Gov. Dennis Daugaard included no money in his proposed budget to fight the mountain pine beetle infestation in the Black Hills, but lawmakers told a Rapid City crackerbarrel crowd on Saturday that they are working to change that before lawmakers approve a final budget in March.
Rep. Mike Verchio, R-Hill City, said a request for $1.9 million has been made but so far nothing has been decided. He suggested that pine beetles ought to be at least as high a priority as pheasant numbers in eastern South Dakota.
"A study to tell me why there are eight pheasants in a field instead of 10 is not very important to me compared to the Black Hills forest," Verchio said.
Sen. Bruce Rampelberg, R-Rapid City, said Black Hills lawmakers were successful in securing $1.9 million last year, so they asked for the same amount again.
He said combined efforts from the state, the National Forest Service and private landowners have continually succeeded in reducing the number of trees killed by the beetles year-over-year.
"We've been making really good progress," Rampelberg said. "I feel strongly we'll end up with some money. Will we get $1.9 million? I doubt it."