped to have the facility in operation this summer.

Money for the almost $1 million project came primarily from an $850,000 federal community development block grant.

Local organizers were required to raise $75,000.

In an Oct. 17, 2002, letter to Black Hills Council of Local Governments executive director Van Lindquist, the National Park Service suggested that "the Black Hills Council of Local Governments conduct a gunfire test and invite the interested parties ... to experience the sound levels from Bear Butte."

Black Hills Council provides administrative and technical support to a variety of local governments. It was in charge of shepherding the grant through the approval process.

In a subsequent letter to Don Kilman of the Office of Federal Agency Programs, Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, Lindquist said a live test couldn't be done because the range, with all of its planned noise baffles and berms, would have to be built in order to have a good demonstration.

In the same letter, Lindquist said that during a Sept. 11, 2002, meeting of representatives of the state's historic preservation office, block grant officials and the Black Hills Council, it was agreed that getting approval from the Tribal Government Relation Office would fulfill the requirement to contact Indian tribes.

The site, 13 miles north of Sturgis and east off of Highway 79, is the second location planned.

The first, about 11 miles east of Sturgis on Alkali Road, was rejected after it came under fire from adjacent landowners.

Contact Bill Cissell at 394-8412 or e-mail

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