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Black Hills National Forest to change rules on number of days allowed to camp

Amber Zora
Food cooks in a cast iron skillet at a developed campground at Deerfield Reservoir Complex in the Black Hills.

Black Hills Forest Service officials hope a change in dispersed and developed camping will lead to more opportunities for travelers.

The move will cut the time before you can return to camp in the forest in half.

Currently, those who camp in the Black Hills National Forest outside of a developed campground are allowed to stay in the forest for 14 days within a 60-day period. While the days do not have to be consecutive, campers could have to wait a month and a half before technically being allowed to return.

The rule dates back to 1998.

A new rule change for dispersed camping would allow a 14-day stay within a 30-day period.

Bradley Block, recreation program manager with the Black Hills National Forest, said the change will put Black Hills Forest policy in line with most National Forests and Grasslands in the Rocky Mountain region.

“It makes things consistent," Block said. "From a government standpoint, as people are travelling, vacationing, going from one place to another, when they show up at one location—an agency site—and it has a policy in place that differs from, in essence, the same agency, but just over the border, it causes some confusion.”

The new rule will also apply to those staying at developed forest service campgrounds. The current limit is no more than 13 days, only.

That means RVers can move from one developed Black Hills Forest Service campground to the next.

Block said updating the rule to 14 days within a 30-day window of time makes it consistent with dispersed camping.

“So it’s easier to explain. It’s easier to respond to questions. But at the same time, it allows people to move out of the developed campgrounds to go someplace else," Block said. "Which, then opens up the campgrounds to other users who may not have access to that site.”

Block said campers at developed sites will have to move off the forest and to a private or state part campground.

Officials hope to complete the rule change in time for the busy tourism season.

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.