Bear Butte National Historic Landmark at Risk from Oil Drilling

According to the National Park Service, Bear Butte (SD) is sacred to the Cheyenne as the place where Maheo (the Creator) imparted to the hero Sweet Medicine the knowledge from which the Cheyenne derive their religious, political, social, and economic customs.  The Cheyenne Mount Sinai, if you will.  The landmark was designated December 21, 1981, by President Reagan, and the site is now in Bear Butte State Park.

Development has been taking place in recent years on private land near the park, including facilities to serve motorcyclists at the popular annual Harley Davidson rally in nearby Sturgis.  Most recently, in September 2010, a company called Nakota Energy LLC, of Wilmington, NC, filed a petition with the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources for the establishment of an oil and gas production field a little more than a mile from Bear Butte.  Docket information is all online with DENR.  The first well of the new field was drilled in late December 2010 and early January 2011.  There are no current plans to use hydraulic fracturing in this field.

On February 23, 2011, DENR’s Board of Minerals and Environment issued a Notice of Rehearing based on a finding that, “according to SD Codified Laws 1-19A-11.1, proper steps were not taken concerning protection of cultural resources related to Bear Butte National Historic Landmark.”  The rehearing will take place on April 21, 2011, at 10:15 AM (CDT) at the Matthew Environmental Education and Training Center, Joe Foss Building, 523 East Capitol Avenue, Pierre South Dakota. BME will hear public input for consideration of whether to reauthorize, amend, or revoke its order establishing what’s referred to as the Gullickson Field.

The hearing will be in two parts.  First BME will take public testimony and input at a public hearing.  Then there will be a formal contested case hearing in which only parties and intervenors may participate.  Any person who is interested may testify during the public hearing portion, or submit written comments, but the deadline for written comments was March 30, 2011.  Additional information is available from Fred Steece, the Oil and Gas Supervisor at DENR in Rapid City, SD.


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