Recent Press Releases

Thune Introduces Bill to Create Fire-Fighting Pact with Neighboring States

Bill Would Bring Together SD, ND, WY, and CO to Join Forces in Fighting Fires

March 23, 2007

Washington, D.C. —  Senator John Thune today introduced S. 975, legislation that would allow South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, and Colorado to make an agreement to share resources and aid each other in fighting forest fires. In order for states to officially work together under such an agreement, Congressional approval is required. Cosponsors of Senator Thune's legislation include Sens. Mike Enzi (R-WY), Craig Thomas (R-WY), Wayne Allard (R-CO), and Ken Salazar (D-CO).

"In South Dakota in 2006, there were more than 2,000 wildland fires that caused damage to more than 230,000 acres of land. As we enter what likely will be South Dakota's seventh consecutive year of drought, conditions are ripe for even more frequent and severe fires in our state this year," Thune said. "While our firefighters and emergency response personnel in South Dakota are some of the most highly skilled in the country, we need to make sure they have the reinforcements they need when crises arise and there are simply not enough men and women on the ground to fight extreme fires.

"My legislation would bring together the states of South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, and Colorado to join forces in fighting forest fires. This would create an interstate pact in which South Dakota could count on the help of other states when conditions reach crisis level.

"This weekend I'll tour one of South Dakota's most scenic and beautiful regions, the Black Hills National Forest. It's treasures like these that we must work to protect against the fires that threaten our state each year. With agreements like today's, that help us plan and prepare for nature's most dangerous threats, we can keep families, businesses and South Dakota land safer and better protected."

The state's wildfire meteorologist, Randall Benson, said Thursday that conditions in the tropical Pacific Ocean are similar to those in 1988, when the Galena Fire burned 16,788 acres in Custer State Park and the Westberry Trails Fire near Rapid City burned 14 homes and nearly 4,000 acres.

Having originated at the state level, the fire compact requires Congressional approval to be officially recognized. Governor Mike Rounds requested federal action to authorize the formation of the fire compact.

"I applaud Governor Rounds for his initiative in taking proactive steps to increase the region's ability to combat forest fires," Thune said.