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Thune, Barrasso Introduce Legislation to Support the Black Hills National Forest and Regional Economy

Senators’ legislation would provide direction and resources to maintain forest health and forest products infrastructure

February 28, 2022

U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.), a longtime member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, today introduced the Black Hills Forest Protection and Jobs Preservation Act. The legislation would require the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) 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, which reduces wildfire hazards and risk of future insect infestations. The bill would also allocate existing USFS funding to carry out timber production projects on the Black Hills National Forest and neighboring national forests, which would help maintain the timber sale program that plays a critical role in keeping the forest healthy while also supporting the regional economy.

“Proactive management plays a critical role in keeping our forests healthy,” said Thune. “It also supports the forest products industry, which generates revenues and supports jobs in rural communities. For more than 100 years, the Black Hills National Forest timber sale program has helped facilitate successful forest management, but I am concerned about the program’s long-term viability if the region loses additional forest products infrastructure. This legislation would provide the Forest Service with resources to support everyone’s shared goal of maintaining forest health.” 

“The longstanding partnership between the Forest Service and local sawmills has been key to managing and protecting the Black Hills National Forest,” said Barrasso. “Our legislation will help ensure this decades-long partnership continues. It will also cut red tape to expedite projects to reduce fire hazards in the Black Hills and help make sure the forest and local economies continue to flourish for decades to come.” 

“We appreciate Senator Thune and Senator Barrasso bringing this bill forward,” said Hunter Roberts, secretary of the South Dakota Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “Prioritizing and expediting forest management projects in the tri-state area is good for the forests and will help sustain our sawmill industry.”

“Active management of the Black Hills National Forest must continue in order to keep the forest safe from wildfires and insect infestations,” said Bill Crapser, Wyoming state forester. “This legislation from Senators Barrasso and Thune will help address dense stands within the forest that can lead to such mortality events, and preserve the small-town forest products industry that affects the livelihoods of hundreds of loggers and sawmill workers.”

Thune and Barrasso recently led the South Dakota and Wyoming congressional delegations in sending a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack expressing concern with the USFS’s plan to reduce the timber sale program for the Black Hills National Forest, and they urged the USFS to expedite treatment of the forest.