A bill to double the size of the Black Hills National Cemetery is headed for the president's desk after the U.S. House passed the legislation on Wednesday.
The Black Hills National Cemetery Boundary Expansion Act facilitates a permanent land transfer of 200 acres of Bureau of Land Management land to the Department of Veterans Affairs for the expansion of Black Hills National Cemetery south of Sturgis. Both the Bureau of Land Management and the Department of Veterans Affairs are federal entities. The bill passed a Senate voice vote in December 2017.
The senate bill was introduced by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., and co-sponsored by Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., and Sen. Michael Enzi, R-Wyo.
U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem introduced legislation to expand the cemetery in 2015 and 2017. Both times those bills were passed in the House, but the legislation was not considered in the Senate.
Normally, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act limits transfers like this one to a lifespan of 20 years, but the Black Hills National Cemetery Boundary Expansion Act will make this transfer permanent.
South Dakota's delegation lauded the bill's passage in both chambers.
“Our veterans deserve a resting place as majestic and solemn as the Black Hills National Cemetery, and I’m glad this important, years-long initiative that will help to continue honoring our heroes — now and for generations to come — is finally nearing the finish line,” Thune said in a news release.
Rounds echoed a similar sentiment, saying: "It’s important that South Dakota’s veterans know there will be space for them to rest peacefully at the Black Hills National Cemetery."
“The fact that the Black Hills National Cemetery needs room to grow is a testament to the astounding number of South Dakota patriots who have answered the call to serve,” Noem said in a release.