Just days after Gov. Dennis Daugaard indicated it was unlikely that the state would fund additional pine beetle eradication efforts in the near future, Lawrence County commissioners voted to spend $120,000 to remove infested trees.
Commission Chairman Bob Ewing said Thursday the commission voted to take funds from the interest earned on its mine severance tax fund, which has about $1 million.
The decision, he said, nearly depletes the interest from the fund and shows the county's commitment to stopping the spread of the mountain pine beetle, which has devastated thousands of trees in the Black Hills.
"The county has donated what they can towards the cause, and the local community has come forth with everything they have," he said.
Ewing, who will be serving his first term in the state Senate in the upcoming legislative session, said he is disappointed the governor doesn't see the urgency in the pine beetle infestation.
"I don't think they've stopped and really thought about what the impact would be if we lose all or our pine forest here, with all the tourists that come to South Dakota and vacation in the pine forest here," Ewing said.
The principal of the mine severance tax fund remains untouched. Last year, the state granted the county permission to spend all of the about $1.8 million of principal and interest in the fund. Commissioners, however, have been reluctant to dip into the fund's principal.
Ewing said that when he arrives in Pierre as a new state senator in January, he will make fighting the spread of the mountain pine beetle a priority.
In a letter to Ewing dated Nov. 7, the governor said he understands the threat presented by the mountain pine beetle epidemic, but the realities of the state budget are likely to prevent him from offering additional assistance to Lawrence County.