Western South Dakota's Only Ranch Station

Public can comment at first reading of Meade County shooting range ordinance

STURGIS, SD – A big hit to his tax bill is what rancher Matt Kammerer sees in his future. And he says that all Meade County residents will see it too, if a 400-acre shooting range is built as planned. For the past two years, South Dakota Game Fish & Parks (SDGFP) have been laying the groundwork for a $10 million gun range, located just north of Rapid City near the intersection of Elk Vale Road and Elk Creek Road in Meade County.

A first reading of a Meade County shooting range ordinance will be held Tues., Nov. 8 at the Meade County Commission building during its regular meeting. See  https://go.boarddocs.com/sd/meade/Board.nsf/Public for agenda and time as meeting nears.

“If you’re thinking it’s only a few ranchers opposing this,” says Kammerer, “everybody should be worried about what a $10 million gun range in the county’s back yard will do to their taxes. It includes continually damaged infrastructure, increasing crime, noise and natural resource (groundwater) pollution, the risk to human safety and increasing wildfires and the related costs to address all of that.”

Rainbow Bible Ranch, held annually on the Lonetree Ranch in southeast Meade County, is less than three miles from the planned $10 million shooting range. Courtesy Photo

Landowners adjacent to and near the site brought those concerns and more to the Meade County Commission – before the SDGFP thought to meet with the commission to discuss its plans.

That prompted a draft letter from the commissioners to the Governor, which in return led to SDGFP getting on the agenda of commission meetings. Those meetings have led to more questions such as who is going to pay for the construction, maintenance and staffing of what the Governor claims will be the biggest gun range in the United States.

The land for the shooting range has already been purchased by the Parks and Wildlife Foundation for around $1 million with the agreement that it be sold to the SDFGP for that price plus acquisition costs.

“All Meade County taxpayers need to understand that revenues from this project will filter mostly to Pennington County and Rapid City. We, as taxpayers in Meade County where all the expenses will be incurred, are going to be left holding the bag and paying for the whole works.”

The issue – in part – came before last year’s legislature.  Opponents were able to fend off efforts by the SDGFP to obtain funding to begin building the shooting range. Then, organizers unearthed South Dakota Codified Law 21-10-32 that defines the sport shooting ranges that local governments may regulate to include “any shooting range located on public or private land or operated by a private entity or by a public entity, and includes a law enforcement shooting range.”

Bringing the statute to the commission’s attention, opponents hoped the commission would use it to stop any further development of the shooting range, Instead, the Commission began drafting an ordinance for building and operating a shooting range in Meade County. Kammerer sees it this way.

“I think it was a blatant disregard by the commission to Meade County residents who will all be affected by this.” He added, “But I don’t think the commissioners are really for this.  I think they’re afraid of retaliation from a governor who is bragging about having a $10 million shooting range for tourism.”

The first reading of the shooting range ordinance will be held Tues., Nov. 8 at the Meade County Commission building during its regular meeting. Kammerer hopes people turn out.

“If we had 100 people in the room, it might convince the county commission to take another look at a project that, if it’s to be built, maintained and staffed, should be located in Pennington County where revenues will flow to, not Meade County where all the expenses will have to be paid for by taxpayers, no matter where they live in the county.”

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