Printed on 10/18/08


Don (Pete) Kopp is a devoted husband and father of three who has invested his entire adult life in serving others, from little league baseball coach to serving on the church board and county fire board to name a few. Don has literally invested his life serving his community and state in many different ways.

Here's his story:

After his birth in Rock Springs, WY Don's parents moved to Rapid City when he was two years old. Upon graduating high school, he enlisted in the Navy during the Viet Nam era, serving in the naval airwing.

Don returned home and married his high school sweetheart Joanne. Shortly after being married, Don went to work for the SD Division of Forestry working out of Rapid City. For the next 29 years, he worked as a professional forester becoming the leading authority in the State's fire management program.

Don assisted in the pioneering of the prescribed burning program that is still in use in the Black Hills and the West River prairie plant communities. Over the years as a forester, Don received extensive education and training in all aspects of forest management; forest ecology, forest production and harvesting practices, aerial photo interpretation and surveying, and as a licensed pilot, he flew a fire surveillance route over the Black Hills. But his real interest was in the fire management program.

Because of his leadership abilities and training in wildfire suppression Don was chosen by the South Dakota Division of Forestry as the Incident Commander for all large fires under the state's jurisdiction and one of three Incident Commanders for the US Forest Service and the National Park Service. He was also assigned leadership roles on the Black Hills Interagency and Rocky Mountain Fire Management Teams and traveled extensively with these teams to some of the nation's largest and most problematic forest fires. While assisting the state of Alaska with some of its most serious fire problems in 1991, Don was asked by the governor's office to write a critique of Alaska's fire program and offer advice on how to mitigate those problems.

In 1991 Don became the lead fire investigator for the state and played a key role in instructing the state's volunteer fire departments in all aspects of fire science including fire meteorology, atmospheric science and investigation techniques.

He retired as the Special Projects Forester in 1998 and was called out of retirement by the governor's office in 2000 to assist in the state's largest forest fire in its history, the Jasper fire.

Presently, Don operates his own forestry consulting business and is still called upon by the state to investigate fires for them. He is also contracted by the state to inspect fire equipment for the federal CM2 fire equipment program and on occasion fills in as a wildland fire instructor for the volunteer fire departments.

He was a founding member of the Pennington County Fire Advisory Board and sat on that board for fifteen years before retiring. In 1985 Don was selected as employee of the year received an award from the state. During this same year he received an award for Outstanding Performance and Dedication to South Dakota's fire service.

He is well versed in environmental science, forest and range management sciences and has written articles concerning those issues for the Rapid City Journal for publication. He has authored a book titled Modern Science and an Ancient Text and is presently working on his second book.

As a member of Open Bible Christian Center for the past 42 years, Don has served as an elder and teacher.

Don is presently residing in Rapid City with his wife of 43 years. They have three children, Mike Kopp, a state senator in Colorado, Kelly Loftis, a church administrator in Bismarck, ND and Angela Taylor, a teacher in Citrus Heights, CA. Don and Joanne also have 11 grandchildren.

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Don Kopp for HD 35

Conservative Leadership for Rapid City