Congresswoman Kristi Noem today brought U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell to South Dakota to examine the pine beetle damage in the Black Hills.  Along with local Forest Service representatives and industry stakeholders, Congresswoman Noem and Chief Tidwell took a ground and aerial tour of the impacted areas and then held a meeting with more than two dozen local business and industry leaders to discuss the pine beetle epidemic’s impact.

"We have made progress on mitigating pine beetle damage, but South Dakota still has dead and dying trees left from these insect infestations that turn our forests into tinderbox.  That is unacceptable when people’s lives are at risk,"said Rep. Noem.  "Fortunately, we are gaining momentum behind this issue on the policy side.  I am very appreciative of the Forest Service and Chief Tidwell’s willingness to partner with South Dakota and support new ways to address this problem.  Today’s meeting was productive in giving all involved a better lay of the land."

Congresswoman Noem has made combating pine beetle damage a priority in Washington.  The second-term Congresswoman has hosted a House Natural Resources Committee field hearing in the Black Hills, authored language allowing for even more tools for the Forest Service to expedite treatments of insect and disease outbreaks that was included in the House Farm Bill, and collaborated with Chief Tidwell and the U.S. Forest Service to launch the Mountain Pine Beetle Response Project.  The Response Project is the first effort of its kind and may be used as a model across the West to more effectively manage forests.

"Because of the support of Congresswoman Noem, the Forest Service has been able to do more of the work we need to do to better maintain forest health in the Black Hills," said Chief Tidwell.  "The Mountain Pine Beetle Response Project in particular has been a landmark effort that we hope to use as a model nationwide.  We understand more must be done and we look forward to continuing to collaborate with Congresswoman Noem, our local Forest Service, the State of South Dakota and South Dakota stakeholders to improve the health of the Black Hills National Forest."

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