Friday, October 3, 2008

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.

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