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The Pierre Shale, a member of the Montana Group, is extensively exposed throughout the Northern Great Plains and is well exposed along the Missouri River Trench in central South Dakota. Currently, the Pierre Shale is of formational rank, but herein it is elevated to group status and should be termed the Pierre Shale Group. Most current members of the Pierre Shale should be elevated to formational rank, as they are of distinctive lithology and are mappable throughout the Missouri River area and elsewhere. The name Montana Group should be abandoned because of its relatively limited lithostratigraphic utility.

Extensive geological and paleontological investigations of the lower Missouri River Trench indicate that a number of previously described units should be subdivided. In particular, the lowest described unit of the Pierre Shale along the Missouri River, the Sharon Springs, exhibits three distinct disconformity-bounded lithostratigraphic units that are newly designated as members. The lowermost unit is distinguished by bentonites, and the upper two units can be observed in the type area of the Sharon Springs in western Kansas. The lowermost unit is characterized by numerous bentonite beds similar to the Ardmore bentonitic succession in the southern Black Hills, is normally disconformably superjacent to the Niobrara Formation, may be absent where degraded, and is named the Burning Brule Member. The overlying middle unit within the Sharon Springs consists of a siliceous shale that weathers vertically and is termed the Boyer Bay Member, whereas the upper unit is a bentonitic shale characterized by gypsiferous phosphatic concretions and is named the Nicholas Creek Member. These three units are herein regarded as new members of a hierarchically elevated Sharon Springs Formation.

Other currently recognized members of the Pierre Shale in central South Dakota should likewise be elevated to formation-rank units except for the Crow Creek Member, a relatively thin tan siltstone. Because this unit is not mappable at recognized scales, it should be retained as a member of the DeGrey Formation. Inclusion of the Crow Creek Member within the DeGrey Formation is based upon another sporadically occurring tan siltstone that lies stratigraphically lower, and the intervening shales are similar to those of the lower DeGrey Formation.

The Pierre Shale members should also be elevated to formational status in North Dakota, Kansas, and around the Black Hills in eastern Wyoming and western South Dakota. The elevation of units should probably be made throughout the Pierre Shale depositional area, but those decisions should be made by local investigators.

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