Recent Op-Eds

Working cooperatively, private citizens, state officials, federal government, and an active timber industry in the Black Hills has successfully fought the spread of the pine beetle and maintained the health of the forest in the area. These efforts ensure that our forests provide healthy habitat for a variety of species and remain a destination for visitors around the world. Despite efforts to maintain our forestlands in South Dakota, proposals from federal agencies in Washington threaten to end important forest management practices that keep the Black Hills forestlands healthy.

In 2011, the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) reached a secret sue-and-settle agreement with two radical environmental groups to require listing determinations on more than 250 species across the United States, including the northern long-eared bat. Northern long-eared bats are dying at alarming rates in parts of the country due to the spread of white-nose syndrome. Of the 39 states considered prime northern long-eared bat habitat, white-nose syndrome has only been found in 22 states, and has not been found in South Dakota.

Despite the lack of evidence suggesting white nose syndrome is a problem in our state, the FWS has proposed limiting forest management in the Black Hills to preserve the bats habitat. Unfortunately, these proposed regulations don’t address the real problem—eradicating white nose syndrome. Instead of dealing with the problem at hand, the FWS’s proposal will increase the potential for large scale wildfires, risk spreading the pine beetle epidemic, and will severely impact the Black Hills timber industry.

On October 14th, I sent a letter to the FWS with Representative Kristi Noem (R-South Dakota) encouraging the agency to withdraw its proposed listing of the northern long-eared bat as endangered and to refocus its attention on combating white-nose syndrome.

Active forest management is critical to combating the spread of pine beetles in the Black Hills and cultivating a healthy forest, which provide a healthy habitat for the bats. As the South Dakota Department of Agriculture noted in its comments on FWS’s proposal, restricting forest management “would severely limit our ability to manage forests for insect and disease outbreaks, fuel reduction, and habitat for other species.” These restrictions would also significantly curtail the timber industry in the Black Hills, and may drive the industry out of the area altogether, at a cost of more than 1,500 jobs and $119 million in lost revenue to local economies.

While I firmly believe that listing the northern long-eared bat as an endangered species is inappropriate and that the FWS should instead concentrate its efforts on eradicating white-nose syndrome, if the FWS chooses to list the bat as endangered it must alter its guidelines to recognize the many benefits forest management provides to overall forest health and bat habitat. I will continue to work with my colleagues in the Senate to monitor the FWS’s proposals and advocate for common-sense policies that protect the forest and the animals that call it home.