Rep. Kristi Noem is losing pine beetles but gaining Ellsworth Air Force Base — in direct U.S. House committee oversight, at least.

Noem, R-S.D., has been appointed to the House Armed Services Committee for the next Congress, a position she says will give her more direct involvement in military issues, including Ellsworth and the South Dakota National Guard.

"I thought this was a great opportunity to weigh in on a lot of our defense issues," Noem said Wednesday. "I think this committee and its work will really resonate with a lot of people back in South Dakota."

Noem will continue to serve on the House Agriculture Committee, which has responsibilities including such weighty South Dakota concerns as the federal farm bill. But she is giving up seats on House committees on Natural Resources and Education and Workforce.

The Natural Resources Committee has oversight responsibilities for national parks and forests, including the Black Hills and its ongoing pine beetle epidemic.

Noem said that even though she is leaving those committees, her first-term experience and relationships there will endure and offer continued influence on issues they handle.

"That's the great thing — even though I no longer serve on those committees I have made really great friends there and have great relationships with the chairmen," she said.

Noem's appointment to the Armed Services Committee has clear benefits to Ellsworth and its future in western South Dakota, said Scott Landguth, executive director of the Ellsworth Development Authority.

"Rep. Noem has been a strong voice for both Ellsworth Air Force Base and the surrounding communities," Landguth said. "I look forward to continuing to work closely with her in her new spots on the House Armed Services Committee."

The Ellsworth Development Authority recently made its first purchase of an easement on private property as part of a larger effort to remove residences, high-traffic businesses and certain other properties from hazard zones around the base.

That program is considered important to making the base more secure against future cuts or closures.

Noem said the authority's work shows a community commitment to Ellsworth that matters in Washington, D.C. She said that's a message she will continue to push through her spot on the Armed Services Committee.

"When you look at how well our community works and advocates for the base, it really does make a difference," she said.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard "Buck" McKeon, a Republican from California, said in a statement released by Noem's staff that the congresswoman's "energy and clarity of vision" would benefit the committee.

"Her tireless work on behalf of Ellsworth Air Force Base and South Dakota’s men and women in uniform, together with her knowledge of the strategic challenges facing our country, make her a tremendous addition to this committee," McKeon said.

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