Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Meade commission OKs controversial liquor license

Hello everyone,

Well, its just more of the same, but we still made attempt. This hearing was held at a out of the ordinary timeframe, usually they are in December and June. It just came to our attention that the hearing was being held at the end of last week, so there was no time to put together a opposition letter writing campaign. They will have to re-apply again in December and June, so we will get a early start for the letter writing then.

This article is actually incorrect, there were four of us (all locals), that made oppositions at the hearing, not three. Sure wish that more folks would show up at these hearings to oppose, hopefully in December, we can get a better show of support!???? I see alot of posts on the comments section of RCJ, for this article, but nobody ever seems to show up to oppose in person.

There were two license issues held yesterday, a tranfer and a new license. All they are doing is shuffling corportations around. When asked about the status of the ownership transfer and Jay Allen's status, David Shoe, General Manager for Broken Spoke Campground stated that Corporate Officers of Target Logisitcs, Joe Murphy owns 10%, Bryan Lash owns 58%, Jay Allen owns 30% and David Shoe owns 2%. Jay Allens only involvement at this time is as a "promoter," he is in charge of the "entertainment." Shoe also stated that Broken Spoke Campground, LLC now owns everything.

We each opposed the location and charachter issue, the Meade County Commissoners refuse to acknowldege either as a issue. It was also brought up again, about the adult entertainment issue that occurs at these venues, that nobody in this county seems to acknowledge is happening.

Since the Commisoners continually state these venues do not effect Bear Butte. I brought up about the insanity that was brought out to Bear Butte with traffic and noise, with the three hours of gridlock traffic thru Sturgis, down Hwy 79 towards Bear Butte, that occured on the first day of the rally. That was brought by the KISS concert that occured at Glencoe, which is just one mile the opposite direction down hwy 79, and McCain being at the Chip, which is just off the junction of Hwy 79 & 34.

The Commissoners also continually state that the noise does not effect the mountain, that there are no issues with these venues and the lude behavior and disrespect they bring out to the mountain. We spent this summer filming it, which will released in our upcoming documentary "On Sacred Ground", which is for the protection of sacred sites, including Bear Butte. We got all the choas, noise, lude behavior and traffic all on film. I offered to show it to them to prove these things DO exist, but they blankly stared at me with no response....surprise, surprise.

Keep in mind that Broken Spoke has also stated that they will be opening year round effective in 2009. Shoe stated yesterday, they are a business and do what it takes to keep the business going. It could be various motorcycle events or something else, they would not committ to their intentions.

For more info about the ongoing efforts to Protect Bear Butte, please visit our website(s) at and

Thank you!

Meade commission OKs controversial liquor license
By Jason Gross, Meade County Times Wednesday, October 08, 2008
2 comment(s) .

Meade County commissioners unanimously approved transfer of a retail on-off sale liquor license Tuesday afternoon to Broken Spoke Campground LLC. The board also approved a new retail on-off sale malt beverage license for the campground company, Bear Butte Sunsets LLC Sturgis County Line LLC.

The 600-acre campground and saloon has operated during the Sturgis motorcycle rally in August. There are several other rally-related businesses in the S.D. Highway 79/34 area east of Sturgis.

Commissioners heard from three local residents who opposed the transfer and application. They focused on the establishments' proximity to Bear Butte, which many Native American tribes consider sacred, but others consider the state park scenic.

"By statute, we're limited to either approving or denying the transfer based on location and character," Commissioner Dean Wink said. He said the Broken Spoke's location, while controversial and much-discussed at previous hearings, is far enough away from Bear Butte to not interfere with spiritual rituals.

The Broken Spoke Campground itself is two miles from Bear Butte, and the company's property boundary is a mile from the landmark, company attorney Jim Seward said.

The overall operation is owned by Target Logistics of Boston. Wink said nothing in background checks on the company or its officers would keep the commissioners from granting approval.

Managing member David Schuh said he is one of four owners. He said that although former owner Jay Allen holds 30 percent ownership interest in the campground, he is not the managing member.

Seward told the commission that the liquor license transfer follows through on a promise that ownership would become centralized. He cited tax and business reasons that a limited liability corporation was needed.

"Obviously, we'll be back here in two months on our renewal, and back again and again," Seward said. "The county will always have the right to say no."

In peace & solidarity,
Tamra Brennan
Protect Sacred Sites Indigenous People, One Nation

"Our sacred lands are all that remain keeping us connected to our place on Mother Earth, to our spirituality, our heritage and our lands; what’s left of them. If they take it all away, what will remain except a vague memory of a past so forgotten?"

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Rounds disappointed with tone of opposition

Rounds disappointed with tone of opposition
Seth Tupper , The Daily Republic
Published: 10/04/2008

Gov. Mike Rounds thinks antipathy toward American Indians may be complicating efforts to secure a protective easement near Bear Butte.

Rounds said in a recent phone interview with The Daily Republic that he has been disappointed by the tone of some of the opposition to the proposal.

“I don’t mind a good discussion about the economies or a discussion about the budget on a program or a discussion that’s based on whether or not it’s a good idea to protect parkland,” Rounds said. “But it really boiled down to, ‘You’re doing this for the Indians.’ And you know what? That kind of turns my stomach to have that become part of the debate.

“We shouldn’t be having a debate like that. We should be having a debate about whether or not this is good for South Dakotans in general, regardless of their race, and sometimes I think this has kind of turned a little bit in that respect.”

Rounds declined to identify the specific people or groups to which he attributed those attitudes.

Last winter, Rounds proposed spending $250,000 in state money to help fund an easement that would prevent development on land near Bear Butte, some of which already is protected by a state park designation. Legislators rejected the proposal, and some restated their opposition last week during a meeting of the Legislature’s Department of Game, Fish and Parks Review Committee.

When asked if he thinks racism is derailing the easement proposal, Rounds said “I don’t think there’s anybody in South Dakota that wouldn’t agree with the fact that racism still exists in South Dakota, and if we try to walk away and suggest that racism does not exist, we’re just hiding from it.”

“But once again, just because someone might disagree with my approach does not mean that they are a racist,” he continued. “There are folks that truly just believe the state shouldn’t buy more land, and I respect that. I disagree with it, but I respect it.”

Friday, October 3, 2008

Alone on S.D. prairie, surrounded by controversy

Alone on S.D. prairie, surrounded by controversy
Seth Tupper The Daily Republic
Published Saturday, October 04, 2008

If other mountains surrounded it, Bear Butte might not be remarkable.

But Bear Butte is not surrounded by mountains. It is surrounded, quite starkly, by the prairie. The incongruity of the butte has made it a landmark recognized for its beauty and, by some, for its spiritual value. Prayer cloths and tobacco pouches tied to trees are evidence of the spiritual ceremonies that American Indians still conduct there.

The blessing of Bear Butte’s geographic isolation is also something of a curse. Exposed as it is by the surrounding landscape, the butte is viewed by some as vulnerable to development fueled by the motorcycle rally that roars annually into Sturgis, less than 10 miles down the road.

BEAR BUTTE STANDS alone on the prairie just outside of Sturgis. The mountain is a popular site for tourists and American Indians who practice religion there, but also is being hemmed in by private ownership. A proposed easement could help reverse that, but it won’t likely be paid for with state money, despite suggestions from Gov. Mike Rounds to do so.
Seth Tupper Archive
Last winter, Gov. Mike Rounds suggested pairing $250,000 of state money with $344,000 in private donations and a $594,000 federal grant to purchase an easement on private land adjacent to Bear Butte State Park. His goal was preventing development near the mountain.

State legislators declined to provide an appropriation for the proposal, and it languished out of the public eye until last week’s meeting of the Legislature’s Department of Game, Fish and Parks Review Committee in Pierre.

Some legislators on that panel said the state should not be involved in holding or funding an easement at Bear Butte. No formal action was taken by the committee, but GF&P Secretary Jeff Vonk said later during an interview that the message was clear. He now sees no chance of securing state funding for an easement.

“I don’t expect that we’ll be asking for state funds,” Vonk said in reference to the next legislative session, which begins Jan. 13. “I think it’s really up to a question about whether there’s some other entity that wants to step forward and provide funding.”

Vonk said he is not currently in talks with any such entity. Potential candidates could include national and international organizations like The Conservation Fund or The Nature Conservancy, he said, or local or regional groups interested in protecting Bear Butte.

The onus, apparently, will be on individuals to prevail upon such groups.

“We’ve got it on our list of potential projects,” Vonk said, “but I can’t tell you we’re out spending a lot of time beating the bushes to find funding sources.”

Gov. Rounds said his approach to the issue will depend on the state budget, which so far is not looking good.

“The early indications are that I’m going to have to scrape real hard just to make ends meet,” Rounds told The Daily Republic. “At the same time, if someone comes up with a foundation or someone like that comes up with the funds, I’d still be very supportive of a well-written lease that would protect the beauty of that land.”

Private vs. public

Bear Butte, called Mato Paha by Lakota Sioux Indians, is so named because of its resemblance to a bear sleeping on its side. The butte is actually a mountain formed by an unexploded volcano.

The elevation of Bear Butte’s peak, which is accessible by a hiking trail, is 4,422 feet above sea level. A state park visitors’ center at the foot of the mountain attracts about 40,000 people annually, and a small herd of bison roams nearby. The Black Hills can be seen in the distance.

Maj. George A. “Sandy” Forsyth encountered the Butte from the south in 1874 during the return trip of Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer’s Black Hills Expedition. Forsyth wrote that, “Compared with the hills in the range, it is a pigmy, being only 1,140 feet above the level of the plains; but, standing alone as it does, it looms up quite grandly, especially when first seen by parties approaching the hills on this side.”

Today, most of Bear Butte is state-owned and designated as a state park. Some of the surrounding area is tribally owned. A portion of the mountain itself, and the rest of the area immediately surrounding it, is privately owned.

If an easement were established on privately owned land near the Butte, the landowner would retain ownership and rights to use the land for agricultural purposes. As part of the easement agreement, the landowner could not allow the land to be developed for commercial or residential purposes.

The term of the easement would be indefinite. It would remain in effect until such time as the state no longer wants it, much in the way railroad easements remain in effect until the tracks are no longer utilized.

A question of focus

Some legislators oppose a state-involved easement near Bear Butte because they don’t want the state tying up privately owned land for future generations.

Rep. Thomas Brunner, R-Nisland, who said he can see Bear Butte from his home window, is one of those legislators. He said easements only restrict landowner rights and provide no real rights for the public, because the land cannot be hunted or otherwise used by visitors.

“It serves no benefit in my mind,” Brunner said at last week’s committee meeting, “but quite the opposite, it prevents any practical use of this land.”

Vonk and Gov. Rounds disagree. They think an easement would provide the benefit of a protected “viewshed” for visitors to Bear Butte State Park. An easement would also keep the land privately owned and avoid perceptions of a government land grab, Vonk said.

“I think we’re looking at this in more of a narrow focus,” he told the legislative committee last week, “and I think a bigger focus would generate the public benefit that’s intended.”

Rep. Brunner said that despite his objections regarding easements, his main objection is the state’s involvement. He acknowledged, apparently reluctantly, that he would not oppose a privately held and funded easement at Bear Butte.

Rounds said the reason for having state money and involvement in an easement is to protect the state’s interest in its park.

“If the state has some money in it, we can kind of lay out the terms as to how the easement might be put together,” Rounds said. “If you don’ t have the dollars in it, in many cases you’re kind of outside the discussion.”


Another objection to state-involved easements at Bear Butte is grounded in the doctrine of the separation of church and state.

State Rep. Betty Olson, who hails from the remote, far-northwestern corner of the state, believes the state-involved easement proposal would unconstitutionally involve the state in a religious matter.

Article VI, Section 3 of the state constitution states that no preference shall be given by law “to any religious establishment or mode of worship. No money or property of the state shall be given or appropriated for the benefit of any sectarian or religious society or institution.”

“The sole reason for the easement,” Olson said in an interview this week, “is to protect the Indians’ right to worship on Bear Butte, and I don’t think that’s a legitimate use of taxpayer dollars.”

Vonk disagrees. He said the public, via state government, has a significant investment in Bear Butte and should protect that investment.

“We acknowledge certainly that Bear Butte is an important cultural area for American Indians,” Vonk said. “It’s also a state park, and our motivations are basically to provide protection to a public resource that all of our citizens have ownership in.”

Without legislative support, the protection of Bear Butte as a public resource may now be truly a responsibility of the public.

Vonk said the GF&P has scaled back its easement proposal and is focusing on a smaller piece of land on the mountain’s southwest side. The proposed easement area includes the chunk of the mountain that is not within the park boundaries, and some additional land stretching out to nearby state Highway 79. The landowner is agreeable to an easement, Vonk said, but is not willing to sell the property outright.

The parcel is about 250 acres, and the cost to purchase an easement on the land is estimated to be $350,000. Vonk believes some federal grant money will be available, but if the easement is going to be secured it will require private groups and citizens to raise money and possibly volunteer to hold the easement.

‘Some respect’

There are people who are working to protect Bear Butte, but their efforts could be described as loosely organized.

Among them is Tamra Brennan, who lives near Bear Butte and identifies herself as a Cherokee tribal member. She runs Protect Bear Butte, an offshoot of Protect Sacred Sites. Both organizations are grassroots in nature and lack official nonprofit status.

Protect Bear Butte’s activism has so far taken the form of public information campaigns. Group members e-mailed thousands of bikers prior to this year’s Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and handed out fliers at the event. The intent was to educate bikers about the sacred nature of the mountain.

“All we’re asking is if bikers come to the area, please use some respect,” Brennan said.

Brennan also has argued against development near Bear Butte, including plans for bars or other biker-focused businesses in the mountain’s immediate vicinity.

She and others fear, however, that the privately owned land around Bear Butte could be sold at any time and converted to any use.

“We could have another ‘World’s Largest Biker Bar’ directly across from Bear Butte, or even at the base of Bear Butte,” Brennan said.

Brennan said she has hiked to the top of Bear Butte many times. She thinks that if everybody involved in the debates about development around Bear Butte would take time to make the hike, the mountain would win them over.

“It’s a very powerful and spiritual place,” she said. “Anybody that doesn’t feel that, it just doesn’t make any sense.”

Rep. Olson, who opposed the easement, has been to the summit. She thinks the mountain is worth protecting, but said it is sufficiently protected by the park designation.

“There’s nobody who’s going to be digging a hole in the top of it or trying to tear it down or anything.”§ion=news&freebie_check&CFID=96608354&CFTOKEN=40203313&jsessionid=8830deefb31e73446347

Bear Butte ~ State should stay away from easement

State should stay away from easement
By the Journal Editorial Board Friday, October 03, 2008
State lawmakers made it clear last week they had no intention of providing state dollars to secure easements around the butte to deter development to the west.

Last year, Gov. Mike Rounds proposed providing $250,000 to buy an easement around the site to ensure a future without encroaching development.

Lawmakers said no. And they’re saying it again this year.

We can’t fault lawmakers for putting a halt to the state-sponsored easement idea this year. Funding an easement shouldn’t be high on the state’s priority list. This year, more so even than last year, money is scarce and the burden on taxpayers could quickly become too heavy a load.

Would taxpayers give the nod to this state spending at Bear Butte? We don’t think so.

Today the landowner has no interest in developing the land beyond its agricultural use and we see no need for the state to get involved with the easement at this point.

While the Native Americans are rightfully concerned about development around the sacred site, there is a better option. The Native Americans could purchase the land in question. If the owner isn’t interested in selling, surely a deal could be crafted to offer the tribes the first right of refusal should the owner decide to sell.

That simple deal would keep the state out of the purchase and still guarantee the Native Americans interested in the site would have some control over future development.

Beyond the financial aspect, however, there may be merit to the state taking an interest in Bear Butte. First, it’s a state park. The state should have an interest in the development (or in this case, lack of development) at the state parks. Secondly, Bear Butte is considered a sacred site to the Native Americans. That doesn’t obligate the state to act but it should be part of the conversation as the state considers the future of the area.

Considering that, the future development should be under the watch of the Meade County Commissioners. We’ve said it before – the commissioners need to step in with zoning to protect Bear Butte from encroaching commercial interests.

The state, however, can’t pick up where the county is falling short. Any state revenue directed to securing easements at Bear Butte this year would be money misspent.