Public land debate an interesting one
Published: Thursday, September 13th, 2012
As you read the third part of our four-part series on the pros and cons of public land this week, hopefully you are learning more and more about the effort it takes and all the moving parts involved in making public lands work. From the Forest Service to the man who owns land next to the forest, public lands are an interwoven tapestry of pieces that must work together for the good of all those involved. While everyone is trying to do that for the most part, it’s not always easy.
The average person may have no idea of the time, money and effort that our emergency services spend on public lands. They may also not know of the funding mechanism the U.S. government has for reimbursing our school district and our county. Hopefully this series of articles serves as an educational tool in that aspect.
Public land is certainly an important part of our community. Custer thrives off income derived from the tourist industry. If it weren’t for the public lands in the area, be it Custer State Park, Jewel Cave National Monument, the Black Hills National Forest, or even Mount Rushmore to the northeast, tourists wouldn’t come here and many people wouldn’t make the living they make today. The area would look much different, as there is little manufacturing or other forms of employment available. The other forms of employment that are available—such as with the Forest Service and the National Park Service—would also be gone.
All of us reading this enjoy public land in some way. At some point this past year, you probably took a swim in one of Custer State Park’s lakes, hiked Harney Peak, went hunting on public land, biked down the Mickelson Trail or had your livestock grazing on permitted land. In Custer, public land is an everyday part of our lives, one that we probably take for granted, and, as we learned while doing this series, curse from time to time.
With our nation’s ever-growing debt and the threat of losing programs such as the Secure Rural Schools Act, it’s hard to imagine we will ever be directly compensated for all of the public land in our county. The ancillary compensation provides many people a living, however, and that is something that can’t be overlooked. It’s what makes Custer what it is. Yes, our emergency services could use more money for the work it does on public lands. Our school system could certainly use more money—or at least more reliable payments—but we can’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Our public lands are too important.
Nobody is ever going to be completely satisfied with what happens on our public lands. Like any government function, it’s going to be a source of frustration. However, even if we had no public land, we wouldn’t have all the services we want. In the long run, the positives of public land outweigh the negatives. It is preserved for future generations, for all to enjoy. In this time of ever-growing urban sprawl, that’s a claim private land could never make.
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