Thursday, July 06, 2006

Wilderness Proposals

I was asked how the rock hunters in the area felt about the Wilderness Proposals. I couldn't answer that question so I am putting this blog up to let you offer your own opinions. Perhaps your opinion will influence decisions made about the proposals. Any little bit helps......

If you are unfamiliar the proposals, you can read or download them at:

Be honest and respectful! I will not allow any slander or inappropriate language to be posted.

Kevin Lockhart of Hermosa made these comments about the proposals. He gave me permission to post them including his name.

#1. This proposal in fact and in deed discriminates against many people who presently use these areas in a respectful manner in that many will no longer be able to have access because of physical limitations due to age, disabilities etc. Many of these areas if you recall are miles back into these areas on the designated roads that already exist. It seems to me that those who would like these changes are trading the participation of the majority for that of just a few that will really be able do more than drive to an overlook and view these lands.

#2. They propose horseback and hiking into these areas but how many of the elderly people who have enjoyed agate hunting for a lifetime are set up to do this. Also, with the water sources in these areas being as scarce as it is, it will be very difficult to provide water for the horses. You could probably carry enough water for yourself but can you imagine carrying enough for your horse as well. Then when you get to the agate bed what are you going to tie a horse to? There are not a lot of trees in these areas. They make all this sound so easy but it is not and it takes alot of equipment and money to be able to accomplish an outing like this. So does this proposal state that if you are 70 years old and cannot walk 3 to 5 miles back into the area where you want to hunt agates and carry the water you would need on a hot summer day, you will need to go and buy a horse, pickup, trailer and rent pasture to support the horse. All this so that the very few who can afford this can have it all to themselves.

#3. We all pay taxes to support this land but this is an effort to only allow a minority to take over the use. And they are doing all this in the name of preservation. I don't believe that any of the responsible agate hunters or responsible game hunters or photographers or just the people who wish to witness the beauty of the sun rises and sun sets of the prairie are harming these lands at all. I do believe that their has been some damage done by the ATV's and the four wheel drive groups that entered these areas. I feel that there are other measures that can be put into place to stop this kind of abuse and I think that it must be stopped. I don't enjoy seeing roads going up over every hill out there. So I am sympathetic to this aspect. I personally have not seen as much damage as what is being reported although I have seen some. My concern is that the Forest Service has not exhausted all avenues to stopping the abuses prior to making a complete motorized wheel travel closure order.

Anne I could go on for quite some time on this issue but I think you probably get the point that I am trying to make here. I have seen this happen in Montana with the same initial approaches which leads people to believe that they will be able to continue on as usual but then a couple years down the road the rules change again and more restrictions are imposed. Does this sound familiar? i.e. the 1868 treaty. I believe that the occupants of this land then were decieved and manipulated back then and now I believe they are doing it to us again. Think about this for a minute. The people who pioneered this land are mostly gone now but some of them remain and if this measure is passed those people will no longer be allowed on this land just because of their physical condition, where as if they could be driven out onto the land that they worked hard on they would be able to reminisce the good old days.


At 1:30 PM, Blogger jerv said...

As unpopular as my views on this proposal will be with my fellow Fairburn collectors, I feel I have to say there needs to be roadless areas.
I believe there needs to be areas to explore and collect, for people who don't have or cannot afford ATV's and other high dollar 4x4's.
I enjoy loading up my backpack and going out for 2-3 days.
At times I get iritated after hiking for hours in the hot sun, thinking im in the outback when i get passed by an ATV or find tire tracks leading up to a favored rock bed.
At the moment the only area we collect agates that is even semi roadless is Indian Creek, and i feel that is not enough.

At 10:36 PM, Blogger Kevin said...

Thank you for your comments, I appreciate you spending the time to compose them. Athough I would like to ask you how you would feel if when you get to a point in your life when your physical condition no longer allows you to these 2-3 day excursions. Will you at that point be willing to hang up an enjoyable activity because a few people want to have it all to themselves in fashion that they prefer? For me, I don't think I could look all the older people that I have seen out there looking for agates in the eyes and tell them that they are no longer welcome on these areas. I would like to make it clear that at this point I would be able to do the extended treks also but I also know that there will come a day when I won't be able to and when I get to that point in life I think that it would be very disrespectful to here someone say to me that I can no longer visit these grounds in the only way that I can. I feel that there needs to be a shift in our society from the mindset of "Its all about Me" to "how can I help someone else along their path". This includes the ATV's and expensive 4X4's. How can they enjoy themselves in a way that is respectful of others? Just to name a couple. Think about it jerv, how would we respond if someone was offended by a horse loping past them as they were going to an agate bed. Or worse yet, getting to your favorite agate bed and having to smell horse crap. There are all kind of things we can be offended at but I hope and believe that we can all find a middle ground here and enjoy seeing others, as they enjoy the gifts that God gave to ALL of us.

At 7:11 PM, Blogger jerv said...

You have a good point, Odds are many of us will want access to these areas, without having to walk several miles.
However we both know its not only the Infirm or elderly that prowl the grasslands on their ATV's
Perhaps, if they were to designate and lable certain roads, (redshirt Creek)(Kern Beds)(Indian Creek)and(Limestone Bute) as designated roads, and allow no off road travel. This might appease both factions.
Granted the Wilderness proposal seems to me drastic. But without some sort of foresight, Im afraid many of those more remote areas will become as scarred with trails as RR Butes.

At 11:04 PM, Blogger Kevin said...

Hey jerv,
It was good to hear from you again and I would like to add that I had a conversation with a forest service official and he said that if they close the roads to the public, the F.S will still be driving their vehicles back into these areas. As well the ranchers that lease the grass will also be able to use their ATV's and P/U's to operate their herds. Now, I am quite certain that the cattle are not going to stay on the main trails, so am I to believe that the cattlemen are going to park their ATV's and P/U's on the main trail and hike back to wherever the cows are and herd them on foot back to the main trail? I KNOW NOT!
So with all this to chew on I think that there is another Agenda with this Wilderness Proposal thing. If the F.S. would impose penalties that would really sting instead of the fines that more represent a use fee I think that we would see the level of abuse come to a halt. And I am sure that there are many of us out there that would love to assist the F.S. with identifying the ones who want ot make it difficult for the rest of us. The part that I find interesting in this is that the F.S. hasn't tried to my knowlege any of these ideas. They have instantly gone to the most radical measure possible in my view. So What is the real agenda?
Thanks again,


At 5:19 PM, Blogger TJ said...

Hello; I am not sure if I am in the rite place...But I am a rock hound from Iowa and am coming out to the Blackhills in Oct. I would like to do some hunting for Fairburn agates & geodes. But I dont know where to find the best spots, can I get some help from other rockhounds? I am also a lil handicapped in that I can not walk long distances because of healt problems with my legs.
Thanks for any help.

At 5:55 AM, Blogger jerv said...

Hey Tj,

yeah a bit off topic. but since you asked, and there are no "general fairburn forums.. for accesability I would go to Kern beds (12m East of Fairburn)or Railroad Butes (10-15m East of Rapid City) in both areas a 4 wheel drive is handy.
For extreme easy access you could try asking permission at one of the gravel pits along the Cheyenne river or hunt the Cheyenne river itself.

At 9:16 PM, Blogger Robert said...

As to the statement that jerv mentioned, (For extreme easy access you could try asking permission at one of the gravel pits along the Cheyenne river or hunt the Cheyenne river itself.)Most all of the sandpits along the Cheyenne are now following steps with the Wasta Sand Plant. Have you been down there lately? There are large signs advising "No Rock Hunting" "No Fishing", "No Trespassing". It was not like that when the old man Pete Lien was alive. He knew the thrill of one finding a nice Fairburn and was a terrific guy to visit with. Now that he is gone, so is the friendly attitudes. It seems like all the respect for the fellow "others" are and will be going out the window and being replaced by greed for the almighty $$$$$$$$. God help us!

At 11:57 PM, Blogger Lester Hunt said...

I have been coming to this area for 25 years and I believe this "wilderness" idea is one of the worst I have ever heard. I blog about it here, and plan to put up more material soon. I am convinced that the idea has no rational purpose other than to keep rockhounds out of this place.

At 11:35 AM, Blogger Caius said...


I recently went out to the agate beds near Fairburn for this first time. I have to say I noticed a lot of ATV tracks in and around that area. We had great fun hunting around. We didn't find much but that wasn't really the point.

We drove into the beds, but on reflection I think thats probably a bad idea. Too much traffic on that road is going to eat it up and make it impassable to everyone.

Where I'm from, they started a scheme whereby 4x4s were not allowed unless you applied for a permit. Permits were free, but only issued to the infirm and elderly. For the rest of us the short hike into those particular beds will do us good.

Third thing: the harder access will increase the value of your agate :)
One other point. When I went up there, someone had left the gate open. As it was my first time up there, I didn't notice it was already open (feel kinda guilty that I didn't see it and shut it). These guys leaving the gates open must be a constant pain to the ranchers and I suspect that its the drivers rather than the walkers doing it.

Don't get me wrong, I love driving on dirt roads like this, but I don't want to ruin it for everyone.

At 10:49 PM, Blogger Lester Hunt said...

The worst single feature of the proposal to make Indian Creek a no-vehicle area is that, though it would make large areas virtually inaccessible to rockhounds and other recreational visitors, it would do nothing at all to keep out the cows that have defastated the vegetation and covered huge areas with their stinking crap. The proposal even says that they could come in with backhoes and other machinery to dig up the land! This obnoxious proposal would only, only serve to keep out the recreational users who, comparative, are harmless.

At 6:27 AM, Blogger agatefreak said...

This is a very touchy subject among agate hunters. I believe that hadicapped and disabled people should be able to drive in and enjoy the thrill of the hunt. We do not want to cut off the people who are not able bodied but still love agates. As for me I love to use the 4x4, but i understand that it tears up the landscape. I do my best not to get off of the already existing trails. As for the areas that are already no travel? Well, I went to walmart and bought a mountain bike and it gets used alot. A little exercise will not hurt any of us, and it will make that worth more to you and your collection. I believe that we all need to keep in mind that agate hunting is a privilege not a right. Carry out what you carry in!!

At 6:05 PM, Blogger Deer Creek Gems said...

Good evening.
The day must come when we the people can run this USA, and not some Government dumb- - -.
They are under the opinion they are Gods workers and will rule this world. I am 73 and I cannot buy a Horse to make some stupid Gov. employee, happy.
The mess is out of control and I have not a clue how to stop it. Government control is here and us old folks have LET. Them run and Ruin our world. I know it is not going to CHANGE except for the worse.The Gov. is now by the Gov. And for the Gov. Not for the people.or by the people, Go rock hunting while you can as they will stop you soon.Leon Hughes, Del Rio, Texas.

At 1:57 AM, Blogger GuaranteedConnections said...

Dave Bintliff says
What is all this "I know that vehicles tear up the landscape garbage". This is such submissive posture. The fact is folks WE ALREADY HAVE LAWS IN PLACE THAT FORBID OFFROAD TRAVEL. Look it up.
These rules have already been established by the National Grasslands. Everyone stop trying to sound so elegant and stop being ignorant. The rules and regulations for this PUBLIC land use is already in place. Man this ruffles my feathers. You see when you give in a little here and a little there pretty soon you have nothing left to give. Enforce the rules on the books and problem solved. As for Railroad Buttes, it is not the Rock hound who is tearing this land up. It is the ATV
folks who made their own trails against the rules. Where was the enforcement of the rules? I have crawled these Grasslands and Badlands since I was old enough to remember, 39 years, and will not give up the right to pass it to my children the way it was passed to me. Old people taught me how to hunt agates and where to go. The roads are not going away only your right to use the public is.Federal law says no commercial ventures on Public lands. Arent cattle producers commercial? It is not about saving an area it is about BIG INTEREST control. The Grasslands Office did not come up with this idea a preservation group did. HMMMM!
If you havent caught the drift by now you wont!!!

At 4:15 PM, Blogger treeow said...

95 % of the people out there are looking for rocks, not out there to go crazy and tear things up, they are usually heading for a destination either known or unknown doesn't matter most people stick tot he roads and if they do pull off its to get over to the pockets of rock not to do cookies and see how much grass they make fly. I think its a touchy subject, and I'm not against keeping people in line, but I am against government control and trying to protect everything. Pretty soon they will tell us when and where to go to the bathroom. I think the cows other live stock do way more damage to the prairie and agate areas than people do, and besides out there the way it erodes so fast, the tracks if any are gone soon after. I don't know what the answer is, but I will say I will be very turned off if I can't even drive out on the roads to get out there to hunt for rocks or camp or what have you. I know I pick up my trash and usually other peoples trash to help keep things like they were.


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