Noem: Black Hills to Benefit from New House-Passed Forestry Provisions
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. Kristi Noem today joined the House in passing H.R.2936, the Resilient Federal Forests Act, which pairs a responsible budget fix with targeted forest management reforms to dramatically improve the health and resiliency of the nation’s forests.
“The years-long pine beetle epidemic has turned much of the Black Hills into a tinder box,” said Noem. “We are fortunate to have so many dedicated foresters working in this area, and I’m proud to have scored some critical victories in support of their efforts over the years. The Resilient Federal Forests Act would put additional tools at their disposal. With the House’s stamp of approval, I strongly urge the Senate to take the legislation up quickly and allow these critical resources to be deployed.”
“Hill City School District is extremely grateful to see an extension of Secure Rural Schools through passage of theResilient Federal Forests Act of 2017,” said Mike Hanson, Hill City Superintendent. “Our school district receives no state aid and is heavily impacted through federally owned acres. The loss of Secure Rural School dollars requires the district to increase the use of reserve funds in our operational budget as well as look at cost reductions that may have a negative impact on student learning. This extension of Secure Rural Schools allows our district to continue providing the best educational opportunities for our federally connected students! We wish to thank all members of the House who voted for this Act and especially South Dakota Representative Kristi Noem! Your leadership and dedication makes a powerful impact on our nation’s public schools!”
“This is a great news for many schools in the Black Hills,” said Mark Naugle, Custer Superintendent. “This legislation will help to make up for the decrease in revenue from local timber harvesting. It will also help to offset the impact of Federal ownership of property in local school districts. Custer School District would like to thank Representative Noem, and Senators Thune and Rounds, for supporting provisions which help our school districts.”
The bipartisan Resilient Federal Forests Act would, among other things:
- Permanently solve the wildfire “borrowing problem. Without authorizing new spending, the bill provides a fiscally responsible solution to end fire “borrowing” (the practice of transferring funds from forest management to firefighting, which increases the risk of wildfires). It does so by allowing FEMA to transfer funds to the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.
- Eliminate paperwork. The legislation would reduce duplicative paperwork for forest management projects by allowing National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) exclusions, as long as the project is consistent with existing forest plans.
- Address obstructionist litigation. To promote the quick resolution of litigation against forest management projects, the bill would create a new arbitration pilot program that would require litigants opposing a forest management activity to come to the table with an alternative proposal rather than just saying “no.”
- Bolster tribal participation in forest health projects. Under the bill, we would expand authorities for tribes to manage adjacent national forests to reduce the risk of wildfire, insects and disease.
- Support local governments and modernize the Secure Rural Schools & Community Self-Determination Act. With an updated Secure Rural Schools provision, schools in counties like Custer, Fall River, Lawrence, Meade and Pennington would have greater flexibility in how they choose to use these critical funds.
With passage in the House, the legislation will next be debated in the U.S. Senate.
Noem has long been an advocate for provisions to increase the health of South Dakota’s forests as well as a champion of modernizing the Secure Rural Schools provisions. In November 2013, Noem brought U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell to view the pine beetle epidemic’s damage first hand. Months later, policies Noem helped write were included in the Farm Bill and became law. This included provisions to cut through environmental red tape, get boots on the ground faster, and allow the Forest Service to work on the scale this epidemic required. Around 1 million acres of the Black Hills National Forest benefited from the reforms. In May 2017, Noem welcomed U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to the state as well to visit the Black Hills National Forest, among other locations, and discuss outstanding needs.