Washington, DC—U.S. Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD), joined by Senators Mike Enzi (R-WY) and John Thune (R-SD), met today with Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell to discuss ongoing efforts to fight the pine beetle infestation in the Black Hills National Forest (BHNF). The group discussed federal funding, timber sale targets, and work to develop a larger scale, adaptive environmental review to increase the efficiency with which the Forest Service can respond to new outbreaks.
“The spread of the pine beetle has already devastated far too much land in western South Dakota,” said Johnson. “I’m pleased to host this bipartisan meeting with Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell to discuss what more can be done to get ahead of the spreading pine beetle infestation.”
Nearly 400,000 acres in the BHNF have been affected by the pine beetle epidemic. Officials are utilizing several different tactics to stop the infestation, including thinning, prescribed burns, spraying and cutting and chunking. Johnson has praised forest managers, the state, counties, and private landowners for coordinated efforts, and stressed the need to provide them with the proper resources to fight the infestation.
Earlier this month at a Senate Energy and National Resources hearing, Johnson continued to press the Administration to do more to slow the pine beetle spread and advocated for more resources to aid the beetle response.
“This infestation is a major threat that has implications for both the forest and livelihood of the community,” Johnson said. “I appreciate the attention and legwork the Forest Service has dedicated to this issue, but we need to continue acting quickly and make sure that the federal government is providing the resources necessary to address this problem.”
Earlier this week, the Forest Service announced it is making an additional $1 million available to fight pine beetles in the BHNF, on top of the base budget for the Forest’s efforts. South Dakota has also dedicated millions of dollars to the pine beetle battle as part of the Black Hills Forest Initiative. Chief Tidwell told the Senators that coordination with the state and local counties, along with the efforts from the private industry in the region, has been a significant help to the response.