U.S. Senators Tim Johnson (D-SD) and John Thune (R-SD) Thursday joined Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) in reintroducing the Good Neighbor Forestry Act, which would allow for cooperative agreements between the federal government and State foresters. This bill would allow cooperation between federal agencies and State foresters to provide certain forest, rangeland and watershed restoration and protection services on U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands in western states.
"This legislation would allow South Dakota and the federal government to work together on critical issues facing our forests, such as the mountain pine beetle epidemic," Johnson said. "These partnerships will help increase efficiency and make our federal dollars go further in addressing this crucial problem."
"One of my highest priorities is providing our foresters the necessary tools to effectively battle pine beetles in the Black Hills" said Thune. "This important legislation would cut red-tape and bring together conservationists, state and federal agencies, and local governments to fight against pine beetle threats. Coordinated efforts are needed in order to effectively manage infested lands and to prevent the spread of pine beetle infestation. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to protect and preserve some of our Nation's greatest treasures that are under attack from the pine beetle infestation."
The partnerships created by the Good Neighbor Forestry Act would allow federal agencies to contract with State foresters for activities including treating insect infected trees, hazardous fuels reduction, and restoring or improving overall forest, rangeland and watershed health, including fish and wildlife habitats. The legislation would help promote and coordinate projects that deal with both State and federal lands.
Good Neighbor Authority pilot programs have been ongoing in Utah and Colorado for several years. The bill would expand the authority and apply it to states west of the 100th meridian, including South Dakota. The federal agency would continue to be responsible for conducting the applicable environmental reviews and planning under the National Environmental Policy Act.
Johnson and Thune both cosponsored the bill last Congress.