Senate passes Noem’s Black Hills Cemetery Act, sending the legislation to the President

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Farm Forum

Washington, D.C. – Last week, the U.S. Senate passed Rep. Kristi Noem’s Black Hills Cemetery Act, H.R.291, which would transfer the ownership of nine Black Hills cemeteries from the federal government to the caretaking communities that have managed them for generations. The legislation originally passed the U.S. House of Representatives in May 2013 and will now be sent to the President for his signature.

“I am thrilled to see the U.S. Senate take up this important legislation and finally put it on the President’s desk for his signature,” said Rep. Noem. “These cemeteries tell the stories of the people and communities that built their lives in rural South Dakota over the last two centuries. I’m proud the federal government will now turn ownership of these sacred grounds to their rightful owners: the communities that have maintained them for generations.”

Jeff Sugrue of the Silver City Volunteer Fire Department – one of the community organizations that would gain ownership of a historic cemetery said, “We are very grateful to Congresswoman Noem for her dedicated work and commitment to seeing this bill through. Rep. Noem stuck with it even when the odds were against us and as a result, communities throughout the Black Hills will finally have full ownership of these historic cemeteries.

Rep. Noem first introduced the Black Hills Cemetery Act in February 2012 and worked through the House Natural Resources Committee, of which she was then a member, during the 112th Congress to further advance the legislation. While Noem was able to pass the legislation through the U.S. House of Representatives in both the 112th and 113th Congresses and Sens. John Thune and Tim Johnson sponsored companion legislation, the full Senate did not bring the provision up for a vote until today where it passed with unanimous consent.

The bill impacts nine cemeteries in the Black Hills: Englewood Cemetery, Galena Cemetery, Hayward Cemetery, Mountain Meadow Cemetery, Roubaix Cemetery, Nemo Cemetery, Rockerville Cemetery, Silver City Cemetery, and Cold Springs Cemetery. H.R.291, of which Rep. Noem is the sole sponsor, would transfer ownership of these cemeteries and up to two acres of adjacent land to the caretaking communities that have managed them for generations under special-use permits issued by the U.S. Forest Service. It also requires that the conveyed land continue to be used for the same purposes.