Beetle invasion poses $23B threat to forests

Alberta Minister of Sustainable Resource Development Ted Morton visited Kananaskis, Banff National Park and areas of British Columbia on Thursday to see first-hand the devastation of forests by the mountain pine beetle and efforts to control the scourge.

"There are some areas in B.C. that you won't see a green forest again until 2050, so obviously we don't want that to happen in Alberta," Morton said following an hour-long helicopter tour with reporters and ministry staff. An estimated $23 billion of timber in Alberta is threatened by the bug, further endangering a struggling forest products industry.

From the air, the patches of vivid yellow, orange and red trees interspersed among thick and healthy stands of green lodgepole pine, limber pine and whitebark pine signal the tell-tale infestation of the beetle, a tiny insect that defies its diminutive size in terms of its potential to decimate Alberta forests.