WASHINGTON, DC (KELO AM) —U.S. Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota) today praised the Senate’s passage of H.R. 291, an identical House version of his bipartisan Black Hills Cemetery Act (S. 447). This legislation would transfer the ownership of nine historic cemeteries in the Black Hills from the U.S. Forest Service to local communities. Because the identical House version, introduced by Representative Kristi Noem (R-South Dakota), was approved by the House of Representatives on May 6, 2013, the Senate simply passed the House bill in order to expedite the legislative process. The bill will now be sent to the president for his signature.
“I applaud the Senate’s approval of legislation to provide a common-sense solution for the caretaking of nine Black Hills cemeteries,” said Thune. “The current arrangement causes headaches for the communities that have managed these cemeteries for generations and also places an unnecessary liability on the Forest Service which, as the current owner, is responsible for the property. It is critical that this bill is quickly signed into law in order to eliminate this burden for both Black Hills communities and the Forest Service.”
Under the authority granted by the Black Hills Cemetery Act, ownership of the nine cemeteries and up to two acres of adjacent land would be transferred to the caretaking local communities that have managed them for years under special-use permits issued by the U.S. Forest Service.
The bill impacts nine pioneer-era cemeteries in the Black Hills: Englewood Cemetery, Galena Cemetery, Hayward Cemetery, Mountain Meadows Cemetery, Roubaix Cemetery, Nemo Cemetery, Rockerville Cemetery, Silver City Cemetery, and Cold Springs Cemetery. Although these cemeteries are currently managed by local cemetery associations and city governments in the surrounding communities, they have technically been owned by the U.S. Forest Service since the 1900s.