Rep. Noem calls for grassroots Pine Beetle letter writing campaign
U.S. Representative Kristi Noem (R-SD) today called on concerned citizens to write President Obama and Nancy Sutley, his top environment advisor, in support of efforts to stop the pine beetle from further destroying the Black Hills of South Dakota.
Noem's call to action is in response to the Obama administration's refusal to allow for an expedited process to fight the pine beetle epidemic in the Black Hills. On July 18th, Rep. Noem wrote a letter to the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) asking that they utilize their authority for "alternative arrangements" to comply with the time consuming National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process and the required approval of an Environmental Impact Statement, which can take over a year. These alternative arrangements would offer an alternative to the time consuming NEPA process in order to allow the Forest Service in the Black Hills to get the job done and get boots on the ground quickly. It was Rep. Noem's intention to implement an expedited plan before the beetles could infect more healthy trees in August. After nearly two months and multiple follow-up requests, Rep. Noem finally received a response. In a letter dated September 14, the USFS and CEQ wrote that they would not grant her request for alternative arrangements in the Black Hills.
"The emergency we are facing in the Black Hills requires something more than the normal regulatory process. Bureaucracy is keeping us from beating the beetles. The U.S. Forest Service and the White House have a process for emergencies such as ours, but so far they have refused to implement it," said Noem.
"I'm calling on every family in South Dakota and across our country – anyone who has ever enjoyed the wonder and beauty of the Black Hills – to send a letter or an e-mail to the White House today to tell them how important it is that we save this treasure from the pine beetles. So far it seems as though this Administration would rather side with extreme environmentalists who would rather watch pine beetles destroy a forest and increase the threat of catastrophic fire rather than implement effective management methods. This administration needs a wake-up call. Real folks care about this forest and we want to save it," said Noem.
According to the Office of the President, "Alternative Arrangements can be issued by CEQ, in consultation with the agency, when agency action is:
necessary to protect human health or safety - or - to protect natural resources - or - both; and
likely to result in significant environmental impacts."
Rep. Noem believes that the emergency in the Black Hills National Forest meets those requirements, but the White House doesn't seem to agree.
Those interested in writing President Obama and Chairwoman Sutley should request the White House reconsider their denial of an expedited regulatory process for the Black Hills. Writers can find more information about what to include in their letter at www.noem.house.gov.
An estimated 384,000 acres – one third – of the 1.2 million acres of National Forest System lands in the Black Hills has been destroyed by the epidemic since 1998. The infestation is growing rapidly, doubling from 22,000 new acres affected in 2008 to 44,000 new acres affected in 2009. The beetle infestation has also killed essentially all of the trees in the 13,426 acres of the Black Elk Wilderness.
Effective and scientifically sound methods exist to address this problem. The main treatments are thinning, spraying legacy trees or creating buffer zones around infected areas which have worked to stop the spread to healthy trees. The Black Hills is fortunate to have a robust forest products industry with the ability to implement treatments as fast as the Forest Service can analyze and prepare the projects. This requires the development of a forest management plan. Currently, it can take up to two years to approve the plan and go through the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. In that time, the pine beetles spread into new areas which the Forest Service cannot act upon until they approve a new plan. That means no matter how much financial resources are available, we are always about two years behind the problem.
Letters should be addressed to:
President Barack Obama The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, DC 20500
Chairwoman Nancy Sutley Council on Environmental Quality 730 Jackson Place, NW Washington, DC 20503
Thursday, February 20 2014 7:42 PM EST2014-02-21 00:42:09 GMT
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