CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Monday, May 6, 2013, the House is scheduled to consider H.R. 291, the Black Hills Cemetery Act under a suspension of the rules. The bill was introduced on January 15, 2013 by Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD) and referred to the Committee on Natural Resources, which reported the bill by unanimous consent.
H.R. 291 authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to convey specified cemeteries located on National Forest System land to the groups and local communities that currently manage and maintain them. The legislation also includes a provision allowing the Secretary to convey an additional two acres adjacent to each cemetery to ensure that unmarked graves are covered and to allow room for expansion. The recipients would be required to receive the lands as-is, and the lands are required to continue to be used as cemeteries.
According the sponsor, the nine cemeteries specified in the bill originated in the mining towns of the 19th century and are a unique and important source of history for local communities. While these cemeteries have historically been maintained by local groups and communities, the land has been owned by the U.S. Forest Service since the early 20th century, which causes unnecessary liability for the Forest Service. H.R. 291 would remove this liability by allowing the local groups themselves to take ownership of the land.
Identical legislation, H.R. 3874, passed the House in the 112th Congress on May 15, 2012 by a recorded vote of 400-1 (roll no. 251).
CBO estimates that H.R. 291 would have “no significant impact on the federal budget,” and that the “recipients of the lands would have to pay for any surveying costs associated with the land conveyances.”