In South Dakota, there are hundreds of so-called "ghost claims" for water rights by individuals who have been deceased for decades. The Rapid City Journal reports that the Water Rights Program of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources is in charge of shifting through these old claims and determining if they are still valid or can be terminated, a challenge with the other hundreds of current claims the program already has on its books. Water claims go a long way in determining who can use the water for irrigation or other uses and who has no legal claim to the sites of old permits. Rainfall scarcity in the region makes these claims extremely valuable, especially on the western side of the state. Here is a PDF file of all of the water claims issued before 1907 that require the program's attention.
To read up on past news articles related to the environment and natural resources of the area, be sure to click on this archives link.
For more information on the environment of the Black Hills as well as conservation efforts, check out this Black Hills Knowledge Network resource page.