Groups working to form the nation’s first tribal national park on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation moved one step closer to their goal this week.
The National Parks Service announced Thursday that the final General Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement for the South Unit of Badlands National Park has been completed and released, a NPS press release said.
The South Unit of Badlands National Park is entirely within the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in southwestern South Dakota. The Park Service and the Tribe have worked together to manage the South Unit’s 133,000 acres for almost 40 years. If a tribal national park is enabled by Congress through legislation, the Oglala Sioux people could manage and operate their lands for the educational and recreational benefit of the general public, including a new Lakota Heritage and Education Center.
Work to create the official national park has been ongoing since 2006. Partner groups include the NPS, Oglala Sioux Tribe, and the Oglala Sioux Parks and Recreation Authority.
Under the plan, the National Park Service and the Tribe will focus on restoring the health and vibrancy of the prairie to enhance wildlife habitat, expanding bison into the South Unit, providing roads and trails and providing greater opportunities for visitors to experience the natural grandeur of the South Unit and the heritage of the Oglala Sioux people.
The National Park Service is expected to sign the Record of Decision for the GMP/EIS this summer; however, congressional legislation is necessary before the Service can implement the Plan’s Preferred Management Option. In the meantime, the Park Service and Tribe may prepare for and implement appropriate parts of the plan and identify the components of a tribal national park that need to be addressed by legislation.
Here’s the full press release from NPS:
BADLANDS NATIONAL PARK, S.D. — Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis today announced the release of the final General Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement for the South Unit of Badlands National Park, recommending the establishment of the nation’s first tribal national park in partnership with the Oglala Sioux Tribe.