Excerpts from recent South Dakota editorials

The Associated PressJuly 9, 2014 

Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, July 2, 2014

VA must preserve sanitarium

The recent listing of the VA's Battle Mountain Sanitarium on the National Trust of Historic Place's 2014 Most Endangered Historic Places probably won't be enough to alter the U.S. Department of Veterans Affair's proposal to close its Hot Springs VA Medical Center and relocate to Rapid City.

Despite repeated calls for the Black Hills VA Healthcare System to delay its plans for the Hot Springs VA and its broken promise to consider alternatives, the VA has initiated the process of closing its Hot Springs facilities by scheduling hearings for the legally required Environmental Impact Statement.

Despite the recent EIS hearings, the VA has repeatedly demonstrated how little it cares about what Black Hills residents or the veterans it serves think about its plans to abandon Hot Springs and build new facilities in Rapid City.

We believe that the VA needs to explain what it plans to do with the Battle Mountain Sanitarium. In its initial proposal, the VA said it would explore repurposing its campus.

What does that mean? The VA hasn't explained what it will do with the medical center.

Because the sanitarium — which is more than 100 years old — is on the National Register of Historic Places, repurposing it for other uses could be problematic. That could be what prompted the NTHP to put the building on its endangered historic places list.

The VA has claimed that it is too expensive to continue its operations in Hot Springs. Closing the Hot Springs medical center and building new facilities in Rapid City and Hot Springs will save money, the VA claimed in a post-decision economic analysis that conveniently supports a plan that had already been written.

The NTHP disputes that analysis. It released a study in November that criticized the VA for its repeated practice of abandoning historic medical facilities it owns in favor of building new hospitals. The National Trust's report found that building new facilities is 20 percent to 30 percent more expensive than the cost to remodel existing medical care centers because of the need to acquire land, construction costs and purchasing new equipment.

"The VA is proving to be poor stewards of its historic buildings," said David J. Brown, NTHP's executive vice president and chief preservation officer. "Our hope is that with continued support and discussion, we can engage the VA with its proposal to shutter this healing center and that there will be improved consideration for this historic medical facility."

We still believe that remaining in Hot Springs is the only option that makes economic sense for the Black Hills VA.

Any decision by the VA that involves moving its medical care facilities to Rapid City must include a detailed plan that preserves the Battle Mountain Sanitarium. Boarding up its century-old medical campus and letting it crumble by neglect is not an acceptable option.

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Daily Republic, Mitchell, July 7, 2014

Don't bring brucellosis with bison

We have a deep appreciation of bison, those symbols of the American West that have played such a prominent part in the history and culture of South Dakota.

It's with great pride that we note South Dakota's leading role in the preservation of bison, which nearly went extinct. South Dakotans including Scotty Philip are credited with building the herds during the late 1800s and early 1900s that brought bison back from the brink, and in modern times South Dakota consistently ranks atop the list of bison-producing states. According to the most recent numbers, South Dakota has nearly 35,000 bison — more than any other state and about 20 percent of all the bison in the United States.

So, like anybody who is thrilled by the majestic site of a buffalo in a beautiful setting like Custer State Park, we're excited to hear that the federal government is taking steps to build the bison population by transferring animals from Yellowstone National Park to areas in the Dakotas.

We must urge state and federal officials to act with caution, though.

Some of the Yellowstone herd is infected with brucellosis, a disease that can spread to cattle and cause abortions and sterility.

South Dakota may rank No. 1 in bison and may be a welcoming place for the animals, but there's no denying that cattle are the modern king of our state's grasslands. Whereas fewer than 1 percent of South Dakota farms and ranches have bison, 50 percent have cattle, and there are nearly 4 million cattle and calves in the state. The beef industry alone is estimated to have an impact of almost $3 billion on South Dakota's economy.

It's understandable, then, when cattle producers get a little nervous around bison.

There's plenty of room in South Dakota, and there are plenty of places for bison to roam where they'll pose minimal threats to cattle.

With careful execution, hopefully the plan to bring more bison to South Dakota can happen without also bringing an outbreak of brucellosis.

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American News, Aberdeen, July 9, 2014

In an instant

What a sad story of a Custer man who died at a hot-dog-eating contest.

The man, 47, choked to death while competing in the contest. Despite efforts to revive him, he died just minutes later.

While so many Americans like to watch — and laugh, or cringe — at Nathan's Famous annual hot-dog-eating contest at Coney Island on the Fourth of July, the South Dakota death is a reminder of how quickly things can go wrong.

There is certainly not an epidemic of people choking to death at hot-dog-eating contests. But think of how quickly something can go wrong, in even the most lighthearted and celebratory moments.

Things can turn ugly in an instant.

How many of us have enjoyed the eating contests that are hosted in this area? How would we feel if we watched something go horribly wrong?

People can't live in fear, or let themselves be held back. But, please, be safe. No one wants to be a part of such a tragedy ever again.

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