The level of state funding to continue the fight against the mountain pine beetle in Black Hills forests will depend on revenue reports in the coming days and competing priorities, lawmakers told a Rapid City crackerbarrel crowd on March 1.
SB28, sponsored by the Gov. Dennis Daugaard administration, will likely determine how much is spent to fight a years-long beetle epidemic on public and private lands.
The $350,000 in the original version of SB28 has been reduced to just $1 by the Appropriations Committee as lawmakers await a report on January revenue. If revenue is on the rise, perhaps the pine beetle effort will get more than the governor has asked. If revenue appears shaky, that puts even the modest $350,000 in jeopardy, lawmakers said.
Another bill, SB135 sponsored by Black Hills lawmakers, would have allocated $2 million towards the effort. That, too, has been reduced down to $1.
"If we get $1 million, I'm going to count it as a success," said Sen. Bruce Rampelberg, R-Rapid City. "I know we're going to have a tough time in there.
The area of a pine beetle infestation grows three to five times larger in a year without mitigation, he said.
Sen. Alan Solano, R-Rapid City, said foresters say the Northern Hills will see the most increase in beetles if there are no countermeasures.
"We've made a large investment as a state. If we pull back on it now, there's a likeliehood we will see that large investment lost and the good we've been able to do over the last few years gets undone," Solano said. "It's important we understand we've got to keep making the investment until the issue is resolved."
Rep. Brian Gosch, R-Rapid City, encouraged Black Hills residents concerned about funding to fight the pine beetle to contact the Governor's Office and other lawmakers to argue the case.
Any additional money appropriated will be added to $600,000 that remains from an earlier $6 million appropriation, Rampelberg said.