Press Release
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Seeks Public Comments on a Draft Environmental Assessment for the Federal Land Disposal and Replacement of Hydro #2 Game Production Area in South Dakota
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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) Office of Conservation Investment is seeking public comment on a draft Environmental Assessment regarding a proposal from the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks (SDGFP) to dispose of the Federal encumbrance on the Hydro #2 Game Production Area (GPA), a property acquired utilizing Pittman-Roberson grant funds provided from the Service through the WSFR Program. The property proposed for disposal would be replaced with a new Federal encumbrance on the Hepler GPA, a property acquired with State license revenues.  

While the Hydro #2 GPA still currently serves the purpose for which it was acquired, SDGFP has determined public use and public expectations of SDGFP supported services and amenities at Hydro #2 GPA have expanded beyond those anticipated by SDGFP at the time of purchase and will increase over time to a point that it may be infeasible to continue to meet the original Federal Grant purpose. Due to its location off State Highway 14A in Spearfish Canyon and Spearfish Creek, public use activities, and the seasonality of those uses surrounding a popular location named Devil’s Bathtub, have expanded to include more year-round non-consumptive use.

To accommodate the increase in public use of this area, SDGFP is now requesting approval from the FWS-WSFR program to dispose of the Federal encumbrance on the 32.251-acre Hydro #2 GPA property in exchange for a new Federal encumbrance on the 320-acre Hepler GPA. Although the Federal interest on Hydro#2 GPA will be disposed or replaced, SDGFP will retain title which will allow the agency more flexibility and latitude in its management of the property.

The disposal of real property with a federal encumbrance constitutes a Federal action subject to the provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), as amended. Due to the presence of unique or valuable resources, and the loss of Federal interest of grant-funded property, the action does not meet the criteria for a Categorical Exclusion. The Service is therefore required to prepare an Environmental Assessment based on the procedures for real property disposal to analyze the effects on the human environment and document the findings. 

The Service will use this draft EA and associated public review process to determine if the Proposed Action (i.e. disposal of the Federal encumbrance on one property and the encumbrance of a federal nexus on another that was not initially purchased with WSFR funds) is likely to result in significant impacts to the human environment. If it is determined there are no significant adverse impacts, the Service will issue a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI). If it is determined, conversely, that significant impacts might occur by disposing of the Federal encumbrance from Hydro #2 GPA, the Service will be required to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to assess the impacts. 

Public comments will be accepted for a 30-day period which ends on April 19, 2024, at 12pm MST. Any comments provided will be fully considered by the Service prior to the implementation of the proposed action. Copies of the Draft EA and Appendices, which include details of the proposed action and the alternatives considered, are available online by clicking on the title of the document at Those without internet access may request copies by calling the Services’ Office of Conservation Investment (OCI) at 303-236-8165. Comments should be sent to:; or through the U.S. Postal Service to the following address: USFWS/OCI – MS 60152, Adrianna Araya, P.O. Box 25486, Denver, CO, 80225.


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