Different Types of Public Lands Near Custer
Written by Marcus Heerdt
November 4, 2019

Keeping track of all of the different agencies who manage public lands can sometimes be confusing. Around Custer City, we have different federal and state agencies who manage our enormous amount of public lands that are available for different forms of recreation. The following is a brief summary of some of those agencies. Note: Remember to always be aware of private land boundaries.

Black Hills National Forest – U.S. Forest Service – U.S. Department of Agriculture
Black Hills National Forest is federal land which covers an area of over 1.2 million acres in South Dakota and Wyoming and is managed by the U.S. Forest Service, an agency under the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Black Hills National Forest was established on February 22, 1897, and is headquartered just up the hill going north out of Custer City. The forest has four ranger districts: Bearlodge (Sundance, WY), Northern Hills (Spearfish, SD), Mystic (Rapid City, SD), and Hell Canyon (Custer, SD).

Black Elk Wilderness – Black Hills National Forest – U.S. Forest Service – U.S. Department of Agriculture
The Black Elk Wilderness is a special place. It is federally managed land and was designated a wilderness area by Congress in 1980. Federal wilderness areas have special protections and visitors are urged to adhere to the special regulations and practice Leave No Trace techniques. The Forest Service states: “This area is managed to ensure public enjoyment while protecting the unique natural character of these special places. Motorized equipment and mechanized transport are prohibited, there are no developed facilities, and horses and hiking are the primary means of transportation in these Congressionally-mandated wilderness areas.” Please help protect this special place.

Wind Cave National Park, Jewel Cave National Monument, Mount Rushmore National Memorial – National Park Service – U.S. Department of the Interior
Created in 1916, the National Park Service is an agency of the Department of the Interior and manages Park Service federal lands. Throughout the United States, there are over 400 national park units which includes but is not limited to: Parks, Monuments, Battlefields, Recreation Areas, Lakeshores, and Preserves. In South Dakota alone, there are six NPS operated units, with five of them in the western part of the state.

Custer State Park – South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks – State of South Dakota
Custer State Park was the state’s first state park in 1919 and is also the largest at over 71,000 acres. South Dakota’s GFP agency manages lands within the state which includes 13 state parks and 43 state recreation areas. The agency also is in charge of enforcing hunting and fishing laws. SD GFP includes five divisions: Wildlife, Law Enforcement, Parks and Recreation, Education, and Fisheries. The agency is headquartered in the state capital of Pierre.

In addition to these agencies, the surrounding area also includes: the Bureau of Land Management (Department of the Interior), The US Army Corps of Engineers (Department of Defense), the National Grasslands (Department of Agriculture), the Bureau of Reclamation (Department of the Interior), and South Dakota Office of School and Public Lands.

Photos: B&W Cathedral Spires in Custer State Park and Lone Bison in Wind Cave National Park by Marcus Heerdt

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