2008-01-31

HARVEST LEVEL SET FOR MORICE TIMBER SUPPLY AREA

Following an expedited timber supply review in response to the Morice timber supply area’s growing mountain pine beetle infestation, the new allowable annual cut for the Morice area will be 2.16 million cubic metres, effective Feb. 1, 2008.

“In the face of an unprecedented pine beetle epidemic, this determination carefully balances a wide range of complex interests and objectives,” said chief forester Jim Snetsinger. “In making my determination, I also considered current market conditions and the potential impacts to neighbouring timber supply areas and communities, and concluded that a large increase in the allowable cut is not necessary at this time.”

2008-01-30

Winter chill assists battle against pine beetle

It may not be a knockout punch, but Mother Nature's onslaught of cold weather has likely landed a big blow in Alberta's fight against the voracious mountain pine beetle.

Three days of -30 C temperatures across most of the province have partly answered the prayers of those trying to contain the pest that has munched its way through millions of trees and threatens to wipe out millions more across Canada.

A licence to pollute dressed up in rhetorical petticoats

Canada's conventional oil supplies are running down. They are being replaced with oil from Alberta's tar sands.

Each barrel of tar-sands oil produces two to three times more greenhouse-gas emissions than a barrel of conventional oil. The result is obvious: Greenhouse-gas emissions from Alberta oil have been rising.

Alberta's attitude toward its "large final emitters," including the tar sands, has been a licence to pollute dressed up in rhetorical petticoats. It so remains following Premier Ed Stelmach's scandalously weak update this week of the province's climate change "strategy."

Oil company spokesmen hailed the Premier's announcement, and why not? It's the most weak-kneed climate-change effort anywhere in the advanced industrialized world.

Read the fine print. Canada under Stephen Harper is committed, at least rhetorically, to reducing emissions by 20 per cent from 2006 levels by 2020Ö. This is already a substantial weakening of previous commitments that were based on 1990 levels.

Nonetheless, it's 20 per cent by 2020 for Canada, with some provinces anxious to go further. U.S. politicians are almost all agreed on this target. Europeans want to move further faster, but they, too, will accept the 20 by 2020 formula.

What's the Alberta target outlined by Mr. Stelmach this week? A 14-per-cent reduction from 2005 levels by — wait for it — 2050! ÖBy then, almost every industrialized country (including fossil fuel producers such as Britain, Norway, Australia and the United States) are looking at 50-. to 80-per-cent reductions.

The Alberta rhetorical hokum goes further. The headline on the Stelmach press release reads: "Alberta to cut projected emissions by 50 per cent under new climate change plan."

Chances are, the government will underline the 50-per-cent bit. But the key word is "projected." Why? Because projected emissions were going to soar. Cutting them in half still means more emissions by 2020 and only a 14-per-cent pullback by 2050.

Tar sands account for 19 per cent of Alberta's emissions; power plants, many driven by coal, 47 per cent. But investments in the tar sands, both committed and anticipated, are so huge that the emissions from tar sands will rise fast.

Alberta's response to this challenge has been a reduction in "intensity" of emissions. Under regulations that entered into force July 1, 2007, large final emitters have to reduce their intensity by 12 per cent yearly. By definition — and the Alberta government's documents state this clearly — such intensity targets, when output is soaring, only mean a slowing down of the increase of overall emissions.

In another bow to industry, companies can avoid even these intensity-reduction levels by paying $15 a tonne into a "technology" fund or buying credits from other companies.

Given the profits to be made with oil at $90 to $100 a barrel (check Suncor's recent results), companies will be in no hurry to meet those intensity targets. With this policy, the Alberta government has literally put itself over the barrel.

Mr. Stelmach mentioned carbon capture and storage, about which people have been talking for years. In Alberta, they've also been talking for years about a carbon pipeline. They've also been talking for years about clean coal technology. In short, the Alberta governments of Ralph Klein and now Ed Stelmach have been very, very good at talking and very, very slow at acting.

Large final emitters, including the expanding tar sands, account for 70 per cent of Alberta's emissions. You can cajole, bribe and encourage consumers and other sectors to reduce, but unless emissions decline from the industrial sector, not much will happen. You can even increase wind power sources, as Alberta has done, and the result will be useful but marginal if industrial emissions keep rising.

This climate change gap between flimsy rhetoric and real action is such a tragedy for a province that with vigorous leadership could literally lead the world in marrying resource exploitation to sustainable development, including reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions.

The world could be beating a path to Alberta's door, if only the province had better political leadership and a business class that had seen opportunities instead of spending so many years obstructing, naysaying, threatening.

Alberta has 12 per cent of Canada's population and about a third of its emissions. The Stelmach government has now confirmed that Alberta's emissions will keep rising for many years, which means arithmetically that as other provinces pull down their emissions, Alberta's share of national emissions will rise in absolute and per capita terms.

This is leadership — from the perpetual governing party of Alberta that is set to extend its reign from 37 to 41 years? This is leadership in a province where the mountain pine beetle has crossed the Rockies from British Columbia and is attacking Alberta forests, where the mountain ice packs are melting with long-term and dire consequences for the soil and grasslands of Alberta, where water supplies are imperilled over the long term?

2008-01-29

Beetle-kill to fuel new ethanol plant

Canadian companies Lignol Innovations and Suncor Energy are planning to build Colorado's first cellulosic ethanol plant, converting beetle-kill and other wood residues into fuel.

The $88-million project could be located in Commerce City and completed by 2012. The plant got the federal government's blessings Tuesday with the U.S. Department of Energy announcing its decision to foot nearly one-third the total bill, or $30 million.

Cold snap won't kill B.C.'s pine beetles

Western Canada is in the midst of a cold snap that is taxing power grids and keeping people home from work and school. Parts of Alberta have reported windchills as low as -48 degrees Celsius.

The severe weather raises an interesting question: Will this winter be cold enough to kill off British Columbia's dreaded infestation of pine beetles? B.C.'s lumber-based economy is under threat due to a mountain pine beetle infestation that is chewing up pine forests and rendering the wood worthless. The beetle epidemic has been blamed on global warming. In the past, the insects were wiped out during longer, colder winters.

So is this the cold winter B.C.'s lumber business has been waiting for? Gordon Hamilton, forest reporter for the Vancouver Sun, looked into the issue, and the answer is No. According to Rod DeBoice, an official with the province's forest ministry, the mountain pine beetle population is just too big to kill.

Says DeBoice: "If you have got trillions of beetles, and you still have 5% to 10% of them survive a cold winter, it's enough to maintain an increasing population. We can be confident in saying the weather events we are seeing are not going to wipe the population out or solve the problem. It's just too extensive. But every little bit helps."

The beetle epidemic is expected to leave 80% of the province's over-mature pine population either dead or dying by 2011.

Bad news for pine beetles

While the majority of the province prays for the current cold snap to end, there are a few people who want to see it last a little longer.

"Right now, we're just hoping for a couple more days of this," said Duncan MacDonnell, public information officer with Alberta Sustainable Resource Development.

"This weather is bad news for the beetles, so it's good news for us."

Cold snap not enough to halt pine beetle, ministry says

Bitter cold temperatures that have settled over northern B.C. may slow, but will not stop the mountain pine beetle epidemic that is eating its way through the province's pine forests and into Alberta, according to the ministry of forests.

"It won't be cold enough to knock them back to endemic levels where the population becomes static," Rod DeBoice, the ministry's bark beetle co-ordinator, said Monday.

2008-01-28

Cold weather may slow pine beetles' march northward

Bitter cold temperatures that have settled over Northern B.C. may slow, but will not stop the mountain pine beetle epidemic that is eating its way through the province's pine forests and into Alberta, according to the ministry of forests.

"It won't be cold enough to knock them back to endemic levels where the population becomes static," Rod DeBoice, the ministry's bark beetle co-ordinator, said Monday.

Geoscience BC Releases Initial Results From $5 Million Exploration Project in Central Cold weather may slow pine beetles' march northward

Bitter cold temperatures that have settled over Northern B.C. may slow, but will not stop the mountain pine beetle epidemic that is eating its way through the province's pine forests and into Alberta, according to the ministry of forests.

"It won't be cold enough to knock them back to endemic levels where the population becomes static," Rod DeBoice, the ministry's bark beetle co-ordinator, said Monday.

Geoscience BC Releases Initial Results From $5 Million Exploration Project in Central B.C.'s Mountain Pine Beetle Infestation Area

Mineral claim staking in central B.C.'s Mountain Pine Beetle Infestation Area has skyrocketed in anticipation of the release of initial results from the $5 million QUEST (Quesnellia Exploration Strategy) mineral exploration project - the largest mineral exploration geoscience project of its kind in the province.

Since the QUEST project was announced last June, almost 1,760 mineral claims have been staked in the central B.C. geophysical survey area by 114 companies or individuals. These claims cover over 780,000 hectares of land. This brings the total mineral claims in the area to over 6,000 held by more than 300 companies or individuals, covering approximately 2 million hectares.

2008-01-26

Things worse than doom-and-gloom forestry scenario painted in 2001

“As this report is written, British Columbia’s forest industry is reeling from new U.S. trade actions against Canadian lumber. Logging operations and sawmills throughout the province are shutting down, throwing thousands of employees out of work and undermining the economic foundation of many communities.”

So begins UBC expert Dr. Peter Pearse in his assessment of “an industry in crisis” — in November 2001.

Six years later, a new softwood lumber export tax, a huge currency shift and a U.S. lumber market meltdown have erased whatever gains were made from all the deregulation, forest licence reassignment, corporate takeovers and bankruptcies that have defined the B.C. Liberal government’s handling of the forest file.

So the 65th-annual Truck Loggers Association convention was a tough room for Forest Minister Rich Coleman last week. The announcement of yet another regulatory review and the creation of a “Working Roundtable” on restructuring was reserved for Premier Gordon Campbell’s wrap-up speech, leaving Coleman pretty thin gruel to offer the battered logging contractors of the B.C. coast the day before.

“I wonder some days just what I did to the premier to be made forests minister,” he told delegates, while trying to smile. He’ll be joined on the roundtable tour by Agriculture Minister Pat Bell, who may be the next forests minister.

So how bad is it? Coast Forest Products Association president Rick Jeffery used that 2001 Pearse report as a yardstick. Pearse said they needed to move to 50 per cent second-growth harvesting on the coast. After six years they’re at 30 per cent. Pearse said they would need 11 to 14 mills to handle second-growth timber. They have one new one and two rebuilt. Pearse said they would have to close half the big old-growth mills. Six have closed, and 24 remain open, for now at least.

Of course those targets were to return the coastal industry to break-even, and they didn’t anticipate the U.S. market or last year’s three-month strike that cost the industry many of its highest-skilled workers. A similar story is told in the pulp industry, which depends on the waste stream of busy lumber mills. Expect more closures.

Now we have the government’s proposed solutions. Regulations have already been “streamlined” to the point where the Forests Practices Board has just issued an unusually strong denunciation of “high-grading” by helicopter loggers on the Central and North Coast. They’ve been lifting out the prize big cedar and spruce and leaving the decadent hemlock, good only for soaking up the sun and preventing regeneration.

Ecosystem-based management is underway on the remote coast, but it remains to be seen whether that will develop past this kind of high-grading.

Everyone agrees tenure reform is needed, but the buy-back of 20 per cent from big forest companies a few years ago hasn’t done much for smaller players. The last effort in 2004 privatized inspections and led to big-company monopolies on Crown timber.

Privatizing Crown lands? Campbell shot down that trial balloon in a hurry. As one industry insider noted, the public would never support it.

One government strategy that looks promising is to take the 15 per cent border tax money and use it to retrain and retire workers from the shrinking industry.

It’s almost enough to make one forget the phantom billion-dollar pine beetle fund promised to B.C.

2008-01-25

Premier says mountain pine beetle is proof of global warming in BC

Premier Gordon Campbell says the mountain pine beetle infestation is proof BC is already being affected by global warming...and it's time to start planning for a hotter future.

The government still hasn't explained how it'll meet its self-imposed goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 33 per-cent, but Premier Gordon Campbell is launching another climate change initiative...94 million dollars for a pacific institute for climate solutions to study how BC should adapt to a warming world.

2008-01-24

Can't separate economy and environment, Premier Campbell says

Canadians must rethink their approach to reviving struggling sectors of the economy in the context of a changing climate and its impacts, Premier Gordon Campbell said Wednesday.

"If we become as well-known for planting trees as we are for cutting trees, we have an opportunity to expand our economy and (expand) the opportunities that people have and experience in this country," Campbell said in a lunchtime address to a conference about adapting to climate change.

He said governments in Canada should be looking at the long-term picture and work together as they address issues such as the pine-beetle infestation of forests in the western part of the country. He said it has already wiped out 40 per cent of B.C.'s pine forest and would destroy up to 70 per cent by 2015.

2008-01-22

Pine beetle wood to generate heat in Prince George

A scheme to burn large amounts of the dead, unmarketable pine beetle wood to generate heat and electricity for several buildings while drastically reducing greenhouse gasses is in the works for the city of Prince George.

On Monday, the federal, provincial and municipal governments announced plans for the community biomass energy system in the B.C. Interior city.

2008-01-21

Six Million Beetle Bucks

Ottawa has put up $6-million to pay for work done to control the spread of the mountain pine beetle.

Prince George-Peace River MP Jay Hill, made the announcement this hour at the Natural Resource Forum.

The money comes out of a fund announced last summer. The work is aimed at tryng to prevent the beetle from spreading into the northern boreal forest.

There are now 13 million hectares of forest in B.C. that have been ravaged by the pine beetle.

2008-01-19

B.C. announces round table to review forestry industry

The B.C. government will set up a working round table on forestry in response to the serious challenges and permanent changes facing the industry, the premier said Friday.

"Global warming, the pine beetle epidemic and increasing economic pressures are the kinds of challenges the Working Roundtable on Forestry will address," Gordon Campbell said during the 65th annual Truck Loggers Association convention in Vancouver.

Study offers hope for pine beetle defense

Canadian researchers have discovered how pine and spruce trees fight pests and disease, providing new information about forests' natural defense systems.

University of British Columbia Associate Professor Joerg Bohlmann and colleagues said their genetic analysis will allow forest stewardship programs to reinforce a forest's inherent strength -- breeding trees that could in time repel insects such as British Columbia's notorious mountain pine beetles.

2008-01-18

Feds provide more beetle funding

The federal Conservative government announced today another $6.5 million to help stop the spread of the mountain pine beetle epidemic in British Columbia.

Prince George-Peace River MP Jay Hill made the announcement at the sixth annual resource forum here.

Government of Canada Announces Further Investments to Control the Mountain Pine Beetle in British Columbia

The Honourable Jay Hill, Secretary of State and Member of Parliament for Prince George–Peace River, today announced $6.5 million to assist with spread control of the mountain pine beetle in British Columbia. The announcement was made on behalf of the Honourable Gary Lunn, Minister of Natural Resources.

"Today's investment further demonstrates our government's commitment to fighting the northward and eastward spread of the mountain pine beetle into the boreal forest and across Canada," said Mr. Hill. "This funding will give the province of British Columbia greater capacity to deliver targeted control actions in priority infestation areas."

Ottawa to spend $6-million on controlling pine beetle

The federal government is expected to announce plans today to dispense about $6-million to pay for work done to control the spread of the mountain pine beetle in B.C.'s Interior.

Jay Hill, the MP for Prince George-Peace River, will be in Prince George to announce the latest pine beetle measures. The money comes out of a fund announced last summer and although there is little hope of containing the damage already done to B.C.'s lodgepole pine forests, it is aimed at preventing the spread of the bugs into Canada's northern boreal forest.

Lumber builds on crude calculations

Pine beetle, softwood export tax, surging Canadian dollar and a collapsing U.S. housing market. The business environment for Canfor Corp. reads a little like the forestry version of the biblical plagues.

And, to top it all off, part of the company's Prince George pulp mill burned down Tuesday night.

Privatizing Crown Land Possible As Forestry Changes

Prince George, B.C- “If you’re in a bad situation don’t worry, it will change, and if you’re in a good situation, don’t worry, it will change.” With that quote, Chief Forester for the Province, Jim Snetsinger, told the Natural Resource Forum in Prince George, that no matter what the challenges, forestry will continue to be an important player in the provincial Economy.

“There has always been immense change in the forest sector” says Snetsinger who says the ripple from the pine beetle impact will resonate in the central interior until at least 2015.

Using Genes to Fight Pine Beetle

"The mountain pine beetle doesn't read the newspaper," is a saying among researchers who study the pest that has already left an area of dead timber four times the size of Vancouver Island in its wake.

That is to say, predictions about when, where and how fiercely the pine beetle will strike next aren't always accurate.

2008-01-16

Attacking the Mountain Pine Beetle

The provincial and federal government have decided to attack the Mountain Pine Beetle as they would a forest fire this winter.

Last fall, an additional six million in funding was announced, to help fight the pesky bugs that have been threatening to spread further eastward.

2008-01-15

Genetic makeup of sap holds clue to tree defences

University of B.C. researchers say they have discovered that the genetic makeup of sap holds some of the keys to how trees evolve new defences in their ongoing arms race against insect pests.

But the discovery is no "silver bullet" enabling researchers to genetically engineer more resistant trees, UBC associate professor Joerg Bohlmann said. Rather, it reinforces the importance of maintaining a diverse gene pool to ensure trees of the future will be as able as today's trees to adapt to changes in climate and the insects that attack them, the UBC scientist said in an interview Monday.

2008-01-14

Pine beetle target of DNA research

Researchers are working to decode the DNA of mountain pine beetles, the trees they kill and a deadly fungus to find a way of slowing the spread of the destructive bugs.

Scientists at Genome Alberta and Genome British Columbia have launched a two-year study into how the genetics of the three organisms interact.

Researchers hope to unlock mountain pine beetle DNA

Researchers are working to decode the DNA of mountain pine beetles, the trees they kill and a deadly fungus to find a way of slowing the spread of the destructive bugs.

Scientists at Genome Alberta and Genome British Columbia have launched a two-year study into how the genetics of the three organisms interact.

Unique biological approach to tackling mountain pine beetle

A team of BC and Alberta scientists are launching a research project to examine the interaction between the mountain pine beetle, the fungal pathogen it carries and pine trees. The initial two-year project with a value of $4 million, is being funded equally by Genome British Columbia and Genome Alberta.

In British Columbia 13 million hectares has already been devastated by the infestation - the largest ever in Canada - and in Alberta well over 1.5 million trees have also been damaged.

2008-01-12

British Columbia maintains modest economic growth, says RBC

British Columbia's economic growth is on track and expected to come in at 2.5 per cent in 2008 and three per cent in 2009, but continues to face long-term pressures on future economic growth, according to a provincial economic outlook released today by RBC.

"Several of British Columbia's key cyclical growth drivers are at turning points, capital spending will likely peak over the next few years, vulnerable exports are being hit, and the pine beetle threat still looms," said Craig Wright, senior vice-president and chief economist, RBC. "Growth will slow as the balance of risks to the province's economy over the long term has swung more towards the pessimist's camp."

2008-01-11

Critics say clearcutting in Alberta won't stop pine beetle

Alberta is clearcutting huge parcels of land in Kananaskis Country to get ahead of the devastating mountain pine beetle, but critics say that solution is worse than the problem.

"We think sustainable harvesting is the best way to guard against the dangers of pine beetles and forest fires," said Ted Morton, minister of sustainable resource development, Friday as he got ready to fly over southwestern parts of the province where pre-emptive logging has been approved to try to stop the insect.

BC's economy will grow by 2.5% this year and 3% in 2009

BC’s economy will grow by 2.5% this year and 3% in 2009, but after that the future doesn't look good - that's according to the latest provincial outlook from RBC.

Chief economist Craig Wright says capital spending will likely peak over the next few years, vulnerable exports are being hit, and the pine beetle threat still looms.

Mountain pine beetle on its way - county

The bane of pine trees everywhere is slowly making its way towards Strathcona County. The mountain pine beetle, once common only in the forests along western North America from Mexico to central British Columbia, has been steadily advancing eastward. The five-to-seven millimeter long locust is reviled among arborists for its ability to decimate vast expanses of old growth pine forests in a matter of weeks.

“It’s just outside of the eastern slopes of the mountains near Calgary and already has a firm toehold in the Grande Prairie area,” said Sheila Flint, foreman of urban forestry and horticulture for tourism, recreation, parks and culture for Strathcona County.

2008-01-10

Distinguished Alberta and BC scientists tackle mountain pine beetle infestation with unique biological approach through genomics

Today a team of BC and Alberta scientists are launching a research project to examine the interaction between the mountain pine beetle, the fungal pathogen it carries and pine trees. The initial two-year project with a value of $4 million, is being funded equally by Genome British Columbia and Genome Alberta.

In British Columbia 17 million hectares (about the size of the state of Washington and 18% of BC's total land mass) have already been devastated by the infestation - the largest ever in Canada - and in Alberta well over 1.5 million trees have also been damaged.

B.C.'s pulp and paper sector in need of renewal - Study

A new report released today by the B.C. Pulp and Paper Task Force warns that B.C.'s pulp and paper industry is falling behind its competitors in other regions and requires strategic reinvestments and sound public policy if it is to be renewed.

The task force, which includes representatives from all 20 pulp and paper mills in B.C., commissioned Poyry Forest Industry Consulting to conduct an assessment of the industry's competitive position and its future economic prospects.

New partnership takes aim at pine beetle infestation

The mountain pine beetle and its devastating effects on BC’s forests is the focus of a new UVic research partnership with Canada’s Department of Natural Resources.

Under the multi-year partnership agreement, Natural Resources Canada will provide up to $2.25 million to the university for remote sensing research. Results will be used by policy-makers, communities and the forestry, mining and energy industries to diversify and strengthen the local economies of resource-based communities in BC.

2008-01-09

Foresty expert expects pine beetle to take a big bite out of lumber production

The mountain pine beetle (MPB) infestation in the B.C. Interior will drastically reduce harvest levels and the production of lumber, veneer and plywood, according to a forest industry expert.

The Business Council of British Columbia and the Council of Forest Industries released a research paper on Dec. 14, which estimates that the MPB epidemic will kill 30 per cent of the trees in the Interior by the middle of the next decade. In some parts of the region, this figure could reach 50 per cent.

2008-01-08

Money provided for habitat study

The B.C. government has announced a $70,000 investment into studying how to improve habitats for forest-dependent species, according to a recent news release.

The funding will be coming out of the province's Mountain Pine Beetle Ecosystem Restoration program and will be looking specifically at whether leaving debris and residual forest after logging has an effect on forest species.

2008-01-04

Gov’t looking at habitat

In the wake of the mountain pine beetle epidemic, the B.C. government is investing $70,000 to find ways to increase quality of habitat areas for forest-dependent species like fisher and marten.

Barry Penner, B.C. environment minister, said Thursday the study will help decide if leaving debris and residual forest after logging is effective as a habitat enhancer for a number of species.

Study to look at habitat quality in face of mountain pine beetle

The provincial government is investing $70,000 to study techniques to increase habitat quality for forest-dependent species, Environment Minister Barry Penner announced Thursday.

“This study will help determine if leaving debris and residual forest after logging is an effective habitat management tool for a number of species,” said Penner.

Central Okanagan Regional District and City of Kelowna Participate in Program to Reduce Wildfire Hazard

To mitigate the impacts of the provincial mountain pine beetle infestation, a forest fuel and hazard tree management program is being implemented in Myra-Bellevue Provincial Park.

Hazard trees are being removed and fuel reduction areas are being established near park boundaries by Ministry of Environment contractors. This will serve to reduce the risk of wildfire spread to private property adjacent to the park. Work will begin in the first week in January.