U.S. Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) today announced that the Black Hills Cemetery Act (S. 447) was passed by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. This bill would transfer the ownership of nine historic cemeteries in the Black Hills from the U.S. Forest Service to local communities. Johnson introduced this bill along with U.S. Senator John Thune (R-SD) earlier this year, and it will now go to the Senate floor for a vote.
“I am very pleased that the Energy Committee voted favorably for this bill to go to the Senate floor,” Johnson said. “Transferring these historic cemeteries to the local communities that have been long maintaining and caring for them makes a lot of sense—this bill will allow for a permanent solution for the management and ownership of these sites.”
“This legislation provides a common-sense solution for the caretaking of nine Black Hills Cemeteries,” said Thune. “The current arrangement causes headaches for the caretaking communities that have managed these cemeteries for generations and also places an unnecessary liability on the Forest Service which, as the current owner, is responsible for the property. I am glad to see the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee acted today to approve the bill, and I hope the Senate will quickly pass this legislation and eliminate this burden for both Black Hills communities and the Forest Service.”
Under the authority granted by the Black Hills Cemetery Act, ownership of the nine cemeteries and up to two acres of adjacent land would be transferred to the caretaking local communities that have managed them for generation under special-use permits issued by the U.S. Forest Service.
The bill impacts nine pioneer-era cemeteries in the Black Hills: Englewood Cemetery, Galena Cemetery, Hayward Cemetery, Mountain Meadows Cemetery, Roubaix Cemetery, Nemo Cemetery, Rockerville Cemetery, Silver City Cemetery, and Cold Springs Cemetery. Although these cemeteries are currently managed by local cemetery associations and city governments in the surrounding communities, they have technically been owned by the U.S. Forest Service since the 1900s.An identical bill introduced by Representative Noem (R-SD) was approved by the House of Representatives on May 6.