January 15, 2022
WALL, SD – Following what they deemed their first victory in the National Surplus Management Agency (NSMA) era in Maine in December, protestors turned their focus to the newest project in the heartland.
In December, after a camp of protestors refused to vacate Acadia National Park to make way for the NSMA to begin work on an urban development project, the project was put on hold.
While officials with the NSMA and the White House denied that the protestors had anything to do with their decision to pause the project, the protestors were not convinced their efforts were for naught.
“What we learned last month was that we have more power than we think,” said Graham Hodgson, the co-founder of America Needs Parks and an outspoken activist for the cause. “It’s important to make them understand that we do not want our parks stripped any longer.”
Around 8 p.m. on Sunday night, about three weeks after the decision to hold the Acadia project, NSMA Director Jeff McIntosh announced on the agency’s site that their next project would be to turn Badlands National Park in Western South Dakota into a working mine.
In the post, McIntosh announced that the unveiling ceremony would take place Monday morning.
The fast turnaround between NSMA projects could signal a change of pace for the agency, which has until now, been very deliberate with their announcements. Critics, however, think that the fast pace is a diversion.
“What do you think?” laughed Hodgson when asked if the NSMA is trying to surprise opposition groups. “They were embarrassed by their loss in Maine and they are trying to right the ship quickly to change the narrative.”
Hodgson indicated that America Needs Parks will have a presence in South Dakota on Monday morning.
While he expressed confidence about this fact, the Badlands are a long way from Maine and just about anywhere. Lacking a nearby metropolitan area, the thousands of protestors that gathered in Maine could likely dwindle. Hodgson disagreed, however.
“Our first protest was in Wyoming, and we had tons of people there fighting,” said Hodgson. “And, remember the Dakota Access Pipeline protests [in Eastern North Dakota]? That was in as remote an area as Badlands. We will have people there. We are already on our way.”
Hodgson said he expects similar crowds to the Acadia protest despite the desolate location and the sub-zero January temperatures on the plains.
While the NSMA may see considerable pushback on yet another project, the White House expressed on Saturday that mining the Badlands will get the people in South Dakota back to work.
“On Monday we will deliver our campaign promise to get people back to work in the heart of our country,” said President Melissa Glenn in an early morning Snapchat address from the Oval Office.
She went on to hint at her presence at the ceremony. “I can’t wait to see our hard working men and women in Glenn territory on Monday.”
The traditionally conservative South Dakota was one of the states that helped re-elect Glenn, although narrowly. While they supported her on Election Day last year due to her economic,
pro-jobs agenda, some are skeptical that this is the best way.
“Jobs are great, but the Badlands is one of very best tourist attractions we have in South Dakota,” said Jerry Jacobson, a diner owner in Wall, South Dakota. “If we are trying to bring money into the area, let’s keep selling these attractions, not rip them down and gut them.”
Across the counter sat Rick Halvorson, a pawn shop owner in town, who disagreed with Jacobson.
“I know the Badlands are nice, but they don’t get visitors like they used to,” he said. “I’d rather see jobs for all the folks here whose wallets are hurting.”
Public sentiment is split about the potential project, largely because the details are still murky.
A timeline for implementing the mine as well as acknowledgment of what, exactly, will be mined were both absent from the announcement. While the White House did not respond for a request for comment from Glenn about those details, they did say she is scheduled to be in South Dakota on Monday.