By Derek Olson
Published: April 12, 2012, 10:20 PM
RAPID CITY, SD -
Senator John Thune and Congresswoman Kristi Noem were in Rapid City Thursday afternoon to address the pine beetle epidemic afflicting the Black Hills. The two U.S. lawmakers have introduced new legislation to combat the problem.
For years, people have been watching as pine beetles consume more of the Black Hills.
"I have a vial of pine beetles on my desk that I've kept there ever since I was elected, to remind me of one of the tasks that I have in front of me to really accomplish and help South Dakota deal with," Rep. Kristi Noem said.
But given the scope of the problem and the speed with which the bugs spread, the beetles seem to be winning the fight against the forest service.
"Right now, because of all of the regulations and the red tape that they have to go through, it makes it extremely difficult for them to act in any kind of a time frame that would deal with the problem," Sen. John Thune said.
The National Forest Emergency Response Act, introduced in the Senate by Thune and in the House by Noem, would allow the Forest Service to bypass some of the paperwork and environmental evaluations that slow them down.
"What this bill does is it allows every state to declare a forest as a pilot project, that lets them cut through some of that red tape," Noem said.
And although there are no guarantees about getting legislation passed, especially in an election year, the lawmakers are hopeful that this measure will.
"We're going to work very, very hard to, one, make sure that this language is in the forestry title of the farm bill, and two, that we get a farm bill passed, hopefully in the next few months," Thune said.