SOUTH DAKOTA, WYOMING
fight a railroad
Ranchers living on the prairie
of southwestern South Dakota and northeastern Wyoming say they're
The Dakota, Minnesota and
Eastern railroad wants to extend its line 144 miles from South
Dakota into Wyoming to the Powder River Basin's coal mines. About
54 miles of the new line would cut across private lands, in an area
that looks much as it did when General George Custer rode through
the Black Hills in the 1800s.
"This is an area of
pristine open space that is precious to us," says Nancy Darnell,
spokeswoman for 350 ranching families who are fighting the
The rail line would block antelope
migration routes, she says, cut off water and shelter sources for
cattle, and slice through two important fossil-bearing formations.
In some cases, the new rail line would pass between houses and
Support for the railroad line is
coming from economically depressed towns such as Newcastle, a
railroad town tucked up against the southwestern edge of the Black
Hills, but most ranchers have vowed to fight.
Darnell's group, Mid-States Coalition for
Progress, has teamed with environmental groups. They want a federal
environmental impact statement started on the effect of the
railroad on public and private lands. "There are some things more
important than economic development for the greed of one company,"
Nonetheless, DM&E; president
Kevin Schieffer says, "It's been my experience that in all cases
such as this where a railroad faces opposition, the railroad
usually gets built."