Two Spring Creek Trail Bridges Near Sheridan Lake Closed

 

 

Rapid City, SD; March 24, 2017 Beginning today, Friday, March 24, 2017, two bridges on the Spring Creek Trail near Sheridan Lake will be closed for safety.

Forest personnel will remove the two deteriorated, damaged bridges and are working to obtain funds to replace them.

Spring Creek Trail remains open. Please plan and prepare accordingly for hiking and crossing the creek in this area.

Signs notifying visitors of the bridge closures are posted at Coon Hollow, Boulder Hill, Calumet, Dakota Point, Spring Creek trailheads and at the bridges.

For more information on the Black Hills National Forest, call (605) 673-9200, visit http://www.fs.usda.gov/blackhills or download the new Forest phone app at: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/black-hills-national-forest/id1156230107?mt=8

-USDA-

USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender.

 

Beat the Winter Blues and Escape to the Park

 

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Beat the winter blues and Escape to the Park! Tyler Garwood, Graduate Research Assistant at South Dakota State University, will be speaking at the Custer State Park Visitor Center Saturday, February 18 from 1:00-2:00pm.

“For decades, pneumonia passed by domestic sheep has plagued bighorn sheep populations across the American West. Now, in the Black Hills, researchers are developing and testing solutions to this issue that may have national implications.” Tyler will be speaking about this research as well as the history, ecology, and management of this unique animal.

Don’t forget our winter hikes; the last snowshoe hike of the season is Saturday, March 11 at Sylvan Lake (pre-registration is required). Also note Saturday, March 18 on your calendar, Kelsey Bean with the Black Hills National Forest will be speaking.

A park entrance license is required to enter the park and can be purchased at the Park Office from 8:00am to 4:30pm during the week, or at the Visitor Center open from 9:00am to 4:00pm. The Visitor Center is located at the intersection of Hwy 16A and Wildlife Loop Road.

For more information check the Custer State Park Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/CusterStatePark/ or contact the Park Office at (605) 255-4515.

Trump Mulls Another ‘Peregruzka’ with Russia

As Trump mulls another ‘peregruzka’ with Russia, he should consider perils of Big Oil diplomacy

Amy Myers Jaffe, University of California, Davis

Energy has long been used as a tool of U.S. foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East. But it’s true in other regions and countries as well, most notably Russia, where President Donald Trump is pondering another possible “reset” in relations.

This will be the fourth such attempt at a relationship reboot with Moscow since the disintegration of the Soviet Union began in 1989. And each time – in 1993, 2002 and 2009 – renewed investment by the U.S. oil and gas industry played a role in trying to improve ties. And each effort failed for a variety of reasons.

With the U.S. relationship with Russia once again high on the White House agenda amid Russian overtures and intensive attention to the ins and outs of Russian hacking, it’s worth taking a closer look at these past roles the U.S. energy industry has played in efforts to pursue warmer ties with Russia. Trump would be wise to heed this history, especially since oil always looms large in the bilateral relationship.

Oil and American diplomacy

The U.S. oil and gas industry is widely considered one of the most technologically advanced in the world, having pioneered fracking techniques as well as other advanced technologies needed to drill in Russia’s harsh Arctic terrains and to liquefy natural gas for easy shipment.

And for decades, the U.S. has sponsored trade missions that use oil and gas investment as a way to persuade other countries to adhere to American interests. Examples include disarmament in Kazakhstan and Libya, conflict resolution in the Middle East and Latin America and nuclear nonproliferation and the fight against terrorism in the former Soviet Union and West and East Africa.

On the flip side, denial of access to American know-how has been wielded as a stick against countries that defy the U.S.-led international order: for example, by sponsoring terrorism (Iran and Libya) or invading neighboring countries (Russia).

Post-Cold War euphoria turns sour

The opening of Russia’s oil industry to American companies began shortly after the collapse of the USSR. A 1993 summit between leaders of both countries led to the creation of the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission to promote Russo-American economic and technological cooperation, including in energy.

The United States, in essence, was offering up its companies to assist Russia in revitalizing its energy industry. ConocoPhillips was an early adopter with its Polar Lights project, which began in 1994 amid the euphoria of U.S.-Russia collaboration. But the company soon became a victim of Russian bureaucratic hassles that hampered its ability to export oil.

Other U.S. companies that followed suffered similar fates as that early optimism was met with myriad legal, regulatory and logistical difficulties that eventually turned profits into losses in some cases.

Such failures mirrored the difficulties on other policy fronts that eventually beset the Gore-Chernomyrdin deal and subsequent U.S. arms control initiatives as the Kremlin failed to honor both the letter and spirit of agreements.

While this experience clearly illustrates the dangers of being lured by unfulfillable promises and misplaced optimism when it comes to Russia, the U.S. had a hard time learning this lesson.

Putin, 9/11 and a new hope

In the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack, the U.S.-Russian energy dialogue again gained momentum after newly elected Russian President Vladimir Putin let it be known that Moscow was willing and able to help diversify global energy supplies away from the troubled Middle East to help the U.S.

It was in this context that several U.S. oil companies, including ExxonMobil, expanded their exploration and production deals in Russia. In May 2002, President George W. Bush and Putin initiated a new high-level dialogue that led to an energy summit in Houston, Texas, in October and new oil and gas investment deals.

But all was not smooth sailing despite what seemed to be initially an auspicious geopolitical backdrop. No sooner had billions of dollars been committed and oil started to flow than Putin initiated a change of political course in 2005 that defined Russian national security as better served by renationalizing the oil and gas industry.

And so U.S. oil companies experienced similar reneging and renegotiations, as well as threatening tactics directed from the Kremlin, which in some cases included outright arrests of partners and the taking of assets.

The Kremlin used a variety of means to “convince” its foreign partners to turn over assets to favored firms whose leaders were positioned inside Putin’s inner circle. Disputes over back taxes and other kinds of trumped-up environmental or criminal charges were used to justify the retaking of assets. Approvals for access to export pipelines were often linked unofficially to selling stakes back to Russian entities.

The pressures on oil industry executives trying to do business in Russia was so intense at least one American-born senior executive of a major multinational company was forced into hiding. In another example, in 2004 the Russian government effectively annulled a tender award ExxonMobil had won in 1993 for exploration rights in the Russian Arctic region of the Sakhalin Islands and requested over a billion dollars for a new license to operate there.

Obama’s reset goes wrong

Perhaps the most famous effort at a reset with Russia came in 2009 shortly after President Obama took office, when then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave her Russian counterpart an actual red button with the word “reset” written on it.

While the Obama administration did not explicitly make energy cooperation a diplomatic carrot, the effort did improve the situation for a few American oil firms like Chevron and ExxonMobil – at least temporarily – as Russian interest in developing technically challenging Arctic oil and gas resources increased.

As we all know, the Obama reset ran aground as other geopolitical disagreements, such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014 and its military intervention in Syria’s civil war, overshadowed the relationship. The U.S. and Europe placed sanctions on Russia in 2014, creating losses anew for U.S. oil companies.

In the end, most American companies such as ConocoPhillips and Marathon Oil have chosen to sell their holdings in Russia and exit completely in recent years. Others, like ExxonMobil, have reduced risk by participating in international consortia involving important Russian and international firms.

ExxonMobil, for example, eventually secured its multi-billion dollar deal in the Sakhalin Islands by partnering with Russian oil giant Rosneft and several other foreign firms. Still, the venture has faced many obstacles, including tax disputes and logistical problems.

Lessons for the U.S.

There is no question that this history of triumphs and failures offers important lessons for the oil industry and the Trump administration.

In all three efforts, American diplomats and oil executives alike focused on discussions about long term win-wins, while the Russians goals were more limited and short-term.

The first lesson is that Moscow can be quick to offer an accommodating posture when it needs something, such as money or advanced technology, but that this is not necessarily reflective of a permanent change in vision. One savvy American oil company chairman once confided to me that the CEO of his Russian counterpart in a joint venture spent nearly all of his workday canvassing the halls of the Kremlin to intercept early changes in policy or internal political power shifts.

Right now, for example, Russia desperately needs the sanctions on its economy removed. The history suggests Trump probably shouldn’t offer any relief until Russia has brought substantial concessions to the table on issues such as nuclear weapons, cooperation on ISIS and Syria, and ongoing hacking threats.

Secondly, a position of strength will facilitate a deal faster than an accommodative posture or natural alignment, as Rex Tillerson, the newly confirmed secretary of state and former chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, knows from first-hand experience. Oil companies that approached Russian leaders with talk of technology transfer and technical expertise were not necessarily those that excelled against the political winds in Moscow. Rather, companies posing a strong competitive market challenge to Russian counterparts such as Rosneft fared better than the rank and file, many of whom have been forced to abandon Russian assets over the years.

ExxonMobil is an example of the success of this strategy. After lengthy negotiations with Rosneft seemed to be getting nowhere, ExxonMobil mounted an assertive campaign to challenge that company in key markets such as Eastern Europe, Germany and China by offering its customers competitively priced, alternative supplies. The tenor of the talks with Russia improved after that, leading to an expanded strategic agreement (read truce) in 2013.

The Russian wolf

As the Kremlin tries to woo yet another incoming U.S. administration, Moscow expects to count on what it considers the “greed” of Big Oil to help it end the sanctions strangling its economy and to attract fresh investment in its energy industry.

But perhaps this time around, the U.S. government and the Western oil industry will more accurately view Russia as a wolf in sheep’s clothing and greet the overture prepared with its own gun in hand: U.S. shale exports, which provide competition for Russian oil and help prevent diplomatic strong-arming.

The new administration has already positioned itself to use this lever, perhaps evidence that Trump could be the negotiator-in-chief he has promised to be.

The Conversation

Amy Myers Jaffe, Executive Director for Energy and Sustainability, University of California, Davis

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Mount Rushmore’s “Carver’s Cafe” Starts Transformation

January 26, 2017

Keystone, South Dakota On January 26 the Carvers Cafe at Mount Rushmore National Memorial will begin to transform.  Food service will move from the Carvers Cafe to the Memorial Ice Cream Shoppe next door offering breakfast, a variety of lunch or dinner options and of course Thomas Jefferson ice cream.  Operational hours will remain 8:00 am to 4:30 pm.  Upgrades will also occur in the gift shop with the shop remaining open throughout the remodel.   Xanterra, Mount Rushmore’s concession operator, is utilizing the winter season anticipating completion by the beginning of May resulting in the least impact on visitors during the remodel.

Coordinating the remodel with Xanterra are two Rapid City companies, R.C.S. Construction Inc and FourFront Design Inc.  Goals for the upgrade include a more efficient serving space, healthier food offerings, more locally sourced foods and an expanded Made in the USA section in the gift shop with additional local products.

“We are seeking a LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Buildings Operations and Maintenance: Existing Buildings certification by investing in energy efficiency and sustainability.  Our efforts will result in style and function, but will be energy friendly,” stated Xanterra General Manager Marty LaMontange.

“We are particularly excited about Xanterra’s environmental plan for the remodel,” noted Superintendent Cheryl Schreier.  “The Waste Reduction Plan targets a 50 percent or higher diversion rate from a landfill.”

Keep watch over the next few months as Xanterra at Mount Rushmore transforms their operations into a greener more sustainable environment.

For additional information about Xanterra at Mount Rushmore visit https://www.mtrushmorenational memorial.com/and for park information, please visit Mount Rushmore National Memorial’s official website at www.nps.gov/moru or call (605) 574-2523.

No Entrance Fees For Spearfish Canyon State Park – Meeting Tonight in Spearfish

January 26, 2017

PIERRE, S.D. – Entrance fees are no longer being considered for the proposed Spearfish Canyon State Park, Gov. Dennis Daugaard announced at his weekly legislative press conference this morning.

“Based upon the public input I have received on creating a state park in Spearfish Canyon, I am recommending against entrance fees,” Gov. Daugaard said. “South Dakotans feel a fee would restrict access to the canyon. I respect that sentiment, so my administration is taking entrance fees off the table.”

Initially, Gov. Daugaard suggested no entrance fee be required to drive through the canyon on the highway, but that otherwise the proposed state park should consider charging similar fees as the rest of the state park system. Current fees for the 60 state park and recreation areas are charged per vehicle and are $6 per day or $30 for an annual license. Through conversations with stakeholders, the Governor and Game, Fish and Parks Secretary Kelly Hepler decided against entrance fees.

A discussion on other types of fees will still take place, according to GFP. How to manage fees for those seeking special use of the area for weddings, camping or other events will be addressed at upcoming public input meetings.

“How the plan develops will depend greatly on the public’s input,” Secretary Hepler said. “We look forward to a healthy discussion from all viewpoints.”

At the press briefing, the Governor broke down the proposal into three components: the federal legislation authorizing the land-swap, the decision whether to create a state park and the determination on fees. The proposal is still in preliminary stages, with the land-swap bill in the early phases of the legislative process.

Gov. Daugaard concluded by inviting the public to continue to give input.

The first public input meeting will be held tonight, Jan. 26, at 7 p.m. MST in Spearfish at the Spearfish Park Pavilion located at 115 S. Canyon Street. Those who cannot attend can submit public comments online at spearfishcanyon.sd.gov/ .

Click photo for video, will take you offsite to Dropbox.com.

Major “People’s Climate March” Being Organized For April 29, 2017 In Washington D.C

January 25, 2017

WASHINGTON, DC In the wake of last weekend’s Women’s Marches, activists have announced a major “People’s Climate March” on April 29th, 2017  in Washington, D.C. and across the country. The effort is being organized by the coalition formed out of 2014’s People’s Climate March, which brought over 400,000 people to the streets of New York City and many more around the world.

The April 29th march comes in response to widespread outrage against President Trump’s disastrous anti-climate agenda – including his executive orders yesterday advancing the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines – as well as his attacks on healthcare, immigrants, and programs and policies that improve the lives of all Americans. The event will cap off 100 days of action to fight Trump’s proposals to reverse climate action, dismantle our government and hand power over to the one percent.

Mike Tidwell, Director, Chesapeake Climate Action Network: ” Trump made clear that he is putting pipelines over people. We want to make clear: We will never stop fighting. In Trump’s first 100 days of office, we will continue mobilizing a historic movement to protect our water, our climate, and our communities.”

Over 145 protests in local communities took place across the country in the first 100 hours of the Trump presidency, demonstrating widespread opposition to the administration’s anti-environment and corporate agenda as part of an ongoing campaign organized by the People’s Climate Movement.

The People’s Climate Movement grew out of the largest climate march in U.S. history in New York in September of 2014, creating a groundbreaking coalition of green and environmental justice groups, labor unions, faith, students, indigenous peoples and civil rights groups working to advance a climate agenda rooted in economic and racial justice.

With the 100 days of action and April march, this coalition will leverage their power once again, to resist the Trump administration and corporate leaders’ efforts to thwart or reverse progress towards a more just America.

Now more than ever, it will take everyone to change everything. So, the People’s Climate Movement is calling on everyone to join in resisting Trump, his crooked administration and the one percent who are running our country.

Learn more at: People’s Climate Change

U.S. State Department Announces Additional 500 Million In Funding for the Green Climate Fund

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January 18, 2017

WASHINGTON –   The U.S. State Department  announced yesterday Tuesday, January 17, 2017, that it has made an additional $500 million grant to support the Green Climate Fund (GCF). Consistent with last year’s GCF grant, this funding is provided from the fiscal year 2016 Economic Support Fund (ESF) appropriation. U.S. funding for the GCF continues U.S. government support by this and prior Administrations for climate change programs through multilateral funds.

The GCF is the world’s largest multilateral finance institution dedicated to advancing low-emission, climate-resilient development. The GCF was created to help protect vulnerable populations and drive clean energy deployment, all with a special focus on engaging the private sector and mobilizing private capital.

More than 180 countries have set forth their plans to cut emissions; many of them are making important policy and regulatory reforms to promote private sector investment in energy efficient and low-emissions technologies. The GCF supports developing nations in their efforts to achieve those objectives and to become more resilient to climate change – in turn, reducing the global and national security risks associated with inadequate adaptation to and preparedness for extreme weather events and other climate related impacts. With limited public resources, the GCF also directly engages the private sector in new and innovative ways to mobilize greater private investment, sending an unmistakable signal to global markets that the low-emission transition is moving forward.

Green Climate Fund