South Dakotans share a bond with the land, water and air. Our farmers and ranchers earn their living working in the fields and grasslands. We find recreation in hunting and fishing, or enjoying nature's beauty while hiking, camping or boating.
Our strong connection to South Dakota's natural resources enables us to enjoy first-class air quality. Because we're used to having clean air, it is easy to become complacent and take our air quality for granted.
We need to recognize communities like Rapid City, which recently ranked as one of the top four Cleanest Cities in America for all three evaluation points of short-term and year-round particle (dust/soot) and ozone (smog) pollution. Rapid City has vastly improved since the 1980s when it received a poor air quality rating, to a B grade last year and an A this year.
Congratulations to the families, businesses, and leaders of Rapid City, Pennington County, and the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on their work to reduce air pollution and promote a healthy, clean environment for all.
Air cleanliness is measured by the Air Quality Index (AQI). A low score from 0 to 50 denotes good air quality. An unhealthy AQI, ranging from 151 to 200, may begin to cause adverse health effects to the general population and more serious side effects to sensitive people. A hazardous AQI, which is greater than 300, would trigger health warnings of emergency conditions and the entire population is more likely to be affected.
Generally, good to moderate air quality is found across South Dakota year-round. Thanks to the implementation of air pollution controls by the DENR and the stewardship of our businesses and individuals, we have low concentrations of pollutants in our air.
Last month, I traveled to China to help South Dakota businesses find import purchasers of South Dakota products. While the trade mission was productive, I was dismayed by the air quality in China.
It was not uncommon to see ordinary Chinese citizens wearing surgical masks as they made their way about the streets of Beijing or Shanghai. The AQI scores as measured by the USA embassy in Beijing, China, are regularly in the unhealthy range, and sometimes much higher. On one day last January, the AQI score exceeded 700 points.
I'm glad to be back in South Dakota. Coming home reminded me of the many things I love about our state. I was glad to get back to American food, wide open spaces, family and friends. Among those loves, I also count clean air.
Strong ties to our natural resources have made South Dakota a great place to live and raise a family for generations. I thank all South Dakotans for their stewardship, and look forward to preserving our quality of life for generations to come.