The U.S. House of Representatives today passed the Black Hills Cemetery Act, legislation introduced by Rep. Kristi Noem in January. With a strong bipartisan vote of 390-2, the House voted to transfer the ownership of nine Black Hills cemeteries from the federal government to the caretaking communities that have managed them for generations.
"These cemeteries hold great significance to surrounding South Dakota communities, many of which originated in the old mining towns of the 1800s. I'm thrilled that we can transfer the care to these communities," said Rep. Noem. "This bill not only honors the folks that have been preserving these cemeteries for generations, but will actually help reduce liability and potential costs to the U.S. Forest Service. I look forward to this legislation moving through the Senate and becoming law."
The bill impacts nine 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.
Specifically, the Black Hills Cemetery Act (H.R. 291) would transfer ownership of these cemeteries and up to two acres of adjacent land to the caretaking communities that have managed them for generations under special-use permits issued by the U.S. Forest Service. It also requires that the conveyed land continue to be used for the same purposes.
Rep. Noem first introduced the Black Hills Cemetery Act during the 112th Congress on February 1, 2012 at the request of community members near these cemeteries. It passed the House of Representatives on May 15, 2012 by a vote of 400-1, but was ultimately not considered by the Senate.
The House Natural Resources Committee passed this legislation on March 20, 2013 after Rep. Noem re-introduced it in January. Senators John Thune and Tim Johnson introduced companion legislation on March 5, 2013. S. 447 was referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
Today, Rep. Noem spoke on the House floor in favor of the Black Hills Cemetery Act.