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South Dakota and other states Uphold Current Black Hills National Forest Plan Addressing Pine Beetle Infestation

PIERRE, S.D  (KELO AM) -  The Colorado Federal District Court has issued a ruling in favor of mountain pine beetle control in the Black Hills National Forest.  The ruling arose from a claim by environmental groups that a 2005 federal forest plan should have relied on long discarded rules instead of contemporary requirements, including the need to handle the mountain pine beetle infestation. The Federal Court held that the environmental groups had unreasonably delayed their claims and current efforts to thin trees and otherwise address mountain pine beetle should move forward. The ruling is consistent with an earlier ruling in Wyoming that is now being appealed to a Federal Appellate Court, as well as the South Dakota Federal District Court and Eight Circuit Court rulings for the Norbeck area.

The Colorado Court quoted South Dakota State Forester Ray Sowers:  “thinning trees within the forest is the only long-term solution to controlling the pine beetle infestation and the fire risks associated therewith and a comprehensive and continual program is required.”  The South Dakota Attorney General’s Office argued in the Colorado Court that the state and Black Hills counties would encounter difficulty in their own mountain pine beetle control program on private lands if the federal program was stopped, as requested by the environmental groups. 

“This third and hopefully final decision is critical since the state’s mountain beetle efforts are intertwined with the federal efforts and both state and federal efforts must be aggressive and consistent to address the rampant infestation,” said Jackley. “While the environmentalist groups may be well intentioned, the pine beetle infestation requires a responsible forestry plan to protect our forest, wildlife, and surrounding private lands.”

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