Sometimes, things are just stranger than anything you could make up. I think someone else may have posted some of this, but I can’t find it so my apologies to those who’ve seen it before.
From South Dakota’s Capital Journal article, “Study: Large percentages of healthy trees cut in effort to fight mountain pine beetle”, you can find it here: http://www.capjournal.com/news/study-large-percentages-of-healthy-trees-cut-in-effort-to/article_94301608-66e0-11e3-affb-0019bb2963f4.html
“Reports obtained by the Capital Journal suggest earlier efforts to control mountain pine beetle in the Black Hills may have killed more healthy trees than diseased trees in areas of some counties….In two counties, Lawrence and Meade, the majority of the trees marked and cut were not infested, meaning within these treated stands the crews caused more tree mortality than the beetles, said a report obtained by the Capital Journal from the office of the South Dakota state forester.” That’s a report from the state forester, not some tree-hugging hippies. What happened? Isn’t the cut-and-chunk approach (in which presumed MPB-infested trees are cut into small chunks to stop beetle development) based on repeatedly proven facts based on unquestionable science? Apparently, some “facts” were open to interpretation, and asking a few questions about the “science” involved might have been appropriate:
“Of the 191 total trees studied by the group in those areas, only 36 percent of trees cut in Lawrence County and 22 percent in Meade County were infested with mountain pine beetles.” oops…. how could that happen? It turns out that “Scott Jacobsen, a spokesperson for the forest service, said the contract between the forest service and Meade County did not include a definition of an infested tree.” (this from another article, “Beetle battle: Logger defends ID methods in Black Hills”, http://www.capjournal.com/news/beetle-battle-logger-defends-id-methods-in-black-hills/article_bb4a3058-9475-11e3-8bf8-0019bb2963f4.html Turns out, those charged with putting sound forest management into practice perhaps didn’t actually know what a MPB-infested tree looks like, or at least couldn’t agree on it. In that knowledge vacuum, most any tree was fair game, apparently including many with no MPB presence but with one or two turpentine beetle pitch tubes (close enough?)
Of course, the side story is that Meade County commissioner Alan Aker, who has been “involved in overseeing the work of the county”, just happens to also own a logging company, Aker Woods, which has been “responsible for determining which trees to cut.” Commissioner Aker has also been a leader in the “The Bug Stops Here” campaign (their slogan: “Enough talk. It’s time for action. Donate Dollars. Kill Beetles)” http://www.meadecounty.org/thebugstopshere/ Again from the Capital Journal: “As money was being collected, Meade County began to hire workers to begin waging war against the beetle. Records indicate that in August 2012, Aker Woods was hired to mark trees that were infested with pine beetles. In seven months of work, Aker Woods was responsible for marking 1,960 trees that the company determined to be infested – on the basis of the verbal agreement with the U.S. Forest Service.”