Senator John Thune
On January 14th, the U.S. Forest Service announced that the Black Hills National Forest would receive $1.5 million for additional timber harvest this year, the highest amount allocated to any National Forest in the Rocky Mountain Region.
This funding came as the result of an October 19, 2013, letter I signed, along with other members of congressional delegations from states in the Forest Service Rocky Mountain Region, requesting a reallocation of existing funds be targeted to pine beetle control efforts.
In the fight for assistance to combat the pine beetle epidemic, I always point out to the Forest Service that the Black Hills very effectively utilizes the timber harvest funding it receives. This effectiveness is due to the combined and coordinated efforts of the local timber industry, the Black Hills National Forest Supervisor and staff, and state and local governments, enabling them to more strategically fight pine beetles in the Black Hills. I am pleased the Forest Service recognizes this team effort in the Black Hills and has provided additional funding.
More than three million people visit the Black Hills every year, making tourism one of South Dakota’s primary industries. Surrounded by prairie flatlands on all sides, the Black Hills beckon visitors from across the world with destinations such as Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Custer State Park, Wind Cave, and other unique and beautiful sites tucked inside its boundaries.
Fighting the pine beetle epidemic is critical as several areas of the Black Hills landscape have become blemished with dead and dying pine trees due to pine beetle infestations. Although only a fraction of an inch long, pine beetles are recognized as “public enemy number one” to the Black Hills National Forest and surrounding forestlands.
My ongoing efforts to fight pine beetles have been and will continue to be a top priority. As a Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I am pleased that the Farm Bill Forestry Title will include provisions I introduced to assist the Black Hills pine beetle effort. I will continue my work in the Senate to maintain the beauty of the Black Hills and ensure we enact much needed reforms to more effectively preserve one of South Dakota’s, and our nation’s, greatest treasures.