In response to a provision in the 2014 Farm Bill secured by U.S. Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service (FS) Chief today announced that 72 contiguous units in the Black Hills National Forest have been designated as priority areas to address insect or disease threats. A similar provision was first included in Thune’s National Forest Emergency Response Act of 2012.
“I am pleased the Forest Service moved quickly to enact the provision I secured in the 2014 Farm Bill to address the pine beetle threat in and around the Black Hills National Forest,” said Thune. “This designated priority area includes a large contiguous block covering more than 50 percent of the Black Hills National Forest that will now be considered for additional pine beetle treatment.”
The FS designation included all areas requested by Governor Daugaard on February 28, 2014. Thune added a provision (Section 8204) to the 2014 Farm Bill which stipulates that priority areas meet one or more of the following criteria for a Governor’s request under Section 602 of the Healthy Forest Restoration Act of 2003:
- The area is experiencing decline of forest health based on annual forest health surveys;
- The area is at risk of substantial tree mortality over the next 15 years based on the National Insect and Disease Risk Map; or
- The area is one in which hazard trees pose imminent risk to public infrastructure, health, or safety.
“I am pleased that all 72 contiguous areas requested by the Governor were approved by the Forest Service,” said Thune. “This landscape-scale designation should provide improved management to control the devastating pine beetle outbreak in the Black Hills.”Section 8204 of the 2014 Farm Bill also authorizes an appropriation of $200 million nationwide for each of the years 2014 through 2024 to carry out these provisions.