To see the world, don't look through the window...
walk around from behind it. - Anonymous

Black Hills Resource Conservation and Development (BHRC&D)

BlackHills_RC&D_logoBlack Hills Resource Conservation and Development (BHRC&D) encourages and improves the capability of volunteer locally elected and civic leaders in the RC&D Area to plan and carry out projects for resource conservation and community development.  Our board is made up of local volunteers who represent sponsoring organizations.  We provide assistance to those groups in the following counties:

  • Pennington
  • Fall River
  • Custer
  • Meade
  • Butte
  • Lawrence

The Board volunteers their time to address important issues in their communities and to build a better life for themselves and others.  The development of local leadershop and community pride is a key part of our projects and success.

Black Hills RC&D is a non-profit 501 (c) 3.


Mission Statement

  1. Provide information and planning services to the public to promote land conservation.
  1. Provide information and planning services to the public to promote community development.
  1. Provide information and planning services to the public to promote water management in the Black Hills RC&D area.

RC&D activities as outlined in the council’s “area plan” address land conservation, water management, community development, and land management issues.  Examples may include:

  • Controlling erosion and sedimentation
  • Conserving and improving the quality of water, including irrigation and rural water supplies
  • Repairing and improving reservoirs
  • Improving agricultural water management
  • Developing resource-based industries
  • Protecting rural industries and people from natural resource hazards
  • Developing adequate rural water and waste disposal systems
  • Improving opportunities for recreation and tourism
  • Improving the quality of rural housing
  • Providing adequate health and education facilities
  • Satisfying essential transportation and communication needs
  • Promoting food security, economic development, and education
  • Promoting energy conservation, including the production of energy crops
  • Protecting agricultural land, as appropriate, from conversion to other uses
  • Creating, improving, and protecting fish and wildlife habitat

In order to facilitate the RC&D collaborative process to achieve goals and meet intended purposes, applicants for technical/financial assistance should discuss the feasibility of the request prior to introducing it before the RC&D Board.  RC&D Board members usually ask the following questions to facilitate the evaluation of the request.

–  What kind of assistance is being requested – technical or financial?

–  Who is seeking the council’s assistance – an individual or an organization?

–  Is the applicant a member of Black Hills RC&D council?

–  What kind of activity to be projected/or accomplished?

–  When and where is the requested assistance needed?

–  What kind of local support (financial or in-kind) is already provided or pledged?

–  Are supporting documents and necessary information from the local community (City, County, Tribe, Town, Group etc.) available in case a grant writing process is needed?

–  Has the applicant made contacts with specialized contractors or organizations?

–  Are the project costs, construction designs, and construction permits available?

–  Are RC&D Board Members and Applicants Genuinely committed to work together to support the initiative after the project is approved by the council?

Examples of RC&D projects include: creating a park, building a greenway trail, promoting local business, preserving a historical site, correcting soil erosion problems, providing a community facility, working on water quality issues, and watershed planning to name a few; our goal is to work on natural resources and community projects!


History of BHRC&D


The original draft application for the Black Hills RC&D was sent to the Soil Conservation Service in Washington DC in March 1966. The primary source of information was the Black Hills Area Resources Study Report. This study was conducted by agencies of the department of Agriculture and the Department of Interior during 1965-1966. The study pointed out quite specifically that all major segments of the Black Hills economy depend on and use the same basic resources, land and water. The solution being “true multiple uses must be practiced, now and in the future.”

The sponsors, all from South Dakota, for this application were the Conservation Districts of Custer, East Pennington, Elk Creek, Lawrence, Pennington and Tri-County. Other sponsors were the Boards of County Commissioners from Custer, Lawrence, Meade and Pennington.

After many public meetings in the Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming, the final application was developed with input from state agencies, “Grass Roots” citizens, and other groups that would be involved. Soil Conservation Service (NRCS) personnel provided guidance and help from the local, state and Washington levels.

The area involved some twelve and one-half million acres in nine counties, six in South Dakota and three in Wyoming, making it the largest RC&D project in the nation.

The Congressional delegation and governors of both states supported the application and all major towns in the Black Hills sent letters supporting the project even though they were not sponsors. The sponsors were:

Black Hills Conservancy Sub-District.

Boards of County Commissioners:

South Dakota (Butte County, Fall River County, Meade County, Custer County, Lawrence County, and Pennington County).
Wyoming (Crook County, Niobrara County and Weston County).
Conservation Districts: South Dakota (Butte, Elk Creek, Tri-County, Custer, Fall River, Pennington, East Pennington, and Lawrence.
Soil and Water Conservation Districts: Wyoming (Beaver Skull, Red Water, Niobrara, Buffalo-Belle, and Devils Tower).

After reading hundreds of letters and minutes of meetings that led up to the formation of the Black Hills RC&D, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the Black Hills Conservancy Sub-District and its able manager Ed Glassgow, who served as a lead group to pull people from two states together. Ed was also the first Secretary-Treasurer. The following letter from Ed announcing the first official meeting shows the enthusiasm and pride of accomplishment of the group.


P.O. Box 1692
Rapid City, South Dakota

October 9, 1968

Dear Conservationist:

Good News!! The Black Hills Area Resource Conservation and Development Project is now authorized, funded and staffed. On September 24, Secretary of Agriculture, Orville Freeman, signed the authorization and directed the specific cooperation of each agency of the Department of Agriculture. A few days later an initial amount of funds was forthcoming and just last Friday the official announcement was made by Vince Shally, that our friend Jim Larsen, Work Unit Conservationist from Sundance, will be out Project Coordinator. We are very happy for these developments and especially that Jim will be the Coordinator. Jim has spent 15 years at Sundance assisting the three Soil Conservation Districts in Crook County. Jim is well acquainted and well established in this area and has been following our project from its very beginning and has had an active part since the first of the year so he will hit the ground with his feet in motion.

These developments lend a whole new dimension to the importance of our meeting on Tuesday, October 15, 1968 in the Extension Building on the Pennington County Fairgrounds in Rapid City, South Dakota. The meeting will begin at 10:00 A.M. and another session of the full committee at 2:00 P.M. It is expected we will have a number of important people at this meeting.

We have a healthy “Tiger by the Tail” and it appears as though somehow it has been turpentined and it is extremely vital that everyone put their shoulder to the wheel at this time. We now have only 6 months to develop the best initial work plan ever submitted for this – the largest RC&D Project in the Nation. For these reasons, we will expect to see you at 10:00 A.M. Tuesday, October 15, here in Rapid City

Ed Glassgow, Secretary-treasurer


Black Hills Area RC&D Steering Committee

The first meeting was chaired by Stanton E. Selway from Deadwood, who had been chair of the Steering Committee. Mr. Selway continued as chairman until January 1982. Items discussed were: (1) The need of coordinated zoning and planning for the nine county area. (2) The need to support the South Dakota Water Development Association proposal to establish a remote sensing institute within the state. (3) The need for all sponsor representatives to attend each meeting. (4) Noxious weed problems on public lands and its adverse effect on private lands. Do any of these sound familiar?

In the months that followed as the Council became more organized, many project proposals were discussed and/or submitted. They included the possibility of a monorail system in the hills, noxious weed control, clarification of the use of chemicals in close proximity to streams, lakes and dams, custom mineral ore processing, sewage systems, pipelines, timber improvement and marketing resources, hydrologic studies and well improvements, just to name a few. In fact, by February 1969 over 200 proposals had been submitted.

It appears funding for most projects came from government agencies. At one time a meeting in Rapid City of 75 representatives of federal, state, and local governments met to discuss the role each of them would play in contributing to the RC&D program. Project work plans were developed and handbooks for sponsors were issued and have been updated through the years.

Major changes in the Council through the years until today include a by-law change in 1991 to include municipalities. In 1992 the Council was incorporated as a non-profit organization and in 1993 another by-law change included as sponsors, West Dakota Water Development District, Water Project Districts, Sanitary District, Subdivisions of State Government including Boards, Commissions or agencies thereof or created pursuant to state law, Non-profit Corporations organized to promote any of such members including Non-profit Economic Development Corporations and Rural Electric Cooperatives.

In February 1991 the size of the Black Hills RC&D was reduced when a new RC&D in Wyoming was established taking in the counties of Crook, Niobrara, and Weston. This move was welcomed by all concerned and made the management of funds, time and travel much more efficient.