2008-03-30

Appetite for Destruction

Flying in a small airplane, high over the flat, austere landscape of central British Columbia, an endless vista of pine trees spreads out before you. Coursing through the landscape are huge swatches of dead trees, their needles turned the color of bright fall leaves.

To an untrained eye, it looks like fire might have seared the forest, but the trees have actually succumbed to a tiny black predator known as the Mountain Pine Beetle. Due to drier summers and warmer spring temperatures over the last 50 years, the beetles are thriving. And they have already destroyed tens of thousands of square miles of pine forest in Canada and the western United States.

In British Columbia, the affected area is now roughly the size of Indiana.

Beetles Wreak Havoc With British Columbia's Wood Pellet Plans

British Columbia's wood pellet industry is no longer facing its worst enemy: The province-wide mountain pine beetle epidemic appears to be nearing its end.

The Canadian Press reports the pesky bug has infested approximately 32 acres of lodgepole pine in the province, an area more than four times the size of Vancouver Island. However, the infestation’s damage is significant: The provincial government and the Council of Forest Industries estimated the beetle consumed more than half of British Columbia’s marketable pine forest.

Despite the beetle's rampage, efforts are being made to position the remaining forestry for wood pellet and biofuel consumption. Rick Publicover, executive director of the Central Interior Logging Association, told the Canadian Press that low demand for Canadian wood in the U.S. housing market requires new markets to be cultivated. "The hope is the quicker we can get on to the bioenergy front and then we can figure out how to make that work," he says.

2008-03-28

Silent Insect Killer Ravages American West

The American West is under attack by a silent killer that's causing some of the worst-ever destruction to hit the nation's forestland: the mountain pine beetle.

"People are looking out their windows and seeing dead trees where they used to see green," said Sandy Briggs from the Forest Health Task Force in Aspen, Colo.

Despite their small size (approximately 5 millimeters when fully grown), these beetles are doing enormous damage, wiping out millions of acres of lodgepole pines as an epidemic of them explodes across the West.

Beetle damage hits salmon runs, report says

If rising water temperatures weren't enough of a danger to Pacific salmon, the effects of the mountain pine beetle infestation are adding to salmon's woes, scientists say.

Both events are related to global warming.

The grain-of-rice-sized beetles have chewed through Interior pine forests covering an area four-times the size of Vancouver Island, says a report released Tuesday by the federally funded Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council.

2008-03-26

Western Canadian pine beetle infestation spreads

About half of the marketable pine trees in West Coast Canadian province of British Columbia have been ravaged by a nearly decade-long beetle infestation, according to new government statistics.

The outbreak of mountain pine beetles has affected trees over an area of 13.5 million hectares (33.4 million acres) in the Western Canadian province, which is a major source of softwood lumber exports to the United States.

The insects have infested and killed about 710 million cubic meters of timber as of this month, up from 582 million cubic meters at the same time last year, according to a news release posted on the province's Web site.

After feast on B.C. forest, pine beetles face famine

An end is in sight to British Columbia's mountain pine beetle infestation, largely because the bugs have eaten through most of the trees that had sustained them.

Doug Routledge, vice-president of the Council of Forest Industries, said that it will take years to harvest dead trees for whatever value the wood has, but that the current phase of beetle activity is winding down.

"Beetles in the western side of the Rocky Mountains have fundamentally eaten themselves out of house and home," he said yesterday, commenting on the release of figures on the impact of the bugs.

Pine beetle heads east

After decimating pine trees in B.C.'s centre, the mountain pine beetle is moving to Alberta.

The beetle epidemic has destroyed about half of B.C.'s marketable pine trees, the B.C. government and private industry estimate.

The insects have infested and killed about 710 million cubic metres of timber, up from 582 million cubic meters at this time last year, according to the Ministry of Forests and the Council of Forest Industries.

2008-03-25

Pine beetle infestation impacting salmon runs

If the heat of climate change weren't enough of a danger to Pacific salmon, scientists are cataloging how the effects of the global-warming-aided mountain pine beetle infestation are adding to salmon's woes.

The grain-of-rice-sized beetles have chewed through interior pine forests covering an area four-times the size of Vancouver Island, a report released Tuesday by the Pacific Fisheries Resource Conservation Council notes.

Some 60 per cent of the Fraser River watershed is affected, with loss of forest cover over salmon streams that has led to numerous impacts that "significantly alter the watershed's ecology, threatening already stressed salmon runs."

Expert says B.C. pine beetles have run out of food, stopping epidemic

The mountain pine beetle epidemic in British Columbia is coming to a close, but only because the pests are running out of food, a forestry representative says.

The latest figures from the B.C. government and the Council of Forest Industries estimate the beetles have infested more than half of B.C.'s marketable pine forest.

Doug Routledge, the council's vice-president of forestry, said the pine beetle populations are making their way across the Rocky Mountains into Alberta because the pine stands have collapsed in many areas of B.C.

2008-03-17

Canwood to Close Plant in July

Wood Furniture Manufacturer Canwood, Penticton, British Columbia, announced Friday that it will close its plant in mid-July, according to a Penticton Western News report.

Ninety-one workers will lose their jobs in the move.

President Mel Kemp blamed the high value of the Canadian dollar relative to the U.S. dollar, a poor U.S. sales environment and diminishing access to non-beetle infected wood.

2008-03-16

Alberta ponders where to fight pine beetle

Alberta is looking to punch the pine beetle as hard as possible in the southern rockies this year while hoping that this winter's cold snaps have been enough to slow the forest-destroying bug's progress in the northwest corner.

But one of Canada's top pine beetle experts says the province should do the exact opposite -- throw as many resources as possible into the north to halt the insect's advance into the boreal forest, which stretches eastward right across the country.

2008-03-13

Brutal cold helps pine beetle fight

Alberta environmental officials are hoping brutally cold snaps this winter will turn back the east-moving tide of pine beetles that killed millions of trees.

Duncan MacDonnell, spokesman for Alberta Sustainable Resource Development, told the Calgary Sun that despite human discomfort, the cold was a lifesaver for pine trees.

Millions of tiny, pine beetle corpses! It's what Alberta crews hope to find this spring as cold-snap misery turns ally in bug war

If you've driven into B.C. in the last year, you know what's coming -- and it isn't pretty.

Dying pines, red with disease, pepper the forest -- in many places, the trees fatally infected by mountain pine beetle dominate the land.

It looks like autumn in B.C. , except it's March and evergreens aren't supposed to lose their colour.

Experts say 13 million hectares of pines, or about 78% of B.C.'s total, are already doomed.

To have seen the blight next door is to have seen what many predicted would be this province's future, with the pine beetle having burrowed its way into an estimated three-million Alberta trees.

2008-03-12

Ottawa cash would prevent fires, save lives, native leader tells MPs

Ottawa's failure to provide B.C. natives with cash for large-scale firebreak construction in the pine-beetle-ravaged Interior is a recipe for disaster as forest fire season approaches, a British Columbia aboriginal leader warned MPs yesterday.

"Make no mistake about this: Lives as well as livelihoods are on the line in the coming months," Chief Bill Williams told the Commons natural resources committee.

2008-03-09

Time Running Out For Residents to Take Advantage of Beetle Tree Removal

Time is running out for Prince George residents who want to have some help removing the dead beetle pine from their property.

While residents are responsoble for hiring a tree faller to fall and remove the trees, the City’s special Job Creation Partnership program will help with the clean up.

2008-03-07

Four months left in tree debris removal program

Prince George residents still have one last chance to get debris from downed pine trees removed from their yards, but they'll have to act quickly, city environment manager Mark Fercho advised Friday.

After focussing largely on brush clearing to reduce the threat of forest fires spreading into the city, Fercho said crews are now turning their attention to helping out homeowners who've noticed their pine trees have turned red after been attacked by the mountain pine beetle.

2008-03-05

B.C. lumber leader presses Ottawa for aid from 'perfect storm'

Hemorrhaging jobs, the B.C. forest industry travelled to Ottawa yesterday, pressing MPs for federal aid crafted in such a way that it would not trigger a new trade battle with the United States.

"We need your active participation in surviving the perfect storm of issues we are currently facing," John Allan, president of the British Columbia Lumber Trade Council, told the House of Commons Natural Resources Committee.

"A confluence of adverse economic forces, largely beyond anyone's control, has [affected] B.C.'s forestry sector, threatening its continued viability."

The much-strengthened Canadian dollar has hiked the price on exports and cut shippers' sales; the faltering U.S. housing market has slashed demand for lumber and driven prices to rock-bottom levels; the pine beetle has destroyed 600 million cubic feet of timber, and shippers are paying a 15 per cent export tax when selling to the United States because of the softwood truce.

"As Hank Ketcham, CEO and chair of West Fraser [Timber], recently said, 'It's a bloodbath out there,' " Mr. Allan said, adding that about 10,000 forestry jobs have been lost in B.C. since the start of 2007.