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Supporters celebrate bill that transfers ownership of historic cemeteries to local communities

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SILVER CITY, South Dakota — Supporters of a bill that transfers ownership of nine historic cemeteries in the Black Hills from the federal government to local communities celebrated Saturday among the living and the dead.

Republican Rep. Kristi Noem of South Dakota led the ceremony at the Silver City Cemetery, one day after President Barack Obama signed the Black Hills Cemetery Act into law.

The pioneer-era cemeteries had been owned and managed by the U.S. Forest Service. Noem said the bill will make it easier to keep the burial grounds in good condition.

"The fact that these cemeteries are now in the hands of the people and the communities that care for them is a good thing for everyone," Noem said at the handover ceremony.

The bill also has a provision to grant each of the cemeteries two additional acres for expansion.

The Rapid City Journal reports (http://bit.ly/1khERPw) that the legislation also changes the ownership of the Englewood, Galena, Hayward, Mountain Meadows, Roubaix, Nemo, Rockerville and Cold Springs cemeteries.

Caretakers of those cemeteries previously were required to get permission from the Forest Service to maintain them. That created unnecessary hurdles and paperwork, said Dennis McMillin of the Hayward Volunteer Fire Department, which manages the Hayward Cemetery.

"It's going to make it much easier to take care of the cemetery because we don't have to jump through all the hoops at the federal level," McMillin said "Every year we had to get a permit that spelled out exactly what we were going to do, when we were going to do it and all the other details. That's no longer the case."


Information from: Rapid City Journal, http://www.rapidcityjournal.com

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