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Senate OKs spending $2.5M on western South Dakota shooting range

A plan to spend $2.5 million on a public shooting range in a rural area east of Rapid City has drawn complaints from area landowners but strong support from the region's recreational shooters.

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The South Dakota Senate.
Christopher Vondracek / Forum News Service
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PIERRE, S.D. — A shooting range that faced long odds earlier in the South Dakota legislative session has reclaimed momentum, passing on a 28-7 vote out of the Senate on Tuesday, Feb. 22.

Under Senate Bill 175 , the state would send $2.5 million to the Department of Game, Fish and Parks to buy up land in rural Meade County and develop a public shooting range.

Prime sponsor Sen. David Johnson, R-Rapid City, on Tuesday called the proposed shooting range the "finest, largest" outdoor range ever constructed in the state. And he dismissed concerns, including those from nearby landowners, that the range would bring noise and perhaps unwanted activity. He called the concerns "smoke and mirrors."

"This funding would support a new firearm range to serve western South Dakota and economically benefit the entire state," said Johnson.

The range had stumbled initially at a public hearing that faced loud opposition from nearby landowners, including a Bible ranch within a few miles of the property.

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On Tuesday, Sen. Reynold Nesiba, D-Sioux Falls, noted that the land was yet to be purchased and an environmental review had yet to be completed.

"I don't think it's smoke and mirrors when we're talking about building a project that we don't have title on and we're relying upon federal dollars that require an environmental assessment," said Nesiba.

But Sen. John Wiik, R-Big Stone City, argued such an environmental review couldn't be completed until after the land was purchased.

"My kids have just switched night-and-day once we got them into shooting sports," said Wiik. "They're not interested in athletics. They're not interested in running and playing. But you put a gun in their hand, and give them some training, and give them the opportunity to excel, and all of a sudden they've got friends, they're competing, and they're doing great things."

A number of other legislators also stood to suggest the noise and safety complaints of living or playing adjacent to a shooting range were overblown.

"I would much rather have one of these in my backyard than a wind tower or a hog barn," said Sen. Joshua Klumb, R-Mitchell.

Regarding the sound of shooting, Klumb added, "That sound to me is the sound of freedom."

The measure now moves to the House of Representatives.

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Christopher Vondracek is the South Dakota correspondent for Forum News Service. Contact Vondracek at cvondracek@forumcomm.com , or follow him on Twitter: @ChrisVondracek .

MORE FROM CHRISTOPHER VONDRACEK:
The state's biggest political leaders have touted inbound migration, so-called "blue state refugees" who flooded South Dakota. But the biggest driver of partisan races this coming summer and fall appears to be a redistricting process, log-jamming Republicans in primaries and opening up new turf for Democrats.

Christopher Vondracek covers South Dakota news for Forum News Service. Email him at cvondracek@forumcomm.com or follow him on Twitter at @ChrisVondracek.
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