Crews armed with chainsaws and fire are fanning out across Alberta this winter, facing the almost impossible task of stemming the eastward spread of the voracious mountain pine beetle.
After destroying or infesting as many as 75 per cent of British Columbia's mature lodgepole pines, the insects have flown deep into north-central Alberta in search of more trees to ruin. The beetles are also firmly entrenched west and south of Calgary.
The tiny scourge threatens the jobs of thousands of forestry workers and the environmental health of watersheds that feed rivers that run across the prairies. And the dead and dying trees they leave in their wake will pose a significant risk of wildfire for years to come.