Senators John Thune (R-S.D.) and Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) today introduced legislation that would allow transfer ownership of nine historic cemeteries in the Black Hills from the U.S. Forest Service to local communities. Under authority granted by Thune and Johnson's legislation, known as Black Hills Cemetery Act (S. 447), ownership of these nine cemeteries and up to two acres of adjacent land would be transferred to the caretaking local communities that have managed them for generations under special-use permits issued by the Forest Service. This legislation passed in the House of Representatives during the last session of Congress.
"This bill is a win-win for both the local Black Hills communities and the U.S. Forest Service," 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 hope the Senate will quickly pass this bill and eliminate this burden for both Black Hills communities and the Forest Service."
"Transferring these historic cemeteries to the local communities that have been maintaining and caring for them makes a lot of sense," Johnson said. "The special use permits are more suited to temporary arrangements, and this bill will allow for a permanent solution. I hope we will pass this bill soon and clear up the management and ownership of these historic cemeteries."
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.