Ft. Meade Recreation Area Changes

Ryan Larson, a fire management specialist with the Bureau of Land Management in South Dakota, has an aerial photo of the Fort Meade Recreation Area from the 1930s.

It’s a photo that tells an interesting conservation tale; a story that the BLM, with the help of the NWTF, is trying to rewrite.

“When you look at that photo and compare it to ones from recent years, the difference is pretty remarkable,” Larson said. “You could almost count the number of pine trees in the old photo. On the newer ones, there’s a real lack of diversity due to fire suppression and other issues.”

For the past several years, the NWTF has partnered with the BLM to conduct a number of habitat-enhancement projects designed to diversify the 7,000-acre Fort Meade tract near Deadwood.

The most recent timber stand improvement project concluded this spring, where a number of techniques were implemented on 154 acres.

“We’re thinning the understory to reduce pines and non-native species, and restore some of the natural openings seen in that old photo,” Larson said.

The 10-year program to treat 1,600 acres within the Fort Meade Recreation Area allows the NWTF to use South Dakota Hunting Heritage Super Fund dollars on several projects.

For instance, a project approved in 2008 provided $7,500 in Super Fund money to treat 100 acres.

In 2012, the Powderhouse Stewardship was approved. It provided $3,000 in Super Fund dollars and improved 153 acres, and the work completed this spring.

“We’ve done a number of projects with the NWTF over the past five or six years, and each one has been a great experience,” said Larson. “Working with groups like the NWTF allows us to do things we couldn’t have done otherwise due to limited staffing and resources.”

Stewardship arrangements — meaning the BLM manages all aspects of the process, but the work is often contracted — allow the BLM to better allocate existing staff hours.

In some cases, the NWTF oversees much of a project, stretching the benefits while limiting the need for BLM staff involvement.

Larson said cost-sharing and timesaving make these NWTF projects valuable. But input from a true conservation organization is an extra benefit.

“Groups like the NWTF bring a needed conservation focus,” he said. “When people see the BLM harvesting timber, they assume we’re trying to make money from a timber sale. When the NWTF gets involved, people understand the projects are about habitat and conservation. Area hunters trust the NWTF. And the NWTF brings a wealth of knowledge about habitat that, quite frankly, we may not have otherwise. It’s just a great partnership.” — Tony Hansen

Hunt Fort Meade

The Fort Meade Recreation Area spans about 7,000 acres on the northeast side South Dakota’s Black Hills region. Approximately 3,000 acres of the area is timbered, and most of the area is open to public hunting and fishing.

It provides excellent hunting opportunities for Merriam’s wild turkeys and is noted for its whitetail hunting.

You also can explore some of America’s most interesting history. Visit Fort George W. Meade, established in 1878 as base for cavalry to protect new settlements in the northern Black Hills, especially the nearby gold mining area around Deadwood.

Fort Meade also was home to the 7th Cavalry after the Battle of the Little Big Horn, and many structures and features from the 1870s are still present.

The recreation area offers plenty of camping options, and nearby towns offer history, lodging and restaurants in a charming, small-town atmosphere. 

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South Dakota