2008-08-31

Pine beetle alive and well on the Island

If you thought the woods around the Capital Regional District were safe from the ravages of the dreaded mountain pine beetle, think again.

A study conducted for CRD Water Services concludes the southern Vancouver Island climate and forest habitat is ideal for the voracious beetle, which has destroyed thousands of hectares of pine trees in the Interior, and that the water district lands are a likely home base for small, local populations.

However, the saving grace for local forests is that stands of pine trees are surrounded by Douglas fir -- which is unpalatable to hungry pine beetles -- and many of the pines are growing on poor soil, meaning they are not as appetizing to the insects.

2008-08-28

As dying pines are mourned, a new forest is emerging

When Charlie Cammer built his wife, Barb, a bookcase out of blue-stain wood eight years ago, he couldn’t have been prepared for her response.

“Can you make me a house like that?” Cammer said his wife asked. “And here we are.”

Where we are is inside a first-floor bedroom of Cammer’s house in the Badger Meadows subdivision of North Routt County. The room is darkening with the day. Cammer sits on the edge of a crisply made bed, staring reminiscently across the room at the bookcase, remembering his wife’s request and the trees that used to populate the forest beyond the window at his back.

B.C.'s blueberry blues

The huckleberries and blueberries on the slopes of the Nicola Valley are hitting their juicy peaks this month, making it prime picking time for the Indian bands up and down the undeveloped stretches that gird the modern Coquihalla Highway running to the B.C. Interior.

Those succulent berries are much more than a sweet treat. They are ripening into a point of conflict between those bands, and companies yearning to develop the valley's tourism potential.

Drive the mountain motorways of the Coquihalla - a spectacular trip in summer, however nerve-wracking in winter - and two things are striking, beyond the spectacular vistas. One is the swaths of dead red pine, the carnage left behind by the pine beetle. And the second is the complete lack of any significant enterprise that can make up for the economic devastation caused by the beetle, and resulting evisceration of the forestry industry.

Natural Resources Canada: Government of Canada Continues to Support Efforts to Mitigate Wildfire Risk in MPB Affected First Nation Communities in B.C.

The Honourable Chuck Strahl, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development on behalf of Gary Lunn, Minister of Natural Resources today announced additional funds of up to $10.8 million from the Mountain Pine Beetle Program for continued efforts to reduce wildfire risk to Mountain Pine Beetle (MPB) affected First Nation Communities.

"Today's investment further demonstrates our Government's continued commitment to mitigate the impacts of the mountain pine beetle in British Columbia," said Minister Strahl. "This funding will assist B.C. First Nation communities in applying FireSmart principles to protect public safety and property on reserves and on adjacent provincial crown lands."

Today's funding is in addition to $5.1 million that the Government of Canada has spent to assist First Nation communities in dealing with MPB infestation on reserve lands since 2004.

Beetle Bucks Announced

The federal government has announced another $10.8 million to help First Nations in B.C. deal with the pine beetle epidemic.

The new money will go toward continued efforts to reduce the risk from wildfire to communities surrounded by dead and dying trees.

That includes the removal of hazardous timber and debris to help protect people and property on reserves and adjacent crown lands.

B.C.'s forests can lead fight against climate change

Our forest sector is facing challenges never before seen. The U.S. housing market collapse, export losses due to the rise in the Canadian dollar and the catastrophic consequences brought on by the mountain pine beetle have had widespread impact throughout our province.

Surprisingly, as bad as things are, B.C.'s forest industry has before it one of the greatest opportunities in more than a generation, an opportunity that will benefit our entire province.

That opportunity lies in the key role that wood can play as a solution to tackling climate change.

Dying forests increase wildfire danger across the West

Close your eyes, and a 3,000-acre wildfire on the banks of the New Fork River in Wyoming’s Bridger Wilderness crackles deceptively, like a soothing campfire. But any sense of security is shattered quickly by the blaze’s more violent noises. The sounds of falling century-old pines clap across the meadow like gunshots, and the fire roars like a passing train when trees suddenly torch from the ground up.

On the morning of July 31, smoke hangs low like a blue-tinted fog over the lakes and pastures of Sublette County, Wyo., obscuring mountain views and filling the air with a smoky scent even in Pinedale, about 20 miles south.

Officials think the blaze, dubbed the New Fork Lakes Fire, was caused two days earlier by an abandoned campfire. An incident command post is just starting to take shape at a fire that will quadruple in size in less than a week, forcing temporary area closures and an increase in firefighting personnel from 162 to 323.

Dead trees cause many dangers

At Rockin’s River Resort north of Prince George, British Columbia, Horst Schulz is experiencing a consequence not often associated with the mountain pine beetle epidemic.

“The flooding has gotten tremendous now that all the pine are dead,” Schulz said. “I had to take a boat to the house for about a week this year.”

Schulz said high water forced him to push his campground’s opening date back an entire month this year, from May 15 to June 15.

2008-08-14

B.C. plays catch-up on wind power

As B.C.'s first wind tower sites finally began to take shape on Dokie Ridge west of Chetwynd this spring, the surrounding hillsides flared with the now-familiar red of mountain pine beetle infestation, now spreading towards the northwest.

The dying forest is a potent symbol of climate change, frequently cited by Premier Gordon Campbell as his government implements an unpopular carbon tax and embarks on an aggressive plan to develop independent clean power sources.

Campbell has gained a new reputation as a national leader on alternative energy, but in fact B.C. lags behind other provinces in wind development. The Atlantic coast has more than a dozen sites, and another cluster sits in southern Ontario where coal and nuclear plants are mainstays of the power grid.

2008-08-13

Pine Beetle Removal Program Begins at Forests For The World

The City of Prince George and TDB Consultants started the removal of pine beetle affected trees today at Forests For the World.

The project is part of the Community Wildfire Protection Plan and the mountain pine beetle tree removal program that helps reduce the threat of forest fires and the hazards of dead trees to the public.

TDB started the removal of trees in the parking lot this morning and will move into the trails later today.

Saskatchewan on high alert for pine beetle

From his office at the fringes of the boreal forest in northern Saskatchewan, Rory McIntosh is helping lead the Prairie province's charge to keep out millions of unwanted guests from the west.

The threat: the grain-sized mountain pine beetle, a forest pest that has already infested and killed billions of lodgepole pines in British Columbia and Alberta.

While the mountain pine beetle is naturally found in forests in southern Saskatchewan, it has never been detected in the province's north, and Mr. McIntosh, a provincial government expert in forest insects and disease, based in Prince Albert, is hoping to keep it that way.

Geologists takes to the skies

A high-tech, highly visible Northwest mineral exploration survey took off from Smithers August 1. The QUEST-West airborne electromagnetic survey will help exploration geologists better understand the geology and mineral potential of the area.

B.C. Minister of State for Mining, Gordon Hogg, hopes the data will draw increased exploration investment into communities ravaged by the Mountain Pine Beetle.

“Geoscience work like the QUEST-West survey holds great promise for unlocking the mineral potential in areas coping with the effects of the mountain pine beetle,” said Hogg. “Exploration and mining can help diversify rural economies and offers investment opportunities throughout British Columbia.”

2008-08-12

Beetle a threat — not a problem

There is the threat of the mountain pine beetle invading Saskatchewan.

The bug has been in British Columbia and Alberta for the past year and has not made an progression eastward, but if it did the results could be devastating.

Rory McIntosh, a Provincial Forest Entomologist and Pathologist with the Ministry of Environment, said the beetle can cause the same damage to jack pine as mountain pine putting our forests in jeopardy.

2008-08-11

Beetlemania Returns, But Is Decidedly Unwelcome

Mountain pine beetles, an endemic native insect that inhabits the Rocky Mountains, are at epidemic levels in vast areas of North American forest, particularly in Colorado, Montana, parts of Utah, and much of British Columbia. But, is the impact more economical than ecological?

"The whole range of the mountain pine beetle, from Mexico to Canada, is under outbreak," Allan Carroll, an insect ecologist with the Canadian Forest Service in Victoria, B.C. told The Industry Report.

"British Columbia is undergoing the biggest outbreak to date in any part of the mountain beetle range since the 1990s. The area affected is now roughly 36 million acres, about the size of Nepal, or one-and-a-half times as big as Maine or Indiana," Carroll said.

2008-08-10

Boon or bust?

In the backwoods of the Roosevelt National Forest in northern Larimer County, woods boss Jerry Heggie has barely introduced himself before he starts hauling the U.S. Forest Service over the coals.

“It’s a challenge to do any logging anywhere, especially with the Forest Service,” said Heggie, of Laramie, Wyo.-based Heggie Logging. “Nine out of 10 forests don’t even have a timber program.”

Heggie’s frustrations are deep-rooted, but the past few years have been especially maddening for the third-generation logger. In response to what Heggie considers a bungled response to the mountain pine beetle epidemic, what may once have been irritation is now full-blown contempt.

2008-08-09

Tourists Can Now Take Home A Piece Of P.G.

The Prince George Visitor Centre has an addition of a new Gift Shop.

This new addition to the Visitor Centres will enhance the Visitors experience as they are now able to take a little piece of Prince George home with them.

The shop offers artwork from local artists, Pine Beetle artwork and brochures.

2008-08-08

Beetle numbers climbing in Valley

Banff and Canmore must weather the mountain pine beetle infestation for another four years before there is any sign of relief, according to Sustainable Resource development officials. The announcement was made as Sustainable Resources Development Minister Ted Morton delivered a speech on the beetle infestation in the area.

“Some areas won’t see green again until 2050,” said Morton, fresh from a helicopter trip over three local valleys and into British Columbia. “North of Radium, two out of every three trees is invested.”

The minister flew through much of the infected area Thursday, with numerous media representatives to survey the increasing beetle damage.

Alberta's forest peril

Industrial, residential and recreational pressures, climate uncertainty and mountain pine beetles are all confronting forests that cover more than 50 per cent of Alberta, the province’s leading authority on the subject says.

“There’s a wide range of factors that play,” said Cliff Smith, chair of the Alberta Forest Genetic Resources Council. “There’s been very good progress in terms of Alberta’s track record on sustainability, but more needs to be done.”

The council, created in 2000, advises Alberta’s Minister of Sustainable Resource Development Ted Norton on advocating research on conservation, biodiversity and productivity of forest genetic resources.

2008-08-07

Chief wants pine beetle action

B.C. First Nations groups are calling on the federal government to protect the province's most threatened communities, before it's too late.

The call for action is in response to the wave of red, dying trees as the Mountain Pine Beetle moves into the South Okanagan.

The head of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, says that with the forest full of dying trees, it's a recipe for disaster and wants the federal government to do something about it.

2008-08-06

Mountain pine beetle continues advance

From high above the Kananaskis valley, the devastation to Alberta’s forest caused by the mountain pine beetle is plainly visible.

Miles and miles of square hectares of dead trees and scattered pockets of discolored pines show the presence of the bugs that are advancing on southern Alberta’s forest territory at an alarming rate.

“We’re worried enough that we’re spending $55 million per year on identification, removal and control,” said Ted Morton, Minister of Sustainable Resource Development (SRD) who took a helicopter tour of the area July 31.

B.C. shuns tidal energy

One would be forgiven for thinking that the ICE fund grants recently given out by the Ministry of Energy were aptly named. It appears the grant allocations were made with a cold, clear political agenda and have little to do with what the claimed purpose -- clean energy.

ICE stands for Innovative Clean Energy development. Yet the grant allocation excluded tidal and wave energy proposals, including one at Maude Island just north of Campbell River that would have put this region at the forefront of this energy sector.

Instead, the largest grants went to converting pine beetle-infested lumber into energy, an unproven process that couldn't be described as clean or sustainable.

2008-08-05

BC geoscientists to map central BC for mineral exploration potential

Geoscience BC, the industry association of geoscientists in the province, plans to survey central B.C. to help uncover potential mineral exploration sites in areas heavily affected by the mountain pine beetle.

The QUEST-West airborne electromagnetic survey, being conducted by Aeroquest Ltd, will cover 40,000 square kilometres of central B.C. including areas around Vanderhoof, Burns Lake, Houston, Granisle, Smithers, Terrace and Kitimat.

Two helicopters using Aeroquest's proprietary airbone electromagnetic system collects data using a large loop suspended beneath the aircraft. Results from the survey are expected in early 2009.

2008-08-04

What Is Red Is Dead

To think that something the size of a grain of rice can bring down entire forests (3.9 million acres in 2007, to be exact), escapes comprehension … until you walk in one of those forests, scrape some tree bark, and hold the pine beetle carefully between your fingertips.

It's not a foreign invader from a far-off land, so don't go blaming China or India. And it hasn't been dropped into our forests maliciously, so you don't have to call homeland security just yet. But it is deadly. The right combination of severe droughts over the past decade, warmer winters without serious cold snaps (prolonged extreme cold can kill the bugs) and increased density of some of our forests has left millions (yes millions) of trees choking – thanks to the tiny teeth of these beetles.

These little bugs crawl under the bark and start to feed on the phloem (the rings that carry the nutrients of a tree for those who were throwing paper airplanes in biology class). This month they feed and multiply and leap from tree to tree and they are having the time of their lives.

2008-08-03

Beetle battle stepped up

The frontline in Alberta's battle against the pine beetle is being fought in pristine Kananaskis Country as provincial forestry crews dig in for another season to hold back the continuing advance of the marauding pest.

Ted Morton, Alberta's minister of sustainable resource development, took a helicopter tour of the region yesterday as the province prepares its annual regimen of prescribed burns of entire swaths of forest and surgical cutting operations to help stem the impact of the pine beetle.

Morton said with the beetles beginning to emerge from infected trees to continue into Alberta, serious efforts need to be taken so it doesn't have the same impact that devastated B.C.

Genome Alberta using 21st Century biology to tackle the Mountain Pine Beetle

It isn't much bigger than a grain of rice, but in the numbers that are invading Alberta, the Mountain Pine Beetle is making a meal of our vast forests. An estimated million and a half trees have been affected in the province so far and the infestation is a serious threat to 23 billion dollars worth of Alberta timber.

Current control efforts receiving wide attention mostly involve prescribed burns but Genome Alberta and its partners are looking much deeper into the underlying problem. The TRIA project is looking at the interaction between the tree, the beetle and the blue stain fungus (hence the name Tria which is Latin for three). The fungus is introduced into the tree by the beetle and ultimately does as much if not more damage to the tree than the beetle itself. The genome for the fungus has not been sequenced and the joint Alberta - BC team is at the forefront of this research.

Understanding the complex relationship between the 3 species can take us beyond burning as a control strategy. Once we have a complete picture of the interaction we can predict Mountain Pine Beetle growth, spread, and behavior so that industry and policy makers can develop stronger forest management strategies. It will also give us a more complete picture of why some trees can fight off the infection effectively and how it may be able to 'jump' species.

How the West was lost

In a laboratory at the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George, a moving plate jostles eight test tubes inside a mirrored glass box. Bacteria in the test tubes are being used to grow the mountain pine beetle genes responsible for producing the insect’s chemical defenses against lower temperatures.

Dr. Dezene Huber and his students hope to better understand the simple yet resilient insect that has destroyed forests, economies and lifestyles across the province.

“Our models tell us right now that the mountain pine beetle will kill approximately 76 percent of mature lodgepole pine by 2015,” Jim Snetsinger, British Columbia’s chief forester, said. “We believe the infestation has peaked but that it will continue to kill pine trees.”

2008-08-01

BC FUNDS CARIBOO-CHILCOTIN SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT POSITION

The Province of British Columbia will immediately provide $75,000 to the Cariboo-Chilcotin Beetle Action Coalition (CCBAC) to hire a social development coordinator, Blair Lekstrom, Minister of Community Development, announced today.

“When I met with the coalition working group in 100 Mile House last week, hiring a new Social Development Coordinator was identified as an urgent need,” said Lekstrom. “Today, the government is responding by announcing that we will provide the funding. This is a good first step in helping the region develop and take advantage of the lead time we have while I consider the full strategy.”

The coordinator will assist communities in the region to enhance social response capacity, leadership, and community resilience and to take maximum advantage of regional social assets and resources. The recommendation to hire a coordinator was part of the CCBAC’s mountain pine beetle mitigation strategy, and was included in the executive summary presented to Lekstrom on July 21.

Minister Morton surveys pine beetle damage

Millions of little creatures are preparing to take flight, and begin snacking on Alberta's economy.

The Mountain Pine Beetle has already devastated much of the B.C. logging industry. The insect's relentless march through the province's forests has largely been left up to nature to control.

According to Alberta's Sustainable Resource Development minister Ted Morton this was a mistake. He toured K-Country and parts of B.C. by helicopter to survey the damage and found that at this early stage, the impact in Alberta is tiny compared to our western neighbours. And now the fight is on to prevent the rampant infestations found in B.C.

Beetle invasion poses $23B threat to forests

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

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

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