2007-10-31

Pine beetle burns return in January

Dave Wilson has seen firsthand the British Columbia skies blacken with millions upon millions of mountain pine beetles.

Working in the dense forests of the province, the forestry expert and owner of Celtic Reforestation remembers fighting a losing battle deep within the infested forest, as showers of the bugs poured out of the crimson trees.

2007-10-26

Structure can help share B.C.’s story: Lorriman

The 90-foot-high roof structure that local officials want to build as a centerpiece on Lots 1 and 9 in Whistler Village could help other B.C. communities share their stories and speed their recovery from the devastating effects of the mountain pine beetle, a Whistler lawmaker said during last week’s Lots 1/9 open house.

Councillor Bob Lorriman, a member of the task force that has been working on a master plan for the site, on Thursday (Oct. 18) said the wood, glass and cable structure proposed for the roof over the outdoor ice skating rink “shows that by using wood, you’re limited only by your imagination.”

2007-10-22

Future of forestry to change

Report predicts drastic decline in allowable cut

A predicted 40 per cent decline in the annual harvest cut for the Kamloops Timber Supply Area (TSA) comes as no surprise as results of a new analysis were released Oct. 11.

The report, issued by the Ministry of Forests and Range, suggests the industry is battling the clock as the annual harvest level of 4.2 million cubic metres could be maintained during the next few years before declining to about 1.8 million cubic metres by 2016.

This decline is about 23 per cent lower than what was predicted before the mountain pine beetle infestation.

Ski hill venture seeks pine beetle funding

New life has been injected into the sport of downhill skiing in Clearwater as the Thompson Nicola Regional District has agreed to submit an an Expression of Interest to the Mountain Pine Beetle — Community Economic Diversification Initiative program to fund a feasability study establishing a new high altitude ski area in the community.

A series of events in the past forced the non-profit society operating the Clearwater Ski Hill to list the property located near the CN train bridge on Dunn Lk Road for sale last year. Lack of snow in the past few years, volunteers on the verge of burnt-out and sky-rocketing insurance rates prompted a small group of locals to band together and begin researching the possibility to relocate downhill skiing to a higher elevation.

$16M funding for forestry research projects in BC

British Columbia's government has awarded $16.1 million in funding to 267 projects focussing on forestry research.

The funding will be for studies that range from one to three years, led by researchers at universities, provincial and federal governments, First Nations, companies and not-for-profit organizations.

Several climate change studies will assess the impact that changes in temperature and precipitation level may have on the sub-boreal spruce forest and interior grass lands ecosystems. Others will focus on the impact of weather changes on species including the Interior Douglas fir, and forest pests such as bark beetles.

Group looking at climate

During its 10 years of existence, the Fraser Basin Council has tackled a number of critical issues affecting the population within the basin, which is the majority of B.C. The Nechako River, for instance, has been a "primary focus," especially in the early years of the organization, said council chair Dr. Charles Jago in a Thursday presentation to the Fraser-Fort George Regional District board of directors.

These days, the council involves itself with flood control, watershed projects, rail safety, emergency planning and other such issues. Climate change is also a priority.

"We see that (climate change) very poignantly here in our region with the effects of the mountain pine beetle devastation," Jago said.

2007-10-18

Airing Concerns About Economic Diversification

So, the question is, as Prince George tries to diversify the economy in the shadow of the mountain pine beetle, does it do so at the cost of the environment, at the cost of air quality? That is the question the Alternatives and Opportunities, forum looked to answer.

It was the first of a four part series of discussions about the future for Prince George and how that future will be shaped by the major issues facing the community. The issues being: air quality, labour stability, technology and crime.

2007-10-16

Mixed forests fight off bugs better than single-species growth

Mixed forests can literally fight off insect infestations better than single species tree farms, according to a study with big implications for Canada's forest management.

A team led by Eldon Eveleigh of the Canadian Forest Service has found forests containing both hardwoods and evergreens harbour an army of parasites that can keep the spruce budworm in check.

2007-10-14

Beetle timber being left behind

B.C. government stumpage policy is making the mountain pine beetle problem worse by encouraging producers to cut surviving trees and leave dead ones behind, says NDP forestry critic Bob Simpson.

Changes to the rate the province charges for logs harvested from Crown land were made in 2006, as the B.C. and federal government were working out a new softwood lumber agreement with the U.S. Forests Minister Rich Coleman put an end to the nominal 25-cent per cubic metre stumpage fee brought in to encourage the harvest of beetle-killed pine in the B.C. Interior, which U.S. producers viewed as an increase in what they have long claimed to be a subsidy to Canadian lumber exports.

2007-10-12

Pine beetle -- Voracious pest's impact won't be fully felt for years, but it's coming

My first glimpse of what has become a catastrophic natural disaster for B.C. was in 2003, when I was travelling around the province writing stories from the so-called heartland.

At that point, the mountain pine beetle was already into its fourth voracious year of attacking B.C.'s pine forests. In my stopovers in Quesnel and Prince George, the briefest glance from the car window was all it took to see the damage. In the worst-hit spots, dead trees covered the landscape.

Royal Bank issues cautious outlook for B.C. after 2010 Games

A lack of major spending projects after the 2010 Winter Olympics and more pine beetle devastation to the forest industry warrants a cautious outlook for British Columbia's economy next decade, the Royal Bank said today.

While an increasingly diversified economy is key to solid growth this year and next, the bank's latest provincial economic outlook says weaknesses in some resource sectors are starting to show.

Canada's New Government Invests in Skills Training for Pine Beetle Affected Communities

Residents in rural communities whose jobs have been affected by the Mountain Pine Beetle infestation will have access to new skills training through the College of New Caledonia.

Canada’s New Government is providing $366,906 in funding to the college to purchase new mobile training equipment.

2007-10-11

Pine beetles kill 250,000 more trees

The province has identified 250,000 new fading red trees this year, killed from infestation of mountain pine beetle, a bark-burrowing pest that threatens up to $23 billion worth of timber in Alberta's forests.

Dan Lux, the beetle boss of Alberta Sustainable Resource Development, says the results from aerial and ground surveys shows that Alberta is comprised of three "zones" of beetle infestation, since billions of the bugs were carried over the Rocky Mountains jetstream into Alberta from B.C. in July and August 2006.

2007-10-10

Pine beetle crisis still just a murmur

The news is getting grimmer on the pine beetle front. Yet the crisis still doesn’t seem to have really captured the political and public attention it deserves.

It’s difficult to grasp the scale of the economic problems ahead.

B.C. has never experienced anything like it. Only the collapse of the east Coast cod fishery offers a comparable disaster.

2007-10-08

Wet weather scuttles Alberta's pine beetle burn

Alberta's plans to light three large forest fires this fall to slow the pine beetle's aggressive march eastward will be delayed until at least next spring.

Recent cold and wet weather across the province has scuttled plans to light three controlled fires along the western boundary with British Columbia.

2007-10-04

City dwellers get a close look at reality of beetle kill destruction

Flying 1,000 metres above the mountain pine beetle-infested forests of the Cariboo-Chilcotin, Vancouver Board of Trade chairman Henry Lee got his first real look Wednesday at the scale of the epidemic that has swept through the central Interior.

A sea of rusty brown unfolded below the charter Pacific Coastal aircraft, stretching from the Fraser River to the rugged folds of the Coast Mountain Range, 300 kilometres away.

2007-10-03

$16-millions in forest studies to focus on climate change, beetle damage

The B.C. government confirmed funding Tuesday for a $16.1 million forestry research program through its forest investment account.

Forests and Range Minister Rich Coleman announced in a news release that funding has been approved for the 2007-08 forest sciences program budget.

Research topics covered include climate change, fire hazards, harvesting techniques and mountain pine beetle issues, Coleman said.

The science program is one of five programs Victoria funds through its forest investment account. A 14-member forest science board advises the government on funding priorities. This year 267 projects have been approved.

Climate change studies included in this year's funding will include research into:

- The impact that changes in temperature and precipitation levels may have on the sub-boreal spruce forest and interior grass lands ecosystems.

- The impact of weather changes on species such as interior Douglas fir and on forest pests such as bark beetles.

First nations programs approved include a collaborative study by the University of British Columbia and the Gitxaala and Nuxalk First Nations incorporating traditional ecological knowledge into modern forest practices.

Wildfire studies will focus on urban interface areas and post-fire flooding.

Mountain pine beetle research will also cover flooding issues, specifically impacts of the combined effects of the beetle infestation and salvage harvesting on waterflow.

Researchers will also look at how to harvest beetle-killed lodgepole pine while protecting younger trees and non-pine species.

The provincial government has funded $52 million in the science research program since it was created in 2004.

2007-10-02

Careful With That Axe

Gordon Lehn loves few things better than roaming the gravel roads and walking the wooded foothills of southern Alberta. But it was back in his office last year, in front of the computer, that the veteran forest manager realized the trees he oversees faced crisis. Lehn is woodlands manager for Spray Lakes Sawmills, a family-owned company with about 450 employees and contractors based in Cochrane, Alta., a small city just west of Calgary, and his forest-modelling software had churned through the complex environmental interactions to deliver a stark message: Southern Alberta's lodgepole pine were at "high" susceptibility to a mountain pine beetle infestation. A massive outbreak in neighbouring B.C. - producing maybe a trillion beetles - was wafting over the Continental Divide and settling across part of the Eastern Slopes of the Rocky Mountains. Worse, the icy winter that usually keeps these destructive creatures at bay in Alberta's pine forests had taken a break over the past couple of years. "I thought 'Holy smokes,'" Lehn says, recalling his moment of discovery. "We have the right climate, the right pine species and the right tree age for a major infestation. And we're right in the beetle's path. We have a problem - and it's big."

Almost every time he goes into the woods these days, Lehn sees more infested trees. It's a potentially ruinous threat for his company, but the issues go far beyond that: Pine trees account for over two-thirds of southwest Alberta's forest. Lehn says the beetle could go after 80% of them. And if it's not stopped here, it could be taking future meals right across Canada's boreal forest.

No taste for spruce

The latest reports of the mountain pine beetle infesting spruce stands warrants little concern, according to a report on annual pine beetle activity released by the Ministry of Forests and Range.

Research at the University of Northern British Columbia indicates the behaviour of pine beetles infecting spruce can be expected when the beetle population is very large, and more desirable food sources like mature pine become scarce. However, current data suggests that pine beetles are not able to reproduce well in spruce trees, and therefore are unlikely to impose the wholesale attack on spruce as they have in the pine forests.

In the Bulkley Valley pine makes up only 18 per cent of the timber species. As the beetle infestation took hold in B.C., local foresters were left among the few in the province that can conceivably survive the epidemic. The alarms went off, however, when the beetle migrated to spruce.

2007-10-01

Pine beetle problem needs more than a report

Our provincial forest industry stands at the brink of a precipice.

According to a recent Ministry of Forests report on timber supply, 40 per cent of B.C. pines will be dead by the end of the year - victims of a burgeoning mountain pine beetle infestation that feeds on large stands of trees at a time.