Rep. Kristi Noem today applauded the Black Hills National Forest (BHNF) on its announcement that it has signed a Record of Decision to implement the Mountain Pine Beetle Response Project. The project will allow the BHNF to implement effective pine beetle mitigation tactics on up to 248,000 acres in critical areas over the next five-to-seven years. This includes large-scale thinning and timber harvest on up to 122,000 acres.
"This is a huge step forward in the fight against the pine beetle, and I want to thank Supervisor Craig Bobzien and all Black Hills National Forest staff for their efforts on this issue," said Rep. Noem. "This first-of-its-kind project gives our national forest additional tools to get ahead of the pine beetle on a larger scale, and could serve as a blueprint for other Western states to follow. I'm proud of the additional resources and attention we've brought to this epidemic that is devastating the Black Hills. I will continue to be a vocal advocate for resources and flexibility so we can make real progress on the ground. I look forward to getting these projects implemented as quickly as possible."
The Mountain Pine Beetle Response Project was begun shortly after Rep. Noem organized a Natural Resources Committee hearing in the Black Hills focused on the pine beetle epidemic. Rep. Noem put substantial pressure on the White House's Council on Environmental Quality and the U.S. Forest Service to allow for additional flexibility and alternative processes to fight the epidemic in South Dakota. The Mountain Pine Beetle Response Project will allow for the treatment of up to 248,000 acres in critical areas and uses an adaptive National Environmental Policy Act process.
Rep. Noem has been a strong voice for action against the pine beetle in Washington D.C. In July 2011, Rep. Noem brought House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Chairman Rob Bishop to the Black Hills to see firsthand the devastation of the pine beetles. She followed that up by launching a grassroots campaign to bring attention to the epidemic. In October 2011, Rep. Noem called on concerned citizens to write President Obama and his top environmental advisor, Nancy Sutley, in support of efforts to stop the pine beetle from further destroying the Black Hills. The response from South Dakotans was overwhelming and Rep. Noem's efforts helped secure an additional $2 million in funding to fight the pine beetle in the Black Hills National Forest.
Aside from additional resources, Rep. Noem has also been a vocal proponent of increasing flexibility and streamlining the environmental approval process to allow the Forest Service and private landowners to implement effective mitigation tactics to get ahead of the pine beetle. In April 2012, Rep. Noem was joined by Senator John Thune in introducing identical pine beetle legislation in the U.S. House and Senate. This legislation would allow for streamlined environmental review for pine beetle mitigation efforts to be utilized in larger areas of land. Rep. Noem successfully inserted these provisions into the House Agriculture Committee-passed version of the Farm Bill.