WASHINGTON, DC – Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD), along with 9 other members of the U.S. House of Representatives, today sent a bipartisan letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack asking that he redirect unspent U.S. Forest Service funds toward fighting the pine beetle epidemic.

 

“If we had a forest fire, emergency funds would be used to put out the fire.  The pine beetle crisis is nothing short of a slow-motion forest fire occurring in our Black Hills and we must treat it as such,” said Noem.

 

$40 million in federal funds was put towards pine beetle mitigation in Fiscal Year 2010, but most experts agree more funding is needed.

 

The letter states, “While we are fully aware of the fiscal situation of the nation and scarce funding resources, we maintain that redirecting some of the unused funds to respond to this national emergency is an opportunity to use existing resources where they are greatly needed.”

 

The letter continues, “Healthy forests are important to the livelihood of millions of people in the West and critical to economic recovery. The forests are a source of a reliable water supply, tourism, energy generation, and recreation for the region.  Swift action is essential in the face of threats to public safety and critical infrastructure.”

 

Rep. Noem has met with local U.S. Forest Service officials in the Black Hills recently about the pine beetle epidemic.  She also serves on the Natural Resources Committee which has jurisdiction over forest issues.

 

The full letter can be viewed here.

 

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