The U.S. Forest Service is committing another $1 million to pine beetle control in the Black Hills.

South Dakota’s congressional delegation announced the added funding Tuesday in a joint news release from Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson, Republican Sen. John Thune and Republican Rep. Kristi Noem.

Johnson, Thune and Noem last November sought more funding from the Forest Service to fight the impacts of mountain pine beetles, which have spread in the current infestation to affect more than 400,000 acres of land in the Black Hills National Forest and additional private and other governmental lands.

The funding will help with thinning and logging operations considered useful in slowing the spread of the bugs. And that will matter in the battle against the beetles, Johnson said.

"Responsible and targeted thinning projects have helped slow the spread of the pine beetles and enhance forest health," he said. "It's crucial that we're putting sufficient resources behind these efforts."

Thune called the latest $1 million a "positive step" in the ongoing fight against the pests.  More good news could come in farm legislation and through cooperation with U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Thune said.

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"I continue to reiterate to Secretary Vilsack the importance of funding for the Black Hills and was pleased that the Senate Ag Committee-passed farm bill included language from a bill I introduced in March that would require the USDA secretary to designate the Black Hills National Forest as a special treatment area upon the request of the governor to further address the declining forest health."

Noem said the work must continue.

"I'm also continuing to push legislation I introduced with Sen. Thune to ensure the most effective mitigation practices can be implemented sooner," she said. "The Black Hills are a treasure, and I'm going to keep on fighting to ensure we have every resource possible to beat the pine beetle."

Contact Kevin Woster at 394-8413 or kevin.woster@rapidcityjournal.com

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