CUSTER, S.D. – Governor Kristi Noem announced that the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust has awarded a $4 million grant to the South Dakota Parks and Wildlife Foundation to construct the Custer State Park Bison Center.
The Center will focus on the tenured history of the bison herd at Custer State Park. The new bison center will educate visitors through dynamic interpretive displays and tell the origin story of the park’s bison, herd management and the annual Buffalo Roundup and Auction.
“Visitors to South Dakota are treated to breathtaking landscapes, and the bison are a crucial part of that,” said Governor Kristi Noem. “Custer State Park has played a key role in bison conservation for over a century. This one-of-a-kind center will allow the park to tell its story and educate future generations on the importance of the bison. I’m grateful to Walter Panzirer and the Helmsley Charitable Trust for their generosity and commitment to this project.”
The free roaming herd of nearly 1,300 bison at Custer State Park is one of the world’s largest publicly owned bison herds. Once complete, the Custer State Park Bison Center will give visitors the opportunity to learn about the important role the park plays in the preservation of the North American bison.
“We are excited to lead the funding effort to make the Custer State Park Bison Center possible,” said Walter Panzirer, a Trustee for the Helmsley Charitable Trust. “Custer State Park is known worldwide for its scenery, wildlife, and outdoor recreation. To help ensure the park’s educational opportunities reflect the grandeur of the park, Helmsley has made significant investments, providing funding for the Custer State Park Visitor Center and the Peter Norbeck Outdoor Education Center. The opening of the Custer State Park Bison Center will provide visitors a landmark destination to learn about and understand Custer State Park’s role in preserving the North American Bison.”
The grant funds will be put to immediate use extending over a two-year period and puts the SDPWF in a position to leverage an additional $1 million in private and public donations for the total project budget of $5 million. The center is set to open in the spring of 2022 and will be located near the Custer State Park corral complex.
SDPWF is a non-profit, independent support organization for the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks.