2008-06-30

Ainsworth expects debt restructuring to go ahead


Ainsworth Lumber says as a result of further negotiations it expect to implement its restructuring plan -- which will see the company fall out of family ownership -- by the end of July.

The company, which at one time has plans to build two panel plants in B.C.'s Northern Interior fed by beetle-killed timber, says it has secured additional support for its restructuring plan announced earlier this month.

The deal to convert $823.5 million in debt into equity and $150 million US in new debt has support of 92 per cent of the shareholders, said Ainsworth.

Pine beetle epidemic, fires prove action needed


Re: Climate plan is a tough sell with soaring fuel prices, June 26

I differ with The Sun's view that the road ahead is "not clearly mapped." B.C.'s 126-page Climate Action Plan is as comprehensive as any plan in existence, and calls for all British Columbians to be part of the solution.

Many parts of B.C. have been warming at a rate that is twice the global average. It isn't hard to see the impact this is having. Think of the mountain pine beetle epidemic that has destroyed our pine forest. Think about the storms that devastated Stanley Park. Think about the firestorms in Kelowna that burned homes and threatened communities. Think about what kind of province we want to leave for our children.

Pine beetle proves resilient to winter wallop


The mountain pine beetle proved once again to be a tough foe, surviving a particularly nasty northern Alberta winter in greater numbers than anticipated.

The cold killed many of the voracious forest-destroying pests in the north, especially in the leading edge of the infestation near Whitecourt and Slave Lake.

But it was far from the knockout blow that forest-watchers were hoping for, government beetle fighters and researchers said Thursday.

Pine beetle crisis worsens


The province is preparing for another assault on the mountain pine beetle after the winter cold failed to kill off as many of the forest-destroying pests as experts had hoped.

Surveys conducted at 300 sites recently show a high population growth of the beetle in southwestern Alberta from Kananaskis down to Waterton.

While cold winter temperatures reaching -40 C can achieve kill rates as high as 97.5 per cent, in southern Alberta, more trees are now infested with pine beetles than last year. And across the province, more than six million hectares of forest will be at risk this summer.

2008-06-29

Bark beetles a growing problem in MT


As the debate over global warming continues, Montana and surrounding states have been seeing more warmer winters, which is leading a growing problem: bark beetle populations are on the rise, and that has some scientists worried.

The beetle eats and lives under a trees bark, and as they lay eggs, the tree can become smothered and die.

As mild winters become a regular occurrence in the state bark beetles now have a better chance of survival.

2008-06-28

Weathering the storm


Quesnel is at the centre of the mountain pine beetle epidemic but few jobs have been lost at its local forestry operations, thanks to good planning, careful management and fortunate geography In the midst of the punishing blows that some northern B.C. communities have taken during a prolonged forestry downturn, one community has shown remarkable resilience.

While there have been indefinite sawmill closures in Terrace, Fort St. James, Mackenzie, Chetwynd and Fort Nelson, and huge shift reductions in other communities, including Prince George, the lumber mills in Quesnel continue to operate.

While the job losses number in the hundreds in some communities -- tipping more than 1,200 in Mackenzie, a community of 4,700 -- the forest manufacturing losses in Quesnel, a community of 9,900, are still only in the dozens.

2008-06-27

After branching out into Alberta, pine beetles take root


Mountain pine beetles appear to be on their way to becoming a permanent fixture in Alberta's forests, provincial officials say.

There were hopes that low winter temperatures in early 2008 would reduce Alberta's infestation, but in a downbeat assessment released yesterday, the officials said populations of the voracious tree pest remain high in several areas.

"Pine beetles may be here to stay in Alberta," said Ted Morton, Sustainable Resource Development Minister.

Canada- Pine beetles aren't going anywhere


The destructive mountain pine beetle may be here to stay, say provincial officials.

As it was announced yesterday, not even a cruel Alberta winter could kill them all.

"As B.C. tells us, don't underestimate the pine beetle and don't take it for granted," said Duncan McDonnell, spokesman with the province's Sustainable Resource Development department.

Antique mill gets funding for restoration


The federal government has provided $166,000 in pine-beetle funding to the Barkerville historic town to help restore an antique sawmill.

The mill will be made operational for demonstration purposes to create an additional attraction to the historic site, east of Quesnel. The wood milled from the demonstrations will be used to restore and preserve projects on the Barkerville site.
"With the steady flow of visitors Barkerville receives, the sawmill will provide another historic attraction for both tourists and residents to enjoy," said Cariboo-Prince George Conservative MP Dick Harris.

The federal government also announced $115,000 in beetle funding to the Nazko First Nation so they can identify new business opportunities. Of that, $90,000 will be spent to develop an economic action plan.

2008-06-26

Winter did not stop pine beetle spread in Alberta


Cold temperatures did not stop the spread of pine beetles in Alberta this winter, and it may be too late to eliminate the tree-killing insects from the province, officials said on Thursday.

Cold winter temperatures slowed the growth of the beetle population in parts of the province, but a survey this spring indicates thousands survived in much of southwestern Alberta and in pockets elsewhere.

"Pine beetles may be here to stay in Alberta," Sustainable Resource Development Minister Ted Morton said in a written statement, which also warned the province will have to work hard to keep the beetle population low.

Winter cold not enough to kill pine beetle in Alberta


Mountain pine beetles maintained their grip on Alberta's forests despite cold winter temperatures, the provincial government said today.

Researchers had predicted earlier this year that temperatures plunged low enough for long enough to be deadly to the pest in much of northern Alberta. It takes about 12 consecutive hours of -40 C ambient air temperature to kill the beetle.

Those predictions of a significant kill were based on a scientific model, but officials didn't know for sure until crews headed out into the woods to count beetles at 300 sites across the province in May and June.

2008-06-25

Valemount receives cash for downtown project

The Northern Trust has provided $300,000 through its beetle recovery program to help fund a downtown revitalization project in Valemount.

The project in the community, 300 kilometres east of Prince George, is meant to revive its main street in order to attract new investment and property development.

"This project is a cornerstone in Valemount's efforts to further diversify its economy by investing in tourism-related initiatives," said Valemount mayor Jeanette Townsend. "We are appreciative of the Trust's partnership in this project and look forward to the future development this investment will bring," she said.

2008-06-23

Beetle expert on 'party animal'

A scientist investigating the devastating impact of a beetle on pine trees in Canada has likened their behaviour to guests at a party.

Dr Javier Gamarra, of Aberystwyth University has produced a mathematical model to predict mountain pine beetles' infestation in milder weather.

Pine forests are worth millions to the economy of British Columbia.

Beetle destroying Okanagan forests

The pine forest in the central Okanagan could be soon become a memory as the devastation caused by the pine beetle continues to grow.

If the worst predictions are true, in areas like Kelowna upwards of 80 to 90 per cent of the pine trees will be killed by the insect.

Ian Wilson, urban forestry supervisor for City parks in Kelowna, says the worst is yet to come.

2008-06-20

Finance minister sticks to beetle aid promise

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said Thursday his Conservative government is "absolutely" committed to its promise of spending $1 billion dollars to help mitigate the fallout from the pine beetle epidemic.

"We are on track doing that with the authorized spending we've done so far -- that's why Prince George is able to go ahead with the airport expansion to accommodate Asian flights," Flaherty told reporters. "So, we're on track in terms of the commitment of $1 billion in pine beetle rejuvenation."

Flaherty -- in a rare appearance for the federal finance minister here -- was the keynote speaker at a Conservative Party fund-raising luncheon. Unlike most appearances by senior cabinet ministers, Flaherty made no announcements and did not hand out any money.

2008-06-18

Pine Beetle Devastates Canadian Forest, May Fuel Global Warming

Erica Lee's foe is small yet mighty.

She's fighting an invasion by the mountain pine beetle, an insect the size of a grain of rice that threatens to destroy forests across North America.

``What we're experiencing in western Canada is an infestation of pine beetles of a magnitude never before seen,'' said Lee, 34, who is the Alberta government's top specialist on the insect and a leader in efforts to contain it. ``The potential to spread to eastern parts of the continent is very real.''

2008-06-12

Beetles, biofuels lumber Canada's wood-products industry

Canada's wood-products industry is headed for a second straight year of $750-million losses as pine beetles and biofuels drive up costs, while the U.S. housing collapse suppresses demand, the Conference Board of Canada says.

"2007 will be remembered as one of the most difficult years for Canada's wood-products industry, with business conditions resembling a bad horror movie," said Conference Board economist Valerie Poulin.

"Last year, B.C.'s mountain-pine- beetle infestation, softwood-lumber export taxes, the strong Canadian dollar and the collapse of the U.S. housing market led to a loss of $750 million."

Another dark year ahead for forestry

Comparing the forest industry to a bad horror movie, the Conference Board of Canada said Wednesday that if 2007 was bad, 2008 is shaping up to be no better.

The Canadian industry is expected to lose $750 million this year with only a modest return to profitability in 2009, the board states in its Canadian Industrial Outlook report on the forestry sector.

The industry's troubles stem from the collapse of the U.S. housing market and the high Canadian dollar. On top of that, the mountain pine beetle infestation in B.C. is now impacting timber supplies by killing the equivalent of 15 years of harvests, which will limit production for the next decade.

B.C. forest industry's woes will continue

Comparing the forest industry to a bad horror movie, the Conference Board of Canada said Wednesday that if 2007 was bad, 2008 is shaping up to be no better.

The Canadian industry is expected to lose $750 million this year with only a modest return to profitability in 2009, the board states in its Canadian Industrial Outlook report on the forestry sector.

The industry's troubles stem from the collapse of the U.S. housing market and the high Canadian dollar.

Beetle kill is about more than economic survival

We are pleased for the municipalities that received the additional $780,000 in B.C. government funding to the Omineca Beetle Action Coalition. As with the recently announce $630,000 in federal funding for Fort St. James, Fraser Lake and Vanderhoof, we appreciate the need for these communities to respond to the crises they are facing.

We are concerned, however, that an immediate crisis is being ignored by governments - one that places more than 100 First Nations communities and 100,000 lives in jeopardy.

Half of B.C.’s First Nations - 103 communities - are in the middle of the 13.5 million hectares destroyed by the beetle. Most are in remote areas, many accessible only by air, and are surrounded by a massive tinderbox of dead forest just waiting for a spark.

2008-06-11

Lessons Learned From Pine Beetle Epidemic: FORREX Conference

The Forest Research Extension Partnership (FORREX) has organized a two day conference (June 10 & 11 at UNBC) under the title “Mountain Pine Beetle: From lessons learned to community-based solutions.

Over 150 people attended the first day of the conference which was organized by FORREX to “highlight and share significant ‘lessons learned’ from both First Nations and non-First Nations perspectives, and to discuss what the latest science, experiential and Traditional Knowledge is telling us about the influence of the [pine beetle] as a disturbance agent.” Conference chair Al Wiensczyk of FORREX opened the conference and welcomed the participants.

Phil Burton, who is an adjunct professor at UNBC and the author of over 50 scientific papers, told the audience in his session that natural “disturbance” of the forest ecology is a necessary agent of ecological diversification. From that perspective, “disturbance,” whether it is insect infestation or other natural event, cannot and should not be completely eliminated, but instead foresters should have the perspective of “managing” it. The key issue is whether or not the “disturbance” is inside or outside the bounds of natural variability.

Beetle logging could be hurting forests, wildlife

There is mounting evidence that salvage logging of pine beetle-killed stands causes more ecological degradation than leaving them alone, scientist Phil Burton told a forum at UNBC on Tuesday.

Given that only about one-third of the beetle-impacted area is made up of pure lodgepole pine stands, and given that the dominant form of harvesting is clear-cut logging, when salvage operations take place they are also removing the secondary forest structure, he said on the opening day of a two-day forum on the impacts of the pine beetle.

That secondary structure -- particularly the non-pine species -- could provide timber for mills in 20 to 40 years so is important from a mid-term timber supply perspective, explained Burton, who works with the Canadian Forest Service in Prince George.

2008-06-10

Redshift: Witnessing Landscape Change

On Friday, July 4, 2008, the Art Gallery of Calgary opens a new exhibition featuring the work of Marcia Harris and Erik Olson. Titled Redshift: Witnessing Landscape Change, the exhibition portrays the recent mountain pine beetle infestations in British Columbia and Alberta.

Due to warmer winters and a favourable distribution of even aged Lodgepole Pine, the mountain pine beetle population has soared. Over the past two years, Harris and Olson have independently focused their artistic practices on this devastating subject. The result is a compelling experiment in documentary painting: a series of paintings, drawings and one installation that revisit the red attack from different perspectives. Each work, punctuated by red brushstrokes that overrun the forest space, attempts to express a problem that can seem beyond comprehension.

Harris describes her work as contemporary landscape. The content portrays the distinctive transitional colours of the pine, but Harris also draws attention to the relationship between man and nature. In her work, Harris challenges the concept of how this disaster has affected us and how we can choose to deal with it. Harris was born in GaspĂ©, Quebec. She graduated with distinction from the UBCO – University of British Columbia, Okanagan from the fine arts program with a major in painting and a minor in drawing, screen-printing and photography in 2004. Now based in Calgary, Harris has shown extensively across Western Canada. Her work can be found in private and corporate collections across Canada, the United States, England and the Grand Cayman Islands.

2008-06-08

Ottawa to Fund B.C. Hemp Plot Trials

B.C. forestry towns hit hard by the mountain pine beetle will use federal cash to see whether they can produce hemp commercially.

The project in the District of 100 Mile House, about 200 km northwest of Kamloops, will be funded through the federal Community Economic Diversification Initiative (CEDI).

2008-06-07

Beleaguered forestry industry finding new uses for pine beetle killed wood

As the mountain pine beetle munches a devastating path through B.C. forests, another blow for the down and out forestry industry, governments and corporations are working on better ways to use the dead wood in everything from furniture to energy production.

West Fraser Timber Co. Ltd. (TSX:WFT) and Epcor Utilities said recently they are contemplating building a power plant near Houston, B.C. that could be fuelled by pine-beetle-killed wood.

Pinnacle Pellet Inc. is one of a handful of private B.C. companies that has started turning shavings from beetle-affected wood into pellet fuel, a practice that is popular in Europe and gaining recognition in North America.

Hopes alive for dead wood

As the mountain pine beetle munches a devastating path through B.C. forests -- another blow for the down and out forestry industry -- governments and corporations are working on better ways to use the dead wood.

West Fraser Timber Co. Ltd. and Epcor Utilities of Calgary said recently they are contemplating building a power plant near Houston, B.C., that could be fuelled by pine-beetle-killed wood.

2008-06-06

Economy chops down ranks fighting beetle blight

The replanting of British Columbia's forests is falling behind because of economic woes affecting industry and a funding lapse in the government's reforestation program and unable to keep pace with the voracious mountain pine beetle.

Fewer trees will be planted next year than at any time in the past two decades, even though the pine beetle has ravaged vast tracts of land, the head of a tree planting association says.

Symposium explores beetle scourge

Gary Severson brought a sense of urgency with him when he traveled from Colorado to Montana this week to attend a statewide symposium on the Rocky Mountain’s bark beetle epidemic.

Get together with local communities, legislators and federal land managers, come up with a plan, and implement it now — the sooner the better, Severson told about 150 people gathered for the Red Tree Symposium Thursday at the University of Montana. Even doing that, he cautioned, may still leave Montana in the same situation as Colorado, with hundreds of millions of dead and dying lodgepole pines covering 1.5 million acres.

“You’re sitting here listening to a lot of bad news, and we did this in Colorado too,” said Severson, who is the executive director of the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments. “There’s a tendency that if we all just focus on that, we’ll throw up our hands, say there’s nothing we can do, give up and go home.

Ottawa can't see forestry for the trees

The forest industry is being ground into sawdust, with a GM-sized layoff every four months since the start of 2003.

Pine beetles, softwood lumber taxes, a soaring dollar, a collapsing U.S. housing market: It all adds up to an industry-threatening crisis. In response, the House of Commons natural resources committee has leapt into action, suggesting the government ... strike a committee. That, and whip up an ad campaign extolling the wonders of wood.

There are, of course, marginally less ludicrous recommendations in the committee's 63-page report, including veiled subsidies for small and medium-sized firms and, most notably, urging the Competition Bureau to get out of the way of necessary and overdue consolidation of the industry.

B.C. government preparing for waste wood-to-biofuel bids

The B.C. government says it will be ready by July for bids from bioenergy producers for the mountains of debris in B.C. forests not being used now by sawmillers. The bids will be for a new form of forest tenure aimed at utilizing waste wood and will coincide with a B.C. Hydro call for proposals on large-scale bioenergy plants, Forests Minister Rich Coleman said at a Prince George bioenergy conference this week.

The forests ministry estimates that in the Interior alone, 4.4 million cubic metres of wood a year is being left after loggers leave. A cubic metre of wood is equivalent to a telephone pole.

Most of the waste wood is in the regions hit hardest by the mountain pine beetle - the western Interior from Fort St. James in the north down to Merritt in the south. Those regions are also well away from the existing pulp and paper industry, which is now paying from $25 to $35 a cubic metre in transportation costs for dead pine logs hauled from the bush to mills.

2008-06-05

Schweitzer: Manage beetles like post-fire forests

Creating healthier forests, possibly by having Montana take over management of some federal timbered land, is the best way to combat the “red storm” of beetle-killed pine trees sweeping across the West, Gov. Brian Schweitzer told the 150 people gathered in at the University of Montana Thursday for a day-long conference on bark beetles.

Schweitzer suggests that instead of spending $50 million to $200 million annually to fight wildfires, the state should budget $75 million each year for treating its forests before they’re burned or killed by beetles. But, he added, that won’t do much good unless federal land managers become better neighbors and also treat their acreage.

“We propose the federal government manage like we do after a fire — complete timber sales in six to eight months after a fire,” Schweitzer said. “When we have dead or dying trees, we harvest them, but our neighbor doesn’t do a dang thing, in their checkerboard fashion.

Bioenergy could help in North, minister says

Bioenergy opportunities will open up not just in B.C.'s beetle-ravaged Interior but in other areas of the province like the northwest where there is a glut of old, rotting timber, B.C. Forests Minister Rich Coleman told a BioEnergy conference on Wednesday.

The start-up of the new sector was helped with the introduction of legislation this spring that will create new tenures to feed energy plants with wood debris left behind from logging the province's forests, said Coleman, the keynote luncheon speaker. The new tenures -- expected to be put up at the same time as a second call for bioenergy projects by B.C. Hydro next month -- will also include access to standing beetle-killed timber.

Coleman stressed that the new bioenergy sector will be able to use existing resource roads at no cost if the province has helped pay for them, and the wood fibre will be priced at the lowest level, 25 cents a cubic metre.

OMINECA RECEIVES FUNDING FOR PINE BEETLE RESPONSE PLANS

The Province is providing the Omineca Beetle Action Coalition with $870,000 to continue planning that will sustain mountain pine beetle-impacted communities into the future, Forests and Range Minister Rich Coleman announced today.

“The Omineca Beetle Action Coalition has made good progress identifying new ways to diversify and help stabilize beetle-impacted communities,” said Coleman. “The mining and alternative energy strategies recently completed by OBAC are prime examples of the excellent work the coalition is doing for the Omineca region.”

OBAC is addressing 12 priority topics with its strategy development. The coalition will use the $870,000 to help complete its remaining strategies – which include agriculture, tourism, forest products and fibre use, regional infrastructure, and community services – to stimulate economic growth and job creation.

Province offers up more beetle cash

The B.C. government provided another $780,000 on Wednesday to the Omineca Beetle Action Coalition to continue planning diversification strategies for communities along Highway 16.

B.C. Forests Minister Rich Coleman praised the group for its progress.

"The mining and alternative energy strategies recently completed by OBAC are prime examples of the excellent work the coalition is doing for the Omineca region," he said in delivering the money at the BioEnergy conference in Prince George.

2008-06-04

New pellet plant ready by July

The growing wood pellet sector in Canada will soon include Pinnacle Pellet's new plant south of Prince George.

The plant is being built next to Dunkley Lumber, about 80 kilometres south of the city, and is expected to be complete by July, Pinnacle Pellet senior official Peter Brand told an audience of 400 on the opening day of the BioEnergy Conference at the Civic Centre.

The three-day event has attracted speakers from around the world to Prince George, considered an area with significant bioenergy potential because of its residual wood basket but also because of the vast swaths of dead pine left in the wake of the mountain pine beetle epidemic.

2008-06-03

British Columbians urged to save water

The B.C. government is urging everyone in the province to restrict their use of water, and will introduce legislation to help make that happen, Environment Minister Barry Penner said Tuesday in a press release.

Key actions include setting ambitious water efficiency and conservation targets, establishing flow requirements in legislation for ecosystems and species, establishing a maximum 40-year term for water licenses in areas of scarcity, regulating large groundwater withdrawals, and looking to safeguard and learn from First Nations' traditional and cultural water uses, Penner said in the release.

B.C.'s economy and industry continue to grow, and its population is expected to increase by another 1.4 million people in the next 25 years. In some areas, like the Okanagan and Gulf Islands, seasonal water shortages are already challenging community water systems, and the fish and aquatic ecosystems that depend on these systems for survival, the release said. Climate change and its related effects, like the mountain pine beetle and changing water cycles, are also adding to the pressures on fresh waters.

Pine beetles felling trees across West

Hatchet in hand, entomologist Amy Gannon cuts a slab of bark from the trunk of a lodgepole pine north of Wolf Creek and quickly spots a mountain pine beetle larvae.

The squiggly worm could have rested comfortably on the tip of a pencil eraser. Its bite belies its size.

"The tree is done for," said Gannon, who works for the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.

2008-06-02

Funding helps in fight against pine beetle

How can we make trees more resistant to pine beetles? That’s one of the questions scientists at the UVic’s Genome BC Proteomics Centre hope to answer with new million-dollar equipment the federal government is helping to purchase.

The equipment will be used for metabolite research, the study and identification of metabolic products of cells that may be used to distinguish a disease state from a healthy state. Metabolomics is used in a number of areas including the study of plant health.

“Metabolomics in plants is extremely complex compared to humans,” explains Proteomics Centre Director Dr. Christoph Borchers. “While plants have tens of thousands of metabolics, humans have only 4,000. The equipment can provide a comprehensive analysis of the metabolites that can kill the mountain pine beetle. Once we know what’s making the trees vunerable we can work on breeding the right trees.”