South Dakota Editorial Roundup

Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, Aug. 15, 2013

We can’t save every big tree

Custer State Park officials have said they are going to save the Big Tree — a 159-foot tall giant Ponderosa pine that’s the state’s tallest tree. It doesn’t look too healthy, with few green branches for a tree of its size, but officials say as long as it shows signs of life, they’ll try to save it.

There was some question earlier this summer whether state officials had sprayed the Big Tree for mountain pine beetles or not. Park officials say miscommunication led to the tree not being sprayed last year, but this year the tree was sprayed, even though it took some effort to get a spray truck that can reach the top of the monster tree up a two-mile track.

Recently, a private forester asked what was being done about the other big trees in the Black Hills. For at least the past decade, the Black Hills forest has been under attack by pine beetles that have left large areas of dead and dying Ponderosa pines. There are several large pines that also could be saved if they are sprayed.

Andrew Smith told the Journal that there are several old pines near Deerfield Reservoir that also should be saved from the beetle infestation. One of those trees is at least 96 feet tall, Smith said.

U.S. Forest Service officials wouldn’t commit to saving the trees identified by Smith.

Who can blame them? Spraying trees is expensive, and the Black Hills National Forest has limited funds to address the pine beetle epidemic. Most of its beetle mitigation effort is aimed at large-scale thinning projects to minimize the damage caused by pine beetles.

There are some measures being taken to save special areas. Mount Rushmore National Memorial sprays key “viewscape” trees; both the Forest Service and Custer State Park spray trees at campgrounds and recreation sites; and some old-growth trees near Hill City are being preserved.

We agree that saving the state’s tallest tree is probably worth the effort, for purely symbolic reasons. But, unfortunately, we can’t afford to spray everywhere and save every tree, no matter how big they are.

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Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, Aug. 14, 2013

Survey will help Title IX balance in schools

The Sioux Falls School District’s plan to survey students about what sports they are interested in playing is a good first step after the district was part of a three-year investigation into its Title IX compliance.

While the district says the survey isn’t directly related to the pending investigation into whether there are big gaps here between athletic participation rates for boys and girls, it is a move other schools that were investigated have been making, too. Attempting to find out what students — especially girls — want is valuable information for any district. This policy change makes that a more formal effort.

When the National Women’s Law Center filed complaints in 2010 against the district and 11 other U.S. public school districts, data showed that in 2006, 50 percent of the student population in Sioux Falls was female, but only 35 percent of the district’s athletes were girls.

Simply offering sports is not good enough under the compliance program in place to help make sure there is equity for female athletes. It usually takes more efforts to be inclusive, which appears to be the case given the Sioux Falls numbers at the time of the complaint.

No matter what the findings about the district’s efforts and the results of the complaint, if you want to stay in touch with what students are most interested in, you have to have a way to measure the ideas. That’s where the survey comes in.

Once the school board gives final approval, the district plans to hand out surveys to boys and girls in grades 7 through 12 this fall. Surveys would be handed out at least every five years and possibly more often.

Results should paint a scenario of whether girls soccer or softball or some other sport would be the best addition to the district’s list of sanctioned activities, for example. It also will raise awareness about the Title IX issue and the importance of equal opportunities for athletes of both sexes.

We’re glad to see the district taking this step.

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Madison Daily Leader, Madison, Aug. 15, 2013

We need to turn the tide on youth unemployment

Teens and young adults are working less — a lot less. Nearly 6.5 million U.S. teens and young adults are neither in school nor in the workforce, according to the annual KIDS COUNT report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The number of working youth has dropped by almost half since 2000. Let’s not mince words, as there are real implications to fewer working teens and young adults. They aren’t developing skills that employers need, they are getting into trouble with the law, and they are developing a sense of laziness that leads to long-term dependence on relatives and welfare programs.

Fortunately, only 5 percent of South Dakota teens are neither in school nor working, compared to 8 percent nationally. But every teen is important, and we should try to fix the problem even though our state may be better off than other places.

So why are more teens neither in school or employed? Several reasons: they face more competition from older workers for entry-level jobs, especially post-recession. Many lack the skills required for the jobs that are available. Some are without a high-school diploma, which practically wipes out job opportunities. Some don’t have working adults in their lives as role models.

We can tell that parenting plays a big role here. Insisting on graduation from high school, assigning basic chores at home at a young age, getting summer or part-time jobs to build experience, and stressing the importance of work are all important.

Outside the family, other resources are available, primarily through the Madison office of the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation. It offers youth job search assistance classes to develop interviewing and job retention skills, plus various youth training and education programs, with priority given to ages 18-21. Those who haven’t finished high school can obtain their GED through the Madison Area Career Learning Center.

Computers are available at the office for job searches and filling out online job applications. The department offers free assistance in obtaining a “national career readiness certificate,” which a growing number of employers are using as a tool to screen for skills and abilities. Local employers can also help, by considering inexperienced youth for jobs, even for tasks that don’t require experience and probably don’t pay well. Just learning the value of reliability and hard work in the workplace can help youth gain experience and build a work history.

We should never give up on youth at risk. There are great resources available, and even better outcomes likely if we keep working at it.

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