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Rapid City man driving off-road sparked 2,600-acre wildfire in national grassland, federal charges allege

Driving off of designated roadways is prohibited in the 600,000 acres of grassland, unless an off-highway vehicle is used.

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Buffalo Gap National Grassland is composed of two non-contiguous sections of southwestern South Dakota, featuring nearly 600,000 acres of prairies.
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service
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HOT SPRINGS, S.D. — A Rapid City man is facing federal charges after he allegedly sparked a large wildfire on federal lands due to his reckless driving in 2021.

Dillon Rose, 22, of Rapid City, was indicted May 19 by a federal grand jury on three charges, including causing a fire, using a vehicle off designated roadways and careless or reckless driving.

On July 20, he pleaded not guilty to each of the charges during an appearance at the U.S. District Courthouse in Rapid City.

The charges stem from March 6, 2021, when Rose, while inside the bounds of Buffalo Gap National Grassland and in Custer County, allegedly drove his vehicle off a designated roadway and sparked a fire that burned 2,600 acres of preserved grassland.

Buffalo Gap National Grassland consists of two non-contiguous sections of land, comprised of nearly 600,000 acres of southwestern South Dakota's prairies.

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A map of the Buffalo Gap National Grasslands.
Map courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service

With one developed campground in the grassland, visitors are encouraged to utilize the entirety of the area. Driving off designated roads into the grasslands, however, is prohibited, unless traveling in an off-highway vehicle.

The indictment followed an investigation conducted by the U.S. Forest Service, who oversees the grasslands.

If convicted, Rose could be sentenced to serve up to six months in federal custody and ordered to pay a $15,000 fine. Restitution may also be ordered, at the discretion of a U.S. District Court judge.

After entering his plea, Rose was released on bond until a trial, which has been set to begin in Rapid City on Sept. 27.

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A South Dakota native, Hunter joined Forum Communications Company as a reporter for the Mitchell (S.D.) Republic in June 2021. After over a year in Mitchell, he moved to Milwaukee, where he now works as a digital reporter for Forum News Service, focusing on regional news that impacts the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
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