Its focus has largely been trying to understand fungal relationships with ponderosa pine, quaking aspen, cougars and the effects of fire on the Black Hills and western South Dakota before and after European settlement. Covering how livestock grazing, its dependence of antibiotics, glyphosate and Carbaryl have altered the Black Hills in ways that have not been fully researched remains the mission.
So, it's gratifying when one the state's best storytellers reinforces the work.
Ruffed grouse are the most delicate, delightfully flavored of birds. Better than pheasant, even. But finding them means a real hunt in the Black Hills that starts with hunting for aspen. There just isn’t that much of it around anymore, because of the relentlessly growing, expanding ponderosa pine forest. Ponderosa pine have been assisted in their takeover of the Black Hills by generations of wildfire control and forest-management policies that have benefited the commercially valuable pines while hurting aspen and other deciduous trees and shrubs that don’t advance commerce but benefit overall forest plant diversity and the wildlife populations it serves. An aspen environment is something else entirely, populated with ferns and berries and shrubs and seeds and buds, and attracting the kind of wildlife diversity that is missing in forests crowded with one encroaching pine after the other. As aspen go in the Black Hills, so go ruffed grouse. If you’re trying to reduce a certain wildlife population, as state Game, Fish & Parks Department pros have done with the mountain lion in the Black Hills, you aim for additive mortality. [Kevin Woster]The reasoning is hardly mysterious: it's all about the money hunting and subsidized grazing bring to the South Dakota Republican Party depleting watersheds and smothering habitat under single-party rule.
As this is being typed the GOP-owned Game, Fish and Plunder Commission is planning a hunting season on cougars in the Black Hills. During last season Republican hunters killed 30 lions in the Black Hills under rules based on data long past actionable.
South Dakota's experiment introducing an exotic species, the Chinese Ring-necked Pheasant, has just not been able to keep up breeding a bird unable to adapt to the state's brutal weather and climate science-denying legislature.
Non-native species being stocked by the state in Lake Sharpe and the other dams on the Missouri are forcing a red moocher state and the US Fish and Wildlife Service to keep going through the motions pretending native paddlefish can survive the runaway zebra and quagga mussel disasters.
Unless the West embraces rewilding on portions of the Missouri River basin the clamor for logging public lands and the water wars will clog the courts leaving violent armed vigilantism to settle disputes as the wildfire cycle begins anew.
There are many things on which Woster and this blog disagree but his writing has been an inspiration and our love for the Black Hills remains a favorite intersection for a high five.