Black Hills National Forest Seasonal Closures Go Into Effect December 15, 2016


Custer, SD – December 15, 2016 marks the beginning of winter recreation on the Black Hills National Forest as Forest officials open snowmobile, cross-country ski and snowshoe trails in the Black Hills area and close seasonal gates and recreation sites that do not remain open through the winter.

Gates are closed to provide a seasonal refuge for wildlife, protect road surfaces and other resources, and provide for public safety as some of the roads are converted into part of the snowmobile trail.

Seasonal closures also occur at many of the recreation sites including some campgrounds and picnic areas. Click here to see a list of campground sites that remain open in the off-season. Most restroom facilities and trash collection are closed for the season.

As a safety reminder, use extreme caution when driving on forest system roads as the road ahead may become impassable or hazardous due to ice and snow cover. National Forest System roads are not plowed or maintained during the winter.

“If heading to the woods this winter, make safety a priority,” said Scott Jacobson, Public Affairs Officer on the Black Hills National Forest. “Always carry extra clothing/blankets, food, water, first aid supplies, a fully charged communication device and let someone know where you are headed and when you expect to return before you go.”

Seasonal recreation sites and roads typically re-open mid-May, weather depending.

For more information on the Black Hills National Forest, visit, follow the Forest on Facebook: or Twitter:

Annual Bird Count and Holiday Open House Celebrate the Season at Wind Cave National Park


WIND CAVE NATIONAL PARK, S.D. – Holiday events this year at Wind Cave National Park begin Sunday, December 11,  with the 21st annual Wind Cave National Park Christmas Bird Count followed by the park’s yearly holiday open house on Wednesday, December 14.

Bird count participants should dress for the weather, bring field guides, and binoculars. Plan to meet at the visitor center no later than 7:30 a.m. on December 11. Afterwards, there will be a potluck supper around 4:15 p.m. in the visitor center; bring a dish to share.  RSVP by calling the park at 605-745-4600.

The Christmas Bird Count is patterned after the National Audubon Society’s effort to document trends in wintering birdlife throughout the United States. The count area will include all of Wind Cave National Park and areas of the Black Hills National Forest and Custer State Park.

The open house December 14 will run from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the visitor center. Light refreshments will be served, and students from the Hot Springs’ third grade will sing carols around 1:30 p.m. The students will also decorate the visitor center Christmas tree.

“We appreciate people taking part in our holiday activities, either the Christmas Bird Count or the open house,” said Park Superintendent Vidal Dávila. “We welcome these opportunities to meet with our neighbors, and we wish everyone a happy and safe holiday season.”

During the open house, the public will be able to view park exhibits and browse through the visitor center’s bookstore operated by the Black Hills Parks and Forests Association.

The visitor center and cave will close on Christmas and New Year’s Day to allow staff to celebrate the holidays with their families. Throughout the remainder of the winter, the visitor center will be open daily from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with cave tours at 10 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m.

Until the cave elevators are repaired around the end of January, all tours will walk in and out of the cave via the Walk-In Entrance. This includes climbing

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Delivers Remarks at U.S.-China Tourism Year Closing Event

November 22, 2016

Washington, DC – On Sunday, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker delivered remarks at the Warner Theater to celebrate the conclusion of the 2016 U.S.-China Tourism Year. U.S. and Chinese leaders designated 2016 as the U.S.-China Tourism Year in an effort to strengthen tourism and commercial ties between the two countries. In the U.S., government and industry worked together to enhance the tourism experience for Chinese visitors and improve cultural understanding.

In her remarks, Secretary Pritzker emphasized China’s remarkable growth into one of the world’s top tourist destinations since her first visit to the country over 30 years ago. Last year, 2.6 million Chinese visitors visited the United States, up from 400,000 in 2007. However, this represents only two percent of the outbound Chinese market. To help close this gap, President Obama and President Xi agreed to extend the validity of most tourist and business visas from 1 year to 10 years, and student visas from 1 year to 5 years.

Good evening! I am thrilled to be here at the beautiful Warner Theater to celebrate the finale of the 2016 U.S.-China Tourism Year. On a night like tonight, I can’t help but reflect on my first visit to China, more than 30 years ago. My trip to Beijing and Shanghai in 1984 was truly amazing. I had the opportunity to walk along the Great Wall and take in the historical architecture along the Bund. I particularly loved walking along Wangfujing, seeing so many people on bicycles and talking to vendors along the street. But looking back, what I am most grateful for was the opportunity to see China then, so I could appreciate what it has grown into today. Since that trip, I have had the good fortune of returning to China many times for both business and pleasure. And I have witnessed China’s incredible evolution into one of the most remarkable and popular tourist destinations in the world.

Even as this evolution was taking place in China, travel and tourism between the U.S. and China remained stagnant for decades. That changed in 2007 when our two countries signed a memorandum of understanding allowing packaged leisure travel from China to the United States. That year, approximately 400,000 Chinese travelers visited the United States. Last year, that number had grown to 2.6 million. At the same time, travel to China from the U.S. has also grown significantly – and we have reached our shared goal of 5 million visitors between our countries. Yet, even with this success, there is so much room to grow. The United States only captures two percent of the outbound Chinese market, despite strong demand from the Chinese to visit our shores.

To help close this gap, President Obama and President Xi agreed to extend the validity of most tourist and business visas from 1 year to 10 years, and student visas from 1 year to 5 years. In the first twelve months after this historic announcement, the number of applications by Chinese citizens for visas to the United States increased by 53 percent. But even with this monumental progress, our countries’ leaders knew there was so much more opportunity – so they designated 2016 as the U.S.-China Tourism Year.

Let me just give you a couple examples of why this was such a great decision. In the United States, we have leveraged the Tourism Year to inspire hotels, restaurants, and public and private destinations in every single state and territory to make themselves more attractive and welcoming to Chinese visitors. From the government perspective, we installed Chinese language signage in key airports and developed new travel itineraries in Mandarin for popular destinations like the Grand Canyon. And I am pleased to say that China is moving forward with plans to develop a Chinese national park system and working with the U.S. park service to apply our best practices, models, and lessons learned.

As we close the Tourism Year and look to the future, I want to assure all of you that we will continue to promote more travel and tourism between our nations. Through this the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade, we will continue to work with industry and our Chinese partners to address market access issues, such as opening the sale of outbound travel in China to U.S. companies and Ensuring the ability of foreign global distribution services platform to operate in China.

But tonight, we celebrate. We celebrate all we have achieved over the past year to bring our peoples closer together. Now, I have the honor to share a message from President Obama…

“I am proud to join in celebrating the closing of the 2016 U.S.-China Tourism Year. The U.S.-China Tourism Year has enabled the American and Chinese peoples to experience new cultures, explore new places, and get to know one another. As our two countries continue working together to address global challenges, we reflect on this year as one in which we deepened our people-to-people ties and strengthened one of the largest bilateral trade relationships in the world. A future of peace, prosperity, and friendship depends on our efforts to under each other. That is why the United States will continue to welcome the Chinese people to our shoes – whether to hike through our National Parks, dine in our vibrant cities, or learn more about our rich history – while also encouraging Americans to discover all that china has to offer. Congratulations to all those who worked to make this Tourism Year a success. I am grateful for your efforts and am looking forward to the future of continued cooperation that lies ahead”. – President Barack Obama