Members of Class X of the South Dakota Agricultural and Rural Leadership (SDARL) Program improved their knowledge of the public-private partnerships that are vital to the state’s economic development efforts during a seminar in the Black Hills region of western South Dakota held June 10-13. The class toured Ellsworth Air Force Base, U.S. National Forestry and Bureau of Land Management properties, and saw operations at the Wharf Mine and Sanford research facility at Lead, S.D.

The four-day seminar began with a guided tour of Ellsworth Air Force Base and an on-board tour of a B-1 bomber stationed there. Speakers discussed plans to double the size of the base in the next 10 years with the introduction of the B-21 stealth bomber. The day concluded with a visit to Sheep Mountain in the South Dakota Badlands, and a discussion of grazing rights, featuring SDARL Class V graduate Frank Bloom, SDARL Class VII graduate Silvia Christen, and guest rancher Scott Edoff.

Economic development was the topic of day two, beginning with an overview of community issues in Deadwood and Lead, S.D., by Economic Development Director Kevin Wagner. The group received an overview and tour of mineralized gold mining at the Coeur Wharf site, where participants learned how gold and minerals are being extracted and harvested to be sold for fine jewelry and used in precision industrial technology. Constance Walters, Communications Director at the Sanford Underground Research Facility discussed the conversion of the Homestake Mine to an advanced physics experiment laboratory, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Energy.

The third day of the seminar was devoted to improving professional presentation skills. SDARL CEO Don Norton and SDSU English Instructor Kay Norton, from Brookings, S.D., worked with the class in two groups to develop and deliver speeches and multi-media presentations.


The topic of the final day of the seminar was harvesting and processing timber using environmentally sustainable methods. Ben Wudke from the Black Hills Forest Association and Paul Pearson from Neiman Enterprises took the group to the site of “Case 1,” the first timber sale authorized in the Black Hills more than 100 years ago. The class watched a modern timber harvest operation, then went to a saw mill to see the raw timber converted to lumber at the Spearfish Forest Products Saw Mill. The entire process employs hundreds of workers while providing a better natural growing habitat among the pine trees in the Black Hills.


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