2008-07-31

Crucial battle ahead against pine beetle

The next three years could be crucial in Alberta's battle against the mountain pine beetle.

That's the word from Alberta Forestry Officials who toured the infested area Thursday from Kananaskis to Yoho Park. They say British Columbia has already lost the fight.

From high above in a helicopter overlooking the great divide, huge stretches of dead forest can be seen.

Blackwater Road Will See Improvements

Road improvements for the intersection at Highway 16 and Blackwater Road will be completed this fall.

"This work will improve safety for travellers at this busy intersection," said Prince George-Omineca MLA John Rustad. "The B.C. Government is committed to ensuring residents and visitors to region are as safe as possible on the roads, especially with the increase in log hauling due to the Mountain Pine Beetle epidemic."

Kode Contracting Ltd., located in Prince George, won with a bid of $2,272,287.50. The construction contract is the final component of the project, valued at $3 million.

No NCP ? Blame the Beetle

Canfor V.P of Marketing, Mark Feldinger says the mountain pine beetle had an impact on the decision not to rebuild North Central Plywood. “Dead dried mountain pine beetle logs cannot be used for plywood once it has checked (cracked), and there has been a reduced supply of Douglas fir.”

During the conference call this morning to discuss the second quarter results, Canfor executives would not say how much it might have cost to rebuild the mill, saying it was a moot point given the fibre supply.

Feldinger says there has been no decision at this point on what Canfor plans to do with the site, “The site is a leased site. We will be exploring our options over the next number of months.”

2008-07-28

Sask. looks to keep pine beetle out

The mountain pine beetle, a tiny insect that's been a deadly force in some western forests, has been officially designated as a pest under Saskatchewan's forest resources management act.

The beetle has not yet arrived in Saskatchewan's northern forest and the goal is to try and keep it that way, said provincial forest insect and disease expert Rory McIntosh.

An order-in-council made public Monday says it's in the public interest to designate the mountain pine beetle as an "insect that causes or is likely to cause damage to forests and trees and to designate all lands in the province of Saskatchewan as lands harbouring or likely to harbour the mountain pine beetle."

2008-07-27

Turning of the evergreens

If anyone has a newfound appreciation for the dangers posed by dead, standing trees, it’s Sheila Wright, development director for Rocky Mountain Youth Corps.

On June 19, Wright was walking around the Seedhouse Campground in North Routt County, where corps members were busy clearing the closed campsite of hazard trees. As Wright passed under an enormous beetle-killed tree, a 5-foot-long limb — known as a widow maker — crashed down in front of her feet.

“That would have hurt, you guys,” Wright exclaimed after initially laughing. “That would have freaking hurt!”

Our View: Pine beetle epidemic devastating

Our pine forests are under attack, and they are dying.

Most of us who live in Routt County have watched the transformation of our hillsides as pine trees turn from green to red. Soon, they will be gray, and only time will tell what will replace them.

We’re not alone. Mountain pine beetles are feasting on forests across the state and throughout the Rocky Mountain West, spreading as far north as British Columbia. Scientists studying the epidemic say it shouldn’t be dismissed as simply the latest iteration of a cyclical natural phenomena. No, they say, the pine beetle epidemic is unprecedented in its scope. And man is at least partially to blame.

Dealing with denial

There’s nothing quite as serene as lying under a stand of lodgepole pine trees.

Their fallen needles pad the ground, choking the forest floor and smothering other growth between the slender trunks.

Left alone, a lodgepole pine will grow bushy and broad. But in stands, competing for sunlight, they race to the sky, and their limbs are sparse and high. In the early evening, rays of sunlight sneak through the thin, green needles and fall to the ground like strands of blond hair, granting one the twin satisfactions of lying under a tree and the sun.

2008-07-25

Potential Mineral Resources in British Columbia's Mountain Pine Beetle Affected Areas

British Columbia is now closer to identifying new mineral and energy deposits in areas of mountain pine beetle infestations as a result of new data collected during a recent helicopter survey west of Williams Lake, Quesnel and Prince George. Funding for this survey was announced by the Honourable Gary Lunn, Minister of Natural Resources, on September 24, 2007, as part of Canada's Mountain Pine Beetle Program.

"Our government has committed $1 billion over 10 years to help communities that have suffered from this infestation, including $6 million for mapping areas for potential mineral prospecting," said Minister Lunn. "Mineral exploration will help to diversify the resource economies of beetle-infested areas and is an important part of the overall strategy to help affected communities."

2008-07-23

Ravaged area plans for 'social chaos,' report says

Communities in the British Columbia region hardest hit by a massive pine-beetle epidemic have come up with a blueprint for how to survive a bleak economic period that could follow when logging levels fall by an anticipated 70 per cent.

In a report released yesterday, the Cariboo-Chilcotin Beetle Action Coalition called on the federal and provincial governments to help the area head off a total economic collapse in which mills could close, 4,000 jobs could be lost and entire communities could face depopulation as people leave in search of work.

Donna Barnett, 100 Mile House mayor and coalition chair, said that with government help the area hopes it can avoid the worst-case scenario.

2008-07-22

$600,000 GRANT TO IMPROVE LOCAL ROADS IN CLEARWATER

The Province is providing a $600,000 grant to help the District of Clearwater upgrade local roads impacted by the harvest of mountain pine beetle infested wood, Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Kevin Falcon announced today.

“We know the road network in the rural communities has been hard hit by logging trucks carrying mountain pine beetle wood to market,” said Falcon. “This funding will help alleviate the wear and tear caused by heavy truck traffic and help ensure a safe, reliable road for the travelling public.”

The grant to Clearwater is part of a $10-million one-time contribution to smaller communities to improve key local roads impacted by the mountain pine beetle harvest.

2008-07-21

Pine beetles hurting Indian way of life in B.C.

A mountain pine beetle infestation in British Columbia is changing the lives of rural Indians.

Chief Leonard Thomas of the Nak'azdli (nah-KAZ'-lee) Band near Fort St. James is worried about job losses and keeping communities together.

Thomas also said the cultural impact of the beetle has been huge. Tribal elders cite the fire threat, loss of wildlife on which they rely for food and vanishing stands of wild berries and medicinal plants.

2008-07-20

Artists show shift in landscape

Canadian landscape painting, far from remaining bound up in its traditional niche, is a genre invested with contemporary issues like the destruction of the country's forests and global warming.

Both are concerns taken up by Marcia Harris and Erik Olson in Redshift: Witnessing Landscape Change, a thematic two-person show at the Art Gallery of Calgary.

Their unexpected common theme is the mountain pine beetle and the evidence of its destructive presence in British Columbia and Alberta. One reason the beetle is now advancing across the Rocky Mountains, and potentially all of Canada, is climate change.

2008-07-17

Cluculz Lake To See Smoother Roads

The B.C. Government has awarded approximately $1.26 million contract to O.K. Industries Ltd. for improvements to Prince George and Cluculz Lake area roads.

Pat Bell, MLA for Prince George-North states seal coating the roads will prolong surface life and increase safety, "We are ensuring the damaged caused by commuter and commercial traffic and the Mountain Pine Beetle issues are addressed and roads are strengthened for the future."

O.K. Industries Ltd. who are located in Saanichton, B.C. are not sure when they will begin work, however completion is scheduled for August 30, 2008.

2008-07-16

Burns Lake receives $300K for roads from province

B.C. Minister of Transportation Kevin Falcon - a keen cyclist - didn’t bring his mountain bike to Burns Lake on July 8, but he did bring $300,000 to be used towards road maintenance within the village.

“The funds come from a $10 million fund set up by the province to help communities with populations under 5,500, whose roads have been affected by the mountain pine beetle,” said Falcon.

Falcon continued, “We know the road network in the rural communities has been hit hard by logging trucks carrying mountain pine beetle wood to market. We recognize that smaller communities like Burns Lake are often the places that don’t have a large enough tax base to carry out all the projects on their road maintenance wish list. I understand that $60,000 - $70,000 is usually the amount of money available.

2008-07-15

Pine beetle threat grows in the West

Amy Gannon, hatchet in hand, sliced a slab of bark from a lodgepole pine tree near Wolf Creek, Mont., and quickly spotted a mountain pine beetle larvae no bigger than her pinky fingernail.

"This tree's done for," said Gannon, an entomologist with the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.

As wildfires roar through tinder-dry forests in California, the mountain pine beetle is silently killing even more trees — hundreds of thousands of acres of towering trees, mostly lodgepole pine, according to Robert Mangold, director of Forest Health Protection for the U.S. Forest Service.

2008-07-14

Pine beetle poses threat to native communities

The mountain pine beetle infestation in British Columbia is changing the lives of rural First Nations on a scale not seen for generations of native elders.

The safety of more than 100 bands is threatened by fire because dry, infected trees surround their communities, aboriginal leaders say.

Animals that natives have hunted for generations no longer take the same paths, and berries and medicinal herbs don't grow where they once did beneath the thousands upon thousands of hectares of dead pine forest.

The mood of a nation: Quesnel, B.C.

Eighteen-wheelers hauling timbre regularly barrel down the roads in Quesnel, kicking up plumes of dust that seem to be a constant presence. Claude Paquet of Clan Logging says he’s noticed the town is windier these days, perhaps because needles gradually fall from the trees killed by the mountain pine beetle, leaving less foliage to block the wind. As if the town needed another reminder of the beetle infestation.

Quesnel is one of the most forestry-dependent communities in British Columbia, and the industry has of course been hurt by the high dollar and heavy reliance on the weakening U.S. market. A recession is obviously a concern here, but the pine beetle’s destruction of the local timbre supply is probably a bigger one.

Up until now, the pine beetle has kept some forestry workers busy. Loggers are grabbing whatever remaining wood they can. Norm Gardner, manager of the Silvagro Partnership, a local nursery, is growing more to replace those trees, but that could soon come to an end. “We’ve had clients cancel orders, and we’ve had clients go into receivership this year,” he says. “We’re dealing with a lot of things I’ve never experienced before.”

Pine beetles hurting Indian way of life in B.C.

A mountain pine beetle infestation in British Columbia is changing the lives of rural Indians.

Chief Leonard Thomas of the Nak'azdli (nah-KAZ'-lee) Band near Fort St. James is worried about job losses and keeping communities together.

Thomas also says the cultural impact of the beetle has been huge. Tribal elders cite the fire threat, loss of wildlife on which they rely for food and vanishing stands of wild berries and medicinal plants.

2008-07-13

Pine beetle damage is also hurting First Nations way of life

The mountain pine beetle infestation in British Columbia is changing the lives of rural First Nations on a scale not seen for generations of native elders.

The safety of more than 100 bands is threatened by fire because the dry, red trees surround their communities, aboriginal leaders say.

Animals that natives have hunted for generations no longer take the same paths and berries and medicinal herbs don't grow where they once did beneath the thousands upon thousands of hectares of dead pine forest.

2008-07-12

‘Tax cuts flow from the revenue neutral carbon tax’

Most folks understand climate change is happening, but some continue to dispute if this is the case. So here are some points I would like you to consider.

Many parts of British Columbia have been warming at a rate that is twice the global average. Eleven of the last 12 years were among the warmest ever, since 1850. Over the last century British Columbia has lost 50 per cent of its snow packs and glaciers have melted away.

It isn’t hard to see the impact climate change is having in our province. Think of the mountain pine beetle epidemic that has destroyed our pine forest—80 per cent of British Columbia’s pine forest will be dead by 2013.

Little bug with a big bite

She's a stout little beetle, with clubbed antennae and a rounded butt.

About the size of a mouse dropping, the mountain pine beetle has powerful jaws to chew her way into a pine tree to the soft and, to the beetle's taste, delicious layer just below the bark.

If she succeeds — and it's always the female that leads the charge —she uses hormones to signal other beetles to join her. Thousands respond. Living outside trees for just two weeks, the beetles dig deep into the bark of this and nearby trees, eating and laying eggs. In a year, the tree needles are turning rusty red, and they're practically dead.

2008-07-11

Ken Shields: Playing the waiting game

Beset by collapsing U.S. demand for wood and chewed up by the voracious mountain pine beetle, the Canadian forestry business has never had it worse.

For Ken Shields, it couldn't be a better time to start a forestry company.

Mr. Shields' Conifex Inc. secured a foothold last Monday when the British Columbia Supreme Court approved the upstart firm's $13-million bid for a Fort St. James sawmill formerly owned by bankrupt Pope & Talbot Inc.

Raven Biofuels, Spectrum Energy to convert softwood into fuel

New Jersey-based Raven Biofuels International Corp. announced a partnership with British Columbia-based Spectrum Energy Inc. to develop cellulosic ethanol plants in the province that will use infested wood and other biomass as feedstocks. The pine beetle has created a major problem in Canada, and according to the British Columbia government, if infestation trends continue, approximately 75 percent of the 1.35 billion cubic meters of merchantable pine will be killed. Currently, the affected area is sizeable to the state of Texas and has the potential to produce more than 1 billion gallons of ethanol. Spectrum Energy and Raven Biofuels International have submitted a proposal to British Columbia’s Innovative Clean Energy Fund to help with financing.

2008-07-10

B.C. INVESTING IN 100 MILE HOUSE AREA ROADS

The Province is investing in the upgrade of 100 Mile House area roads and local roads impacted by the harvest of mountain pine beetle-infested wood, Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Kevin Falcon announced today.

“We know the road network in the rural communities has been hard hit by logging trucks carrying mountain pine beetle wood to market,” said Falcon. “That’s why we are providing a $1.75-million grant to help 100 Mile House alleviate the wear and tear caused by heavy truck traffic and help ensure a safe, reliable road system for the travelling public.”

The grant to 100 Mile House is part of a $10-million one-time contribution to smaller British Columbia communities to improve key local roads impacted by the mountain pine beetle harvest.

Pine beetles eat Canada, boosting GHG emissions

The mountain pine beetle, a small tree-devouring insect, has deforested an area of British Columbia the size of Louisiana — over 130,000 square kilometers. The 5 millimeter insect is a perfect tree-destroying machine. The beetles bore through the tree's bark to reach the phloem of the tree, which contains the tree's organic nutrients. The beetles then feed on these nutrients and lay their eggs. The trees defend themselves by secreting extra resin, but the beetles are often able to combat this by releasing a blue fungi. In about two weeks time, the tree turns a tell-tale red and essentially starves to death. The mountain pine beetles move on.

The mountain pine beetle, like forest fires, is a part of the natural cycle of a forest. However, the current outbreak is abnormal in its scale. Usually fire and winter cold snaps keep the beetles under control. But intense forestry management has meant a dearth of forest fire. Combined with a long series of unseasonably warm winters, the beetles have been spreading further and further every year. Many blame the warm winters, and therefore the scale of the infestation, on climate change. There was hope that this winter — which was colder than many previous — might stop the beetles, but so far it doesn't seem to have been effective as scientists hoped.

British Columbia is not the only victim — in 2002 the beetles reached Alberta. According to an article in The Economist, the beetles have now entered the parks of Banff, Jasper, Kananaskis, and have traveled as far as Slave Lake in the central-north of the province. The beetle has also made its way south into the American west, attacking Colorado forests vigorously, with 6,000 square kilometers falling victim so far.

2008-07-09

Pine beetle coming to a forest near you

Get ready for a change of scenery.

That was the message delivered to the members of the Regional District Board last Thursday as they listened to a presentation by Forest Entomologist Lorraine Maclauchlan.

Maclauchlan has studied the Mountain Pine Beetle problem in BC for many years and was able to give the board some insight as to what the Okanagan- Similkameen might expect to see in terms of infestation in the next few years.

2008-07-08

$400,000 GRANT TO IMPROVE LOCAL ROADS IN TELKWA

The Province is providing a $400,000 grant to help the Village of Telkwa upgrade local roads impacted by the harvest of mountain pine beetle infested wood, Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Kevin Falcon announced today.

“We know the road network in the rural communities has been hard hit by logging trucks carrying mountain pine beetle wood to market,” said Falcon. “This funding will help alleviate the wear and tear caused by heavy truck traffic and help ensure a safe, reliable road system for the travelling public.”

The grant to Telkwa is part of a $10-million one-time contribution to smaller communities to improve key local roads impacted by the mountain pine beetle harvest.

$500,000 GRANT TO IMPROVE LOCAL ROADS IN MACKENZIE

The Province is providing a $500,000 grant to help the District of Mackenzie upgrade local roads impacted by the harvest of mountain pine beetle infested wood, Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Kevin Falcon announced today.

“We know the road network in the rural communities has been hard hit by logging trucks carrying mountain pine beetle wood to market,” said Falcon. “This funding will help alleviate the wear and tear caused by heavy truck traffic and help ensure a safe, reliable road for the travelling public.”

The grant to Mackenzie is part of a $10-million one-time contribution to smaller communities to improve key local roads impacted by the mountain pine beetle harvest. Municipalities are required to continue to maintain these roads for industrial use.

Oil and gas survey to take off

A $2.5 million survey to collect seismic data on the potential of oil and gas deposits south of Prince George in the Nechako basin is going to be undertaken, Geoscience B.C. said Monday.

The seismic survey is the first in the area since a program was carried out in the early 1980s by Canadian Hunter.

Geoscience B.C. -- which was seeded by $20 million from the provincial government -- has initiated a number of programs to increase the knowledge of the petroleum and mining potential in north and central B.C. The region is the heart of the mountain pine beetle epidemic and is forecast to see a drop in forestry jobs in the wake of the timber supply decrease from the epidemic.

Survey to go ahead

A $2.5 million survey to collect seismic data on the potential of oil and gas deposits south of Prince George in the Nechako basin is going to be undertaken, Geoscience B.C. said Monday.

The seismic survey is the first in the area since a program was carried out in the early 1980s by Canadian Hunter.

Geoscience B.C. -- which was seeded by $20 million from the provincial government -- has initiated a number of programs to increase the knowledge of the petroleum and mining potential in north and central B.C. The region is the heart of the mountain pine beetle epidemic and is forecast to see a drop in forestry jobs in the wake of the timber supply decrease from the epidemic.

2008-07-07

$500,000 GRANT TO IMPROVE LOCAL ROADS IN FORT ST. JAMES

The Province is providing a $500,000 grant to help the District of Fort St. James upgrade local roads impacted by the harvest of mountain pine beetle infested wood, Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Kevin Falcon announced today.

“We know the road network in the rural communities has been hard hit by logging trucks carrying mountain pine beetle wood to market,” said Falcon. “This funding will help alleviate the wear and tear caused by heavy truck traffic and help ensure a safe, reliable road for the travelling public.”

The grant to Fort St. James is part of a $10-million one-time contribution to smaller communities to improve key local roads impacted by the mountain pine beetle harvest. Municipalities are required to continue to maintain these roads for industrial use.

OVER $1 MILLION FOR VANDERHOOF AREA ROADS AND AIRPORT

The Province is providing grants to help the District of Vanderhoof upgrade local roads impacted by the harvest of mountain pine beetle infested wood, and to help light the Vanderhoof Airport, Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Kevin Falcon announced today.

“We know the road network in the rural communities has been hard hit by logging trucks carrying mountain pine beetle wood to market,” said Falcon. “This funding will help alleviate the wear and tear caused by heavy truck traffic and help ensure a safe, reliable road system for the travelling public.”

The $700,000 grant to Vanderhoof is part of a $10-million, one-time contribution to smaller communities to improve key local roads impacted by the mountain pine beetle harvest.

Geoscience BC Announces Launch of $2.5 Million Nechako Basin Seismic Survey

Geoscience BC is pleased to announce that CGGVeritas of Calgary, Alberta has initiated a Vibroseis seismic reflection survey in the Nechako Basin west of Quesnel, in the heart of the Mountain Pine Beetle affected area of interior BC.

This $2.5 million survey, totaling approximately 350 line-kilometres of new seismic data acquisition, has been funded with $2 million from Geoscience BC and $0.5 million from the Northern Development Initiative Trust Pine Beetle Recovery Account. This project represents a major component of Geoscience BC's interior basins oil and gas geoscience program originally funded in April 2005 with a $5 million grant to Geoscience BC from the Provincial government. The area of the survey is largely contained within the Nazko First Nation's Traditional Territory, and CGGVeritas is providing training and employment opportunities to some members of the Nazko FN.

"Successful oil and gas development in the Nechako Basin has the potential to help offset the economic impacts of the Mountain Pine Beetle infestation," said Richard Neufeld, Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources. "We are committed to improving geoscience information and First Nations engagement throughout British Columbia as key parts to the long term success of this initiative and this year's funding of $5.7-million as well as $5-million in 2005 will continue to achieve that goal."

2008-07-06

Conference Board could use B.C. reality check

Here in the mountains of the B.C. interior, time assumes a different quality. Where we live, there's a community of us spread along the north shore of Paul Lake on a stretch of land that's actually Kamloops Indian Band property. We're land-lease folk and the majority of us are here because we crave a simpler life.

When we think of quality of life here, it's measured in things like dust from the gravel road, the number of big motors on the lake, the ravages of the mountain pine beetle and the effect of the new carbon tax on our unavoidable jaunts to town. It's a hybrid consciousness of rural, small town and national issues.

So when the Conference Board of Canada says our country is struggling to keep up with 16 other advanced countries in quality of life, it's befuddling.

Climate change is our problem to solve

Most generations face challenges that ask them to stretch beyond their time and to think of those who follow. Daily we think of what's best for our families and act on behalf of our children and grandchildren. I can't think of anyone who would say: "Who cares about the kids!" But that is exactly what Carole James and the New Democrats are doing when they talk about climate change but oppose even the smallest steps to deal with it.

The NDP is taking the same approach it took in the 1990s when it said "let's wait for the cold winter to take care of the mountain pine beetle." The result of the NDP's "wait and see" approach is a loss of 80 per cent of our pine forest and huge economic, social and environmental costs.

Climate change calls on all of us to rise above "business and politics as usual." We are already dealing with increased threats of flooding, droughts, wildfires, and forest epidemics like the pine beetle. It's time to face the facts, take responsibility for our own actions and do what's right.

2008-07-04

$600,000 GRANT TO IMPROVE LOCAL ROADS IN VALEMOUNT

The Province is providing a $600,000 grant to help the Village of Valemount upgrade local roads impacted by the harvest of mountain pine beetle infested wood, Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Kevin Falcon announced today.

“We know the road network in the rural communities has been hard hit by logging trucks carrying mountain pine beetle wood to market,” said Falcon. “This funding will help alleviate the wear and tear caused by heavy truck traffic and help ensure a safe, reliable road for the travelling public.”

The grant to Valemount is part of a $10-million one-time contribution to smaller communities to improve key local roads impacted by the mountain pine beetle harvest. Municipalities are required to continue to maintain these roads for industrial use.

$1.1 MILLION TO IMPROVE LOCAL ROADS IN MCBRIDE


The Province is providing a $1.1-million grant to help the Village of McBride upgrade local roads impacted by the harvest of mountain pine beetle infested wood, Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Kevin Falcon announced today.

“We know the road network in the rural communities has been hard hit by logging trucks carrying mountain pine beetle wood to market,” said Falcon. “This funding will help alleviate the wear and tear caused by heavy truck traffic and help ensure a safe, reliable road for the travelling public.”

The grant to McBride is part of a $10-million one-time contribution to smaller communities to improve key local roads impacted by the mountain pine beetle harvest. Municipalities are required to continue to maintain these roads for industrial use.

Alberta government preparing to surrender to mountain pine beetles


Alberta’s all-conquering conservative government could finally be headed for defeat as it reluctantly concedes the fight to stop mountain pine beetles from invading and destroying the province’s forests.

The Sustainable Resource Development (SRD) Ministry said that not even Alberta’s cold winter temperatures of minus 30C and lower early this year could slow the beetle population growth in parts of the province.

Surveys conducted this May and June by the ministry revealed that the beetle had a survival rate across much of southwest Alberta and in several pockets of northern and west-central Alberta during the winter. Survey results also suggest the potential for long-term survival of beetles in portions of Alberta’s forests.

2008-07-03

Beetle attack


OVER the past 14 years, a tiny insect no bigger than a grain of rice has laid waste a swathe of British Columbia’s forests so vast that the rust-red wasteland is visible from space. The mountain pine beetle has infested and killed over half the lodgepole pine forest in the centre of the province—an area larger than England. It has rampaged eastwards into northern Alberta for the first time. (It has also made localised attacks on forests in all 11 western American states.) Scientists now fear the voracious beetle is about to invade the jack pines of the boreal forest, which could see the plague sweep across northern Canada to the Atlantic coast. It is an unprecedented infestation that could become a catastrophe.

The pine beetle is a well-known pest, not an exotic import, but no effective means has been found to stop it. The beetles swarm up trees in large numbers, killing them by boring through the bark, sapping their nutrients and emitting a damaging blue fungus. Cold winters and forest fires normally keep the beetle populations in check. Some forest scientists trace the current outbreak to 1994, when provincial-government foresters, fearing the ire of greens, failed to eradicate a small infestation in a provincial park by cutting and burning. In any event, recent British Columbian winters have not been cold enough to kill the beetles.

The infestation is gathering pace: foresters fear that by 2013 four-fifths of British Columbia’s central-southern pine forest will be gone. Wafted eastwards by strong winds, in 2002 the beastie made its debut in northern Alberta and further south in the national parks of Jasper, Banff and Kananaskis on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains. It has advanced 400 kilometres (250 miles) across the province to Slave Lake. The beetle is now established in Alberta, despite vigorous cutting and burning.

2008-07-02

Beetle survives cold winter


The mountain pine beetle is still thriving and is a threat to Alberta’s forests, despite two cold snaps last winter that were hoped to have decimated their populations.

After beetle-counting crews from Alberta Sustainable Resource Development (SRD) returned from the forests in May, the results they’re reporting are staggering, indicating high rates of mountain pine beetles survived the winter across much of southwest Alberta and other areas in the province.

But not only did the beetles survive, there’s also a risk that the population will explode and cause a wide-spread epidemic, similar to one already seen in British Columbia forests.

Imagine life without a forest to love


A drive to Denver these days is an eye-opening, and disheartening, experience.

For miles along the I-70 corridor the pine trees are red instead of green. They are red because they are dead. Millions of trees, perhaps millions of acres of forest have succumbed to a little bug – the Mountain Pine Beetle (MPB).

Driving through Silverthorne and Vail every pine tree in every yard and on every golf course is dead. It is the most bizarre sight I have ever seen in my life – and one of the most dangerous – one spark and this vast forest of standing dead wood is going to go up in a fire of Biblical proportions.

2008-07-01

Ainsworth gains restructuring support


Ainsworth Lumber says as a result of further negotiations it expects 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 had 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.