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September 30, 2023 – Woolly Bully

Brenda was sick today so I had to go it alone. Here is what I learned and experienced.

South Dakota Agriculture

This morning we received a presentation from a woman who owns a local ranch/farm. She provided this information:

  • South Dakota is one of 11 states with only one area code – 605.
  • Cows outnumber people in SD.
  • USDA just now is working on standards for organic food.
  • There are 4 million cattle, 500 thousand sheep, and 5 million hogs in South Dakota.
  • Most of the crops are grown in the eastern half of the state because they have twice the rainfall of the west.
  • Agriculture is the state’s #1 income producer. Tourism is 2nd.
  • Cattle wrap their tongues around the grass. They don’t bare the ground as other animals such as horses and sheep do. They reduce the chances of a forest fire.
  • All of the meat sold in the United States is antibiotic-free. It is illegal to sell meat with antibiotics.
  • Ranches are being asked to sell carbon credits to corporations that pollute. This ranch/farm doesn’t.
  • Cows are less than 2% of the emissions in the US. They become carbon neutral from what they put back into the earth in 7 years.
  • They use dart guns to deliver medicine and sedate. They never rope the cattle.
  • Bales of hay that we see in the field are fed to cows.
  • A big rain in May broke a 3-year drought.
  • If the winter is bad, a female buffalo just absorbs her calf. That’s why there aren’t baby buffaloes every year.
  • She says that Angus beef is not better than other beef. Good marketing has boosted the Angus name and price.
  • Bill Gates owns the most farmland in the US. He farms organic. Production under organic is less than non-organic per acre.
  • All natural beef means no hormones added, and the cattle were not vaccinated for diseases. This designation is different from organic.
  • Beef has most of the nutrients that you need. People consume too much meat. A proper serving size of meat is the size of the palm of your hand.

Forest Management

The Forest Service and the National Park Service have similarities and differences. Both are large landowners. Both work for the preservation and enjoyment of natural resources.

The main missions of the Park Service are unimpaired resources, recreation and enjoyment, and emotional renewal. Hunting is not allowed in the parks with a few exceptions.

The Forest Service does a bit of the above but more so focuses on timber harvesting, mining, and cattle grazing and also manages for resource values.

The Forest Service is under the Department of Agriculture. The National Park Service is under the Department of the Interior.

The Forest Service owns the land but has no law enforcement except for crimes against the resources. The Park Service owns the land and is able to enforce all of the laws. They have their own police force. When a national park overlaps an Indian reservation, there can be as many as three police forces cooperating – Park Service police, the Bureau of Indian Affairs Police, and the tribal police.

The Park Service has a strong mandate to run their own emergency medical services.

The Forest Service and the National Park Service have different forest management philosophies. The Park Service will try to replicate the natural look of a forest when thinning while a forest thinned by the Forest Service can look like a tree farm with less underbrush. Four forest management tools can be used by the Forest Service: Timber harvesting, thinning, planned fires, and natural fires. The Park Service doesn’t allow timber harvesting, but they use the other tools.

Do you remember Smokey Bear – “Only you can prevent forest fires.” When I was growing up, we heard that admonition often. Now South Dakota has 4 times the volume of standing timber as would be here naturally because of the influence of Smokey Bear. The entire forest is too thick. So we have the potential for a large fire because we haven’t had past small fires. Both the Forest Service and Park Service do what they can with managed small fires, but their fires are never capable of doing what nature can do.

Mountain Pine Bark beetles are native – not good or bad. They can do only a little damage to a healthy forest. They can do major damage to the dense type of forest that we have now. Warmer winters also allow them to thrive.

Mammoth Park

In 1974 Phil Anderson started construction for a housing development in Hot Springs, SD and discovered mammoth skeletons. He ended up stopping construction and sold the site at cost to a non-profit organization. It is now an active paleontological dig.

Sixty-one mammoth remains have been uncovered: 58 are Columbian mammoths and 3 are wooly mammoths, which are more lean and have curved tusks. This is the world’s largest mammoth research facility. Woollys were 9 feet tall; Columbians stood 11 to 12 feet tall. How long did mammoths live – an average of 60 to 80 years.

See the complete skeleton of this Columbian Mammoth.

Here is a joke: Why did the mammoth cross the road? Because there were no chickens in the ice age.

Mammoths became concentrated here because more than 26,000 years ago during the Pleistocene Age a sinkhole suddenly collapsed. The warm spring percolating from the bottom filled it in to create an ideal watering hole for animals to quench their thirst. Unfortunately, the sinkhole proved to be too slippery and steep for the animals to get out, thus creating a death trap for large Columbian and Woolly Mammoths. They were good swimmers but not good climbers.

The mammoth skeletons are very fragile so the researchers have sprayed preservative on them. The DNA has been leached out of the bones by 95 degree water in the area. They have not found any remnants of hair or skin due to the effects of that warm water.

All skeletons here are male. Males were kicked out of the herd at a certain age.
Their tusks were held up by tendons, muscles, and tissues rather than by bone.

Mammoths were related to elephants and had 6 sets of teeth like elephants. Each set of teeth became progressively larger to support their need for more food as they grew.

The researchers have fun naming the mammoth skeletons that they find. They named one Marie Antoinette. When they discovered that all of the skeletons are male, they renamed it Murray Antoinette. Another mammoth is named Napoleon Bone-A-Part.

Other animals such as a Giant Sloth and a Sabre Tooth Tiger were also discovered here.

Wind Cave National Park

We stopped at Wind Cave National Park. At 155 miles long Wind Cave is the third longest in the USA and the seventh longest in the world. It was the first national park cave in the world, established by Teddy Roosevelt in 1903. Researchers believe that there are several times more cave to be discovered because of the volume of air that comes out. 700 to 800 bison live here in Wind Cave National Park. The cave has been closed most of the summer because the elevator is broken.

Native Americans discovered the Wind Cave because of the sound coming out of it. Lakota oral tradition speaks of how the first bison and humans emerged from this deeply spiritual place.

Today is our last day in South Dakota. We go home tomorrow.

In the Lakota language there is no expression to say “good bye.” Instead, Lakota speakers express “farewells” in a variety of ways, must common being Tókša akhé (see you later, until next time).

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