2007-09-21

Mountain pine beetle replanting plan to take 1,300 years

British Columbia's plan to replant forests killed by a severe mountain pine beetle infestation could take more than a thousand years to complete, according to recently-released figures.

The "Forests For Tomorrow" program replants about 10,000 hectares a year. At that rate, it would take 1,300 years to replace the 13 million hectares of pine decimated by the infestation.

Within the next eight years, the mountain pine beetle could kill more than three-quarters of B.C.'s marketable pine forests, almost a quarter of the province's entire volume of market timber.

B.C. NDP Forest Critic Bob Simpson says lumber companies are replanting the pine they log, but the government hasn't been doing its share on crown land.

"We are planting one tree for every two trees harvested," Simpson said. "That shows you how bad it is getting. British Columbians should be very concerned."

Tree planting companies say they're also worried.

John Betts of the Western Silvicultural Contractors Association said his members expected to be planting up a storm, but the work just isn't there.

"We have a shortage of work," Betts said. "Where is the big mountain pine beetle reforestation program? It hasn't really materialized yet."

B.C.'s chief forester Jim Snetsinger agreed the trees are not being replaced, but said the government is still fighting a major infestation and is doing the best it can.

"We're certainly not replacing every tree that's being killed," Snetsinger said. "I don't know how you could go out and immediately plant 13 million hectares of land."