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U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today spoke on the Senate floor about Great Outdoors Month and highlighted the many natural wonders that make South Dakota special. Thune also discussed the work he is doing to help preserve our nation’s outdoor spaces for future generations.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, June is Great Outdoors Month.
“It’s a theme that definitely speaks to me.
“I’m an outdoors guy through and through.
“I love pheasant hunting.
“Boating and swimming.
“I’ll shoot hoops whenever I get the chance, indoors or outdoors, but there’s nothing better than doing it outdoors.
“When I was a kid, my dad attached a basket to a pole in our backyard, and there was nothing my siblings and I liked better than spending the long summer days shooting hoops in our backyard in Murdo.
“The outdoors was a huge part of my life as a kid.
“We spent the long summer days outside – barring the hour every day my mother made us come inside to read.
“On summer evenings, my dad would take us to get ice cream cones and then we’d drive down to the White River to watch the sun set.
“Another outdoor pastime we embraced was hunting.
“My dad taught my siblings and me to hunt, and I loved going out with him.
“Pheasant hunting remains one of my favorite outdoor activities, and I get excited every year as the third Saturday in October – the official start to pheasant season – rolls around.
“It’s a tradition that I’m happy to be able to share with the next generation, as my dad shared it with me.
“There’s nothing better than a day spent outdoors with friends and family, followed by a communal meal … usually involving pheasant!
“Mr. President, being in the outdoors isn’t just enjoyable; I think it’s part of a good life.
“The health benefits of time spent outdoors are well-established, and I know a day – or even an hour – out in the fresh air always clears my mind and refreshes my spirit.
“With more and more of our life spent in front of screens, I think time spent outdoors and disconnected is even more important.
“I’m grateful for all those hours we spent as kids running around outside.
“And for family activities outdoors … like our summer trips to the Black Hills.
“We used to go out there for Labor Day, stay in this little non-air-conditioned cabin, and just glory in the outdoors.
“We’d hike and visit the caves, or go to Mount Rushmore, or head to the lake.
“I loved – and still love – visiting Sylvan Lake.
“I loved being there with my parents and siblings, and I loved taking my daughters there on trips like the ones I took growing up.
“Nobody who visits South Dakota should miss the Black Hills.
“I’m not sure there’s a more beautiful place on earth.
“The interplay of light and shadow on the trees and rocks late on a summer afternoon.
“The endless South Dakota sky reflected in the blue of Sylvan Lake.
“The Milky Way carpeting the night sky with millions of diamonds.
“There’s no better place to spend time in the great outdoors than South Dakota.
“Our state is filled with natural wonders.
“The Missouri River.
“Jewel Cave and Wind Cave – two of the longest caves in the world.
“Together they offer hundreds of miles of underground passageways to explore, filled with glimmering crystals and remarkable rock formations.
“We have the magnificent Black Hills National Forest and Custer State Park.
“And, of course, the Badlands.
“If you haven’t experienced the rugged beauty of the Badlands, you’re missing out.
“Extraordinary layered rock formations that look like they might have come from another planet.
“A wealth of fossils.
“Everybody should see the sun set over the Badlands at least once in their life, turning the tops of the rocks to a sea of fiery orange.
“And of course no mention of South Dakota’s great outdoors would be complete without a mention of Mount Rushmore – one of our national treasures.
“Nature got a little help from man here.
“And the result is magnificent.
“You can’t help but be awed when you see Mount Rushmore soaring up in front of you.
“And you can’t help but feel a little prouder to be a citizen of this great land.
“Mr. President, our nation’s great outdoor spaces need to be cared for so that we can preserve them for future generations – from wildlife enthusiasts to hikers and runners to farmers and ranchers.
“I’m a longtime supporter of the Conservation Reserve Program.
“Agriculture producers are familiar with the Conservation Reserve Program, or CRP, which provides incentives for farmers, ranchers, and landowners to take environmentally sensitive land out of production for 10 to 15 years.
“The Conservation Reserve Program helps the environment by improving soil health and water quality and providing habitat for wildlife, including endangered and threatened species.
“I pushed for an increase in the CRP acreage cap in the 2018 farm bill, and the final bill raised the acreage cap to 27 million acres.
“Currently I’m working on further improvements to CRP that I will work to get included in the 2023 farm bill.
“Based on my conversations with farmers and ranchers, I developed the Conservation Reserve Program Improvement Act, which I introduced in March.
“This legislation would make CRP grazing a more attractive option by providing cost-share payments for all CRP practices for the establishment of grazing infrastructure, including fencing and water distribution.
“It would also increase the annual payment limit for CRP, which has not changed since 1985, to help account for inflation and the increase in land value.
“This would enhance the appeal of CRP for farmers and ranchers, improving their bottom line while helping to protect the environment and increase wildlife habitat.
“Another priority of mine is improving forest management in the Black Hills National Forest to reduce the risk of wildfires and damaging insect infestations.
“I’ve introduced two pieces of legislation during this Congress to help improve management of our national forests, including the Black Hills.
“Currently on-the-ground management activities, including timber thinning, are significantly lagging in the Black Hills National Forest and other forests throughout the country.
“My Expediting Forest Restoration and Recovery Act would require the U.S. Forest Service to expedite treatment of more than 70 million acres of National Forest System lands to reduce the threat of insect and disease infestations and catastrophic wildfires.
“My Black Hills Forest Protection and Jobs Preservation Act is also designed to help expedite forest management projects in the Black Hills and elsewhere.
“The bill, which I introduced with my Wyoming colleague Senator John Barrasso, would require the U.S. Forest Service to quickly issue National Environmental Policy Act decisions that are necessary to carry out forest management projects, including thinning of overly dense timber stands in the Black Hills National Forest.
“Our bill would also expedite timber production projects in the Black Hills National Forest and neighboring national forests to help maintain the timber sale program that plays a critical role in keeping these forests healthy while also supporting the regional economy.
“Mr. President, I’m grateful to live in a state that has so much to offer when it comes to the great outdoors.
“I will continue to work to protect and preserve our natural treasures.
“And I hope every American will take advantage of Great Outdoors Month to get outside and enjoy the natural world.
“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”