Washington, D.C. – The House Natural Resources Committee today passed the Black Hills Cemetery Act, legislation re-introduced by Rep. Kristi Noem in January, with bipartisan support. The Natural Resources Committee voted by unanimous consent to send this legislation to the House floor, which will transfer the ownership of nine Black Hills cemeteries from the federal government to the caretaking communities that have managed these cemeteries for generations.
“These cemeteries have long held historical significance to South Dakota communities and I’m glad that these communities are one step closer to becoming the ultimate caretakers,” said Rep. Noem. “This bill not only honors the folks that have been preserving these cemeteries for generations, but will actually help reduce liability and potential costs to the U.S. Forest Service. I am optimistic that this legislation will soon pass the House of Representatives like it did last Congress and I hope the Senate takes swift action as well.”
The bill impacts nine cemeteries in the Black Hills: Englewood Cemetery, Galena Cemetery, Hayward Cemetery, Mountain Meadows Cemetery, Roubaix Cemetery, Nemo Cemetery, Rockerville Cemetery, Silver City Cemetery, and Cold Springs Cemetery.
Specifically, the Black Hills Cemetery Act (H.R. 291) would transfer ownership of these cemeteries and up to 2 acres of adjacent land to the caretaking communities that have managed them for generations under special-use permits issued by the U.S. Forest Service. It also requires that the conveyed land continue to be used for the same purposes.
Rep. Noem first introduced the Black Hills Cemetery Act during the 112th Congress on February 1, 2012 at the request of community members near these cemeteries. It passed the House of Representatives on May 15, 2012 by a vote of 400-1, but was ultimately not considered by the Senate.
Senators Tim Johnson and John Thune introduced companion legislation on March 5, 2013. S. 447 was referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.