Rep. Kristi Noem announced today that she plans to introduce legislation to help fight the pine beetle infestation. This legislation will prioritize rehabilitation and restoration of federal land that has been impacted by large-scale beetle infestations and move resources from land acquisition to land management for five years. Senator John Thune (R-SD) has introduced companion legislation (S. 661) in the Senate.
"The Black Hills are one of our nation's greatest treasures, which is why I have been fighting since I came to Congress to save them from the pine beetle," said Rep. Noem. "Progress to combat the pine beetle has been delayed due to excessive regulations and bureaucratic red tape. This legislation will put more resources toward pine beetle mitigation and is a solid step in the right direction. I look forward to continuing the work with our Forest Service officials and local communities to beat the beetle."
Because of the emergency situation in some forests, this bill requires additional acres of federal land to be mechanically treated each year. This bill also allows the Secretary of Agriculture to use emergency alternative arrangements under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) on federal lands facing emergency circumstances, such as pine beetle outbreaks. It also instructs the Secretary to use funds that would otherwise have been used for land purchases to be used for mechanical forest treatments and salvage activities.
"The federal government continues to purchase land while current federal lands are being devastated by the mountain pine beetle," said Rep. Noem. "We cannot continue to spend taxpayer dollars on land acquisition when we are not adequately fighting the pine beetle epidemic we are currently facing."
Rep. Noem worked with Senator Thune last year to introduce legislation and will continue to push to get this legislation included as part of the upcoming farm bill.
Rep. Noem continues to be a leader in the fight against the pine beetle. Noem recently questioned Forest Service Chief Tidwell during a House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy and Forestry hearing about measures to combat the pine beetle in South Dakota.