U.S. Senators John Thune (R-S.D.) joined Senators Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell today to discuss the pine beetle infestation in the Black Hills National Forest. The Forest Service has focused its efforts near Mt. Rushmore, Custer State Park, and in the Northern Black Hills.
The Forest Service has worked closely with state and county personnel in their efforts to fight the pine beetle epidemic. The Forest Service expects the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) assessments for the landscape scale Mountain Pine Beetle Response Project on over 325,000 acres to be completed this fall which would allow for stepped up efforts.
“One of the greatest obstacles keeping the Forest Service from efficiently addressing pine beetles in the Black Hills continues to be the NEPA requirements that slow down Forest Service activities,” said Thune. “Tackling this bureaucratic process so the Forest Service can fight the pine beetle epidemic when and where they need to is a priority for me in addressing this disaster in the Black Hills National Forest and surrounding lands. I appreciate the positive report we received from the Forest Service Chief regarding the high level of cooperation at all levels of government in fighting the pine beetle epidemic and look forward to outlining additional options for the Forest Service to address this crisis.”