Recent Press Releases

Rapid City, SD —  Senator John Thune today outlined a comprehensive plan to address the pine beetle infestation that is claiming an increasing number of acres in the Black Hills National Forest and surrounding areas. The plan focuses on accelerating and expanding effective forest management practices, creating a market for woody biomass material removed from federal forests, and reforming the U.S. Forest Service's mechanism for funding forest management and fire response activities. Since the late 1990's, pine beetles have affected over 200,000 acres in the Black Hills, killing over 100,000 new trees each year.

"The pine beetle infestation is destroying acres of beautiful forest land at an alarming rate while raising the danger of wildfires to very high levels," said Thune. "My plan employs effective techniques that will preserve the health of our forest with an emphasis on fire prevention while at the same time expanding the region's potential for renewable energy development."

Forest Service researchers have identified forest thinning as one of the most important tools to reduce the risk of mountain pine beetle epidemics and to respond to a mountain pine beetle epidemic. Ensuring adequate thinning and timber sale funding is critical to fighting the pine beetles, reducing the risk of fire, and supporting the local timber mills.

    Senator Thune's pine beetle plan includes the following provisions:
  • Strong timber harvest targets over the next five years;
  • Expansion of the Health Forest Restoration Act expedited environmental review process;
  • Streamlined Forest Stewardship Contracts;
  • Implementation and extension of the Biomass Crop Assistance Program;
  • Expansion of the renewable biomass definition to include forest waste; and
  • Reformed Forest Service funding for forest management and fire suppression activities.
Senator Thune is a member of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee, which oversees national forests.