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Feds give SD $3M to help fight pine beetle in Black Hills

PIERRE (AP) -- The federal government has given South Dakota $3 million to aid the fight to protect the state's trees from the mountain pine beetle, officials said Tuesday.

South Dakota will receive a hazardous fuels reduction grant of $1 million, a state fire assistance grant of $1.4 million, a bark beetle grant of $500,000 and a forest health grant of $144,000, the U.S. Forest Service and Gov. Dennis Daugaard said.

"Human health and safety remain the Forest Service's highest priorities when it comes to dealing with beetle-killed trees," said Jerome Thomas, acting regional forester for the Rocky Mountain Region. "A majority of these funds will help the Forest Service and state and local landowners mitigate the health and safety concerns by removing hazardous, beetle-killed trees that threaten life and property."

Daugaard said the federal money will complement a recent commitment of $1 million annually in state funds over the next three years for pine beetle control.

"To beat the beetles, we need to work together," he said.

The beetles have killed millions of trees across the Rocky Mountain region. The Forest Service estimates the beetles have damaged 400,000 acres of the 1.2 million-acre Black hills National Forest in southwest South Dakota and northeast Wyoming.