According to a report from the Office of the South Dakota State Forester, some counties in KOTA Territory cutting down healthy trees instead of pine beetle affected trees.
The study took place last year and looked at around 200 trees in Custer State Park, Lawrence, Meade, and Pennington counties. According to the report, only 22 percent of the cut down trees in Meade County were infested with pine beetle. Meade County Commissioners say they followed directions and only cut own infested trees.
Alan Aker is a logger and he is also a Meade County Commissioner. According to a report from the State, in Meade County the efforts to control mountain pine beetles might have killed more healthy trees than infested ones.
"None of the trees we cut were healthy, they all had some mountain pine beetle in them. So it is a matter of a definition. Some people are saying it's not infested unless it has 100 pine beetles or 50 or 10," said Aker.
Aker said they were following Forest Service instructions.
"We are doing it on Forest Service land, so we do have to follow their requirements, but we are using state money. That's why there's this controversy I think. The state and the Forest Service have not had the same definitions," said Aker.
The Forest Service in the Black Hills has an all land strategy where they work with the states of Wyoming and South Dakota, and seven counties.
"In the case with Meade County, they met the Forest Service authorization specifications and in this case the State of South Dakota had more stringent requirements and we respect those requirements," said Craig Bobzien, Black Hills Forest Supervisor.
"I see no reason to question the content of the report. The findings of the audit were statistically sound and I have not received any information that would lead me to question the validity of the audit findings provided by the forest health specialists," said Raymond Sowers, the South Dakota State Forester for the Department of Agriculture.
Bobzien said they'll use the reports to evaluate progress.
"If we need to make adjustments in the future we use those and come up with those adjustments so we can be effective as we can be.," said Craig Bobzien.
The report also states MeadeCcounty cut longer than the recommended period. Aker said last year they cut until May 1st, because that's what their contract required. This year they are working under a different contract with a cutoff of March 1st.