2008-12-25

Cold snap likely won't slow pine beetle plague in B.C.

The cold temperatures currently gripping much of B.C. won't likely have much effect on the voracious plague of pine beetles eating their way through the province's forests.

Temperatures have plunged to below -30 C in many areas of the interior of B.C. affected by the plague, but B.C. Forests Ministry entomologist Tim Ebata says it hasn't been cold enough, soon enough, or long enough to kill the beetles.

At this point in the year, It would take a least four days of -45 C temperatures to affect the beetles, which spend the winter under the bark of infested trees, said Ebate.

2008-12-23

Insect Damage in British Columbia Forests

Beginning in the 1990s, British Columbia’s forests were increasingly plagued by a population explosion of mountain pine beetles. This beetle, Dendroctonus ponderosae, destroyed large tracts of forest in the province. Such widespread forest loss affects more than just the scenery. Forests have economic value, and they provide habitat and food for wildlife. In addition, they play an important role in Earth’s carbon cycle, which affects climate. Healthy, growing forests take up carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. Dead forests produce carbon dioxide when trees decay. Being able to map the location and severity of pine beetle and other insect infestations is a crucial task for forest managers and biologists.

As the size of the pine beetle infestation grew, forest managers needed a technique to identify damage over increasingly large areas: an ideal task for satellites. Relying on a variety of data sources, including observations by NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), Jon Ranson and Paul Montesano of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center conducted a survey of insect-damaged forests in British Columbia. This image shows their assessment of insect damage overlain on a topography map. In this image, red indicates the most severe damage, and green indicates no damage. Gray indicates non-forested areas.

Some of the worst damage appears near 52 degrees north and 124 degrees west. Less severely affected forest (yellow) surrounds the hardest-hit areas. The healthiest forest in this region appears near 54 degrees north and 122 degrees west, where the forest is predominantly green. Even here, however, specks of red dot the region.

MODIS observes various wavelengths of reflected light and heat coming from the surface of the Earth, which allows scientists to estimate how dense and healthy vegetation is; where trees have lost their moisture-rich, green needles; and where fires have occurred. Ranson and Montesano combined MODIS data, aerial overview surveys conducted from 2003 to 2006, and information about fires in the region. The researchers produced a damage index for forests severely affected by the infestation and relatively healthy forests. In areas of severely affected forest, the study found a high level of agreement between the damage estimated by this approach and damage observed by aerial overview surveys. The satellite-based technique also spotted damage in less severely affected areas. Ranson and Montesano hoped this approach would enable forest managers to spot new outbreaks of the infestation.

Assessments of pine beetle and other insect infestations are part of a larger study of boreal forests’ relationship with our planet’s carbon cycle. In an interview with EarthSky, Ranson discusses his studies of forests in Canada and Siberia.

2008-12-22

Beetle Epidemic Escalates

WILLIAM J. MURRAY says he has a difficult time convincing people standing next to a giant pine tree with beautiful green needles that the tree is actually dead. That's because although tiny mountain pine beetles can essentially kill the tree in only six weeks, it takes a year for the tree's needles to turn sickly rust red, says Murray, the scientific director for the Colorado-based nonprofit For the Forest.

Colorado is among the hardest hit areas in what entomologists are calling one of the largest insect infestations in North America's recorded history. Stretching from British Columbia to as far south as New Mexico, millions of acres worth of pine trees have been killed by mountain pine beetles (Dendroctonus ponderosae) over the past few years. The trees' deaths pose ecological, social, and economic challenges. The threat of fire ranks among the biggest concerns, particularly as the rice-grain-sized beetles migrate from trees in sparsely populated higher altitudes to forests surrounding residential neighborhoods.

This species of bark beetle is native to Western North America and infests trees as part of a natural cycle. Entomologists and chemical ecologists say several factors have contributed to the insect's recent population boom, including a 10-year drought that weakened the pines' natural defenses and winters warm enough that more of the beetle larvae can now survive. In areas where mountain pine beetle numbers equate to an epidemic, many trees are already dead. Simply removing the beetle-riddled arboreal carcasses is one of the only remaining options for controlling the epidemic, scientists say. Meanwhile, researchers are studying how the combination of other forestry management techniques and chemical tools may help save remaining trees from massacre by beetles.

2008-12-20

Pine beetles will survive B.C. cold snap, experts say

Pine beetle experts say the latest cold snap will help - but they doubt it will be enough to wipe out the pest that has chewed through hundreds of thousands of hectares of B.C. wood. Forestry consultant Tom Lacey says cold weather, especially early in the winter, is one of the most effective ways of wiping out the bug. But he says the cold may be too little, too late to have a major impact.

2008-12-19

Wilderness Tourism Project Gets Federal Funds

The Upper Nechako Wilderness Council has received $136,000 in Federal fudning to explore wilderness tourism industry opportunities, for the Mountain Pine Beetle affected community of Vanderhoof. Funding is provided under the Community Economic Diversification Initiative (CEDI), a component of the federal Mountain Pine Beetle Program, through Western Economic Diversification Canada.

Cariboo Prince George M.P. Dick Harris delivered the funds which will be used by the Upper Nechako Wilderness Council (UNWC) to hire a consultant to study wilderness tourism opportunities and develop a strategy for UNWC to promote tourism related activities within the Vanderhoof Forest District Region. The three-phase initiative will increase tourism and international exposure, implement a marketing strategy, and develop a signage program directing visitors to local attractions.

"This project will establish Vanderhoof as a tourism destination and promote the wilderness resources of our community”, said Daniel Brooks, President and Chair of the Upper Nechako Wilderness Council. “Tourism has a large role to play in the future of our local economy, and this project will catapult tourism to the forefront of economic diversification in Vanderhoof."

Forest lobby hopes Flaherty hasn’t squashed beetle cash

Citing fear that the federal Conservatives have abandoned a pledge to provide $1 billion in beetle aid, the B.C. First Nations Forestry Council has submitted a direct request to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty for $75 million in assistance in the next three years.

The funding -- $25 million in each of the next three years -- is meant chiefly to help 103 First Nation communities in British Columbia in the beetle epidemic zone protect their communities from wildfire risk.

"There is also a desperate need for economic stimuli, job training, business capacity building, and research and development involving new products, energy sources and markets for these and other forest-based First Nations in B.C.," said Leonard Thomas, the chair of the First Nations Forestry Council and a member of the Nak'azdli in B.C.'s Northern Interior.

2008-12-18

Pine Beetle Infestation in British Columbia

Pine beetles and conifer forests have long coexisted in British Columbia. Around the turn of the twenty-first century, a combination of factors, including fire suppression and mild winters, allowed beetles to destroy unusually large tracts of forest. So many trees have sickened and died that the damage is visible in satellite imagery.

The Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on NASA’s Terra satellite observed part of British Columbia on October 8, 2006. This image is made from a combination of light visible to human eyes and light our eyes cannot see (near- and shortwave infrared). Similar to a true-color image, deep blue indicates water and green indicates vegetation. While bright green indicates healthy vegetation, damaged forest appears in pink-tinged hues. Cleared land (logged or naturally bare) appears pinkish brown.

The lifespan of a mountain pine beetle, Dendroctonus ponderosae, is generally one year. Pine beetle females typically seek large-diameter, mature trees in which to lay eggs, although during a serious outbreak, beetles may settle for younger, thinner trees. (A lodgepole pine tree is considered mature after about 80 years.) After hatching, beetle larvae spend the winter under the bark, tunneling as they eat, and cutting off the tree’s nutrient supply. The larvae usually transform into pupae in June or July, but adults can emerge as early as June or as late as September. Larvae leave tell-tale tunnels in the bark, and several months after the onset of an attack, a pine tree’s foliage turns orange or brown.

Numerous outbreaks of pine beetle infestations occurred throughout the twentieth century, but toward the end of the century, conditions were just right for an epidemic. One contributing factor was a history of fire suppression, which enabled large numbers of trees to reach maturity. Another factor was warming temperatures. Several straight days of temperatures below -35 to -40 degrees Celsius (-31 to -40 degrees Fahrenheit) can kill the larvae, and cold snaps are especially effective in the autumn. If, however, temperatures fail to reach those lows often enough, the larvae survive until the following spring, perpetuating the beetle infestation. Furthermore, hot, dry summer conditions can weaken trees’ defenses.

2008-12-17

US Forest Lobby Attacks B.C.

A U.S. forest industry lobby group is accusing the B.C. government of using the province's cheap wood from the pine beetle epidemic to violate the U.S.-Canada softwood lumber agreement.

The Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports said Tuesday that Interior B.C. timber is being sold for as little as 25 cents a cubic metre and the wood is being used to produce softwood lumber products that are being sold in the United States.

Coalition spokesman Steve Swanson said in a statement that while the entire North American forest industry is struggling during a worldwide economic downturn, British Columbia is virtually giving away its taxpayer-supported natural resource.

B.C. denies selling cheap wood a violation of softwood deal

B.C. officials deny a claim from an American lumber lobby group that the province is breaking the softwood lumber deal by selling U.S. customers cheap wood from timber killed in the pine beetle epidemic.

The U.S. Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports said the lumber is being sold for as little as 25 cents per cubic metre compared to regular prices that can be as much as 20 dollars a cubic metre.

Coalition spokesman Steve Swanson said Tuesday that while the entire North American forest industry is struggling during a worldwide economic crisis, British Columbia is virtually giving away its taxpayer-supported natural resource.

2008-12-16

Investment by Canada's Government to Benefit Prince George Economy

The Honourable Jay Hill, Member of Parliament for Prince George - Peace River, Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, on behalf of the Honourable Lynne Yelich, Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification, announced today federal funding of $215,930 to the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George (RDFFG) to conduct industrial land site evaluations to revitalize local land impacted by the Mountain Pine Beetle. Funding for this investment is being provided by Western Economic Diversification Canada under the Community Economic Diversification Initiative (CEDI), a component of the federal Mountain Pine Beetle Program.

"Today's investment will build future opportunities for Prince George industries," said Minister Hill. "By conducting initial site evaluations, we can then go forward and attract new investment, support new industry and build new infrastructure for our local economy which has been impacted by the Mountain Pine Beetle infestation."

Funding will help the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George conduct critical evaluations of potential industrial sites, including: environmental air quality, geotechnical and terrain conditions, suitability of rail line access and the need for utility infrastructure extensions. This project will assist the RDFFG and the municipalities within its boundaries, and other economic development organizations, as they plan for new local industries to diversify the regional economy.

Biomass plant proposed

Abbotsford could soon be home to a leading edge, $17.5 million biomass energy plant that will provide heat and carbon dioxide to a local greenhouse, using trees destroyed by the pine beetle.

It will also produce 10.5 megawatts of power, almost all of which will be sold back to B.C. Hydro.

"It's considered green energy. We're actually reducing CO2, because the wood would release more greenhouse gases if it were left to rot," Jim Carroll, CEO of Biomass Secure Energy, said yesterday.

Virtual Media Holdings, Inc. Receives Recognition for Alternative Energy Solutions in Canadian News Article

Virtual Media Holdings, Inc. (PINKSHEETS: VMHIF) is pleased to announce that the Company has been recognized in the Abbotsford-Mission Times for its proposed co-generation power plant in Abbotsford. The $17.5 million power plant would be used to power and heat greenhouses in the area. The Company has already signed a twenty year agreement with local greenhouse operators to provide heat and carbon dioxide.

The Company recently began to secure large quantities of bio-fuel to power its co-generation power plants. Virtual Media Holdings announced it would use Pine Beetle wood, which is wood destroyed by the Pine Beetle that must be removed from forests to eliminate the dangers of forest fires. The Company previously announced that applications are now underway for construction and approval from the Ministry of Environment. The Company will look to start the project in the near future with an expected finish date of late 2010.

"We are honored to have been recognized by the Abbotsford-Mission Times for our efforts in creating green, alternative energy sources. Once the co-generation plant is completed, the Company will begin generating additional revenue from the sale of power to B.C. Hydro," stated Jim Carroll, CEO of Virtual Media Holdings, Inc.

Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports Comments on BC Stumpage Pricing Practices

The Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports shares the U.S. government's stated concerns that a large and increasing volume of timber is being sold for as little as C25 cents per cubic meter in British Columbia and that timber is then being used to produce softwood lumber products.

Using the pine beetle epidemic as an excuse, a dramatically increasing volume of timber harvested in the BC Interior is being sold to lumber producers for as low as C25 cents per cubic meter -- the equivalent of a telephone pole -- allegedly because the quality of the timber is so degraded that it can only be used as pulpwood. Representatives of the BC industry have confirmed that this "pulpwood" is being processed into lumber.

Through a method of heating the wood in a kiln, the quality of timber otherwise suitable to make lumber becomes checked or cracked. This would normally mean it is not suitable for lumber production. However, only a small sample of this wood is heated, allowing the BC government to grade a much larger volume at abysmally low stumpage levels.

B.C. stock trails to bypass endangered grasslands

British Columbia's provincial government plans to put up funds to help build stock trails in the 100 Mile House area and steer cattle clear of nearby endangered grasslands.

The province on Monday pledged $120,500 for the Canoe Creek Band to build trails for moving cattle in and around Alberta Lake, away from open grasslands, riparian areas and endangered species habitat.

The project, which involves removing and slashing mostly dead, mountain pine beetle-infected pine trees and some Douglas fir trees, is expected to provide employment for up to 15 forest workers, the province said.

2008-12-13

Montana State University Deals with Mountain Pine Beetle Infestation

As many as 200 pines at Montana State University have died and must be cut down due to an infestation of mountain pine beetles, which are killing trees on campus, in surrounding communities, and many of the pine forests of the western U.S.

"Students, faculty, staff and visitors to MSU need to be prepared. The effects of this infestation are going to alter how some areas of the campus look," said Jon Ford, MSU manager of environmental services. "There is no way to sugarcoat this."

The infestation has affected approximately 6 percent of all 3,500 trees on the MSU campus. Most of the infested trees are on the campus margins, however some of the infested trees are spectacular, old pines in very visible places on campus and will be cut down.

2008-12-12

COMMUNITY TRUST IMPROVING RECREATION IN GRAND FORKS

More than $330,000 from the Community Development Trust’s Job Opportunities Program is improving walking and cycling trails in Grand Forks and contributing to the management of beetle-affected stands in the area, Community Development Minister Blair Lekstrom and Forests and Range Minister Pat Bell announced today.

“The Community Development Trust is one of our key tools to assist forest families and communities through this difficult economic time,” said Lekstrom. “This project will benefit the community of Grand Forks, assist up to 23 forest workers and their families and educate future generations about wildlife.”

The construction of the two-kilometre trail along the Granby River will use the skills of up to 20 forest workers. The three-metre wide, wheelchair-accessible pathway will offer residents self-guided tours that focus on the riparian habitats, soil values, wildflowers, and wildlife they are likely to encounter or observe. The $250,000 project will also allow the city to benefit from tree species identification, natural habitat preservation, sustainable construction and green space management skills.

Dollars to CNC for Planer Mill Upgrade

The College of New Caledonia has received a $50 thousand dollar grant from the province to upgrade its planer mill and develop imaging technology that will yield more lumber in sawmill processing and capture more economic value from beetle-affected logs.

“In addition to improved training for planer mill technicians and millwright apprentices, this grant will help CNC enter the field of terahertz research,” said Forests and Range Minister Pat Belll. “Terahertz technology uses the electromagnetic spectrum to detect internal cracks in a log that are invisible to the naked eye. By identifying where defects are located before the wood is planed or milled, we are able to avoid waste and produce more lumber.”

The College of New Caledonia will use the grant to buy and install new equipment to power the planer and to meet safety standards for partnering in an applied research project with University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) and Del-Tech Manufacturing. UNBC and Del-Tech are involved in research and development activities focused on terahertz imaging systems and their application in the forest industry, particularly to the recovery of beetle-wood.

Mountain pine beetle season crawls to a close following extensive attacks

Mountain pine beetles have done their dirty work for the season in the Great Falls area.

"There are no beetles flying," Todd Seymanski, acting city forester, said this week. "There will be no new infestation (this year)."

Mountain pine beetles attacked and killed more than 150 evergreen trees in the city this year, Seymanski said.

2008-12-11

Clear-cutting may be a solution to pine beetles

One of southern Alberta’s most famous mountains could soon be scarred by clear-cut logging, area residents fear, but an Alberta forestry company says logging is the only way to respond to the pine beetle infestation that’s spread east from British Columbia.

It says trees in the Atlas Road area, at the base of Crowsnest Mountain, could begin falling shortly after Christmas.

That’s going to have a severe impact on the area’s recreation and tourism opportunities, Pass citizens warn. They’re urging the provincial government to order selective logging instead, leaving trails intact and preserving views of the craggy peak that towers over their municipality.

Virtual Media Holdings, Inc. Begins Process to Secure Local Source of Bio-Fuel in Order to Power Co-Generation Power Plants

Virtual Media Holdings, Inc. (PINKSHEETS: VMHIF) is pleased to announce that the Company has begun to secure large quantities of bio-fuel to power its co-generation power plants. The Company plans to use trees destroyed by the Pine Beetle as its main source of bio-fuel. The Provincial Government of British Columbia has established that 4.4 million cubic meters of the biomass fuel is available per year for the next twenty years.

Pine Beetle wood is wood destroyed by the Pine Beetle that must be removed from forests to eliminate the dangers of forest fires and allow for there planting of trees that are not affected by the Pine Beetle. The Company will look to use 100% of the tree when chipping for fuel, reducing the risk that any of the trees will be left behind with beetles that could infect additional acres of forested land. The Company previously announced that applications are now underway for construction of the first plant in Abbotsford, BC with a completion and start up date expected to be late 2010.

"Our plans for our first plant are now in the application process as we look forward to securing plenty of bio-fuel for years to come. Securing this type of bio-fuel will aid our team in having the Abbotsford plant online by our projected date of 2010," stated Jim Carroll, CEO of VirtualMedia Holdings, Inc.

2008-12-08

Canfor 's Bio Energy Plan Approved By B.C. Hydro

The Canfor Pulp Limited Partnership’s proposal for a bio energy burning plant at the P.G. pulp mill has been given the green light by B.C. Hydro. The project is one of four in phase one of BC Hydro’s Bioenergy call for power. It was one of four proposals presented by Canfor.

"These projects are a tremendous opportunity to create new jobs and diversify the forest economy for B.C. communities through better utilization of the wood waste resource," said Pat Bell, Minister of Forests and Range.

These bioenergy facilities will use forest-based biomass, including sawmill residue, logging debris, trees killed by mountain pine beetle, and other residual wood, to generate electricity. The four projects will generate enough to power more than 52,000 homes.

2008-12-04

Forest Practices Board Says Challenging Times Not Impacting Practices

The Forest Practices Board’s 2007/2008 annual report, detailing the board’s key findings during the past fiscal year, has been released. This is the first time it has been released as an electronic document with video of the Board Chair Bruce Fraser.

The report, provides a picture of the diversity of forest and range issues examined by the board last year.

Board Chair, Bruce Fraser says climate change is one of the main issues now dominating the forest sector in BC. “The most obvious example is the impact of the mountain pine beetle, and the rehabilitation effort in decimated forests. We are also hearing more concerns about water supply, impacts to wildlife habitat, wildfire risk and other climate change related effects. The Board is monitoring the efforts of government agencies to look at how to replant, what to replant and how to ensure resilience of our forests in the future.”

2008-12-03

Area mapped for minerals, hydrocarbons

Geoscience BC has released data of the Quesnellia Exploration Strategy (QUEST)West airborne gravity survey.

The QUEST West airborne gravity survey - conducted between May 8 and July 16, 2008 - covered an area of over 40,000 square kilometers, including the communities of Burns Lake, Topley, Granisle, Houston, Vanderhoof, Fraser Lake, Telkwa, Smithers, Terrace and Kitimat.

The area has been significantly affected by the infestation of the Mountain Pine Beetle.

2008-12-02

MSU deals with mountain pine beetle infestation

As many as 200 pines at Montana State University have died and must be cut down due to an infestation of mountain pine beetles, which are killing trees on campus, in surrounding communities, and many of the pine forests of the western U.S.

"Students, faculty, staff and visitors to MSU need to be prepared. The effects of this infestation are going to alter how some areas of the campus look," said Jon Ford, MSU manager of environmental services. "There is no way to sugarcoat this."

The infestation has affected approximately 6 percent of all 3,500 trees on the MSU campus. Most of the infested trees are on the campus margins, however some of the infested trees are spectacular, old pines in very visible places on campus and will be cut down.

2008-12-01

Pine Beetles in Southwest Alberta

The number of trees attacked by the Mountain Pine Beetle has doubled in southwestern Alberta, bringing the total to nearly 50,000 infected trees. Duncan MacDonnell with Alberta Sustainable Resource Development says part of the reason is the area's winter temperature never reached the minus 40 mark needed to kill the pest the way it did in the north. He says the beetles' population growth is also a result of the numbers spreading to Alberta from B.C.. Southwest Alberta is the priority for action this year and S.R.D. crews will work towards removing every infected tree possible. MacDonnell says it's tough though as it's not just those trees at stake. He says it's also a loss of wild life habitats, recreational opportunities and community stability.