2009-01-31

British Columbia signs agreement with Secwepemc First Nations for beetle wood harvest

The B.C. government has signed an agreement with four Secwepemc First Nations to harvest mountain pine beetle timber and support the construction of a wood pellet plant near Kamloops.

The agreement allows the Whispering Pines/ Clinton Indian Band, High Bar Indian Band, the Shuswap Indian Band and Little Shuswap Indian Band to apply for up to three million cubic metres of timber over 15 years to support the estimated $20-million wood pellet project.

The bands’ joint company, Pelltiq’t Energy Group Ltd., is working to secure construction, operating and harvesting partnerships, as well as a plant site. The facility is expected to be running by the end of 2010.

2009-01-30

Beetle promise is yesterday’s cause celebre

The delay of a promised $1 billion in federal pine beetle funding by the Conservative government was a disappointing but not shocking development in this week's budget.

Ottawa's helping hand to the blight ravaging B.C. Interior forests was always a pledge held together mainly by the best intentions - a scarce political commodity in the brightest of times, let alone in the swirling fury of a global financial crisis made worse by a fracture-ridden Parliament. It was probably too much to hope that two veteran Tory MPs and the Conservatives' ostensible commitment to a new day for constituents beyond central Canada would preserve that promise under these conditions. Perhaps inevitably, this region has been asked to wait again due to the political expediency of the day.

Northern B.C. is used to making sacrifices for other areas, especially when it comes to Ottawa. Thus, disappointment, but little shock.

Bio-energy and value-added opportunities promise new revenue sources for B.C. lumber companies

BC’s commodity softwood lumber industry is world-scale and highly competitive, but it faces a tough future. There’s far too much manufacturing capacity globally. Most experts agree – a double-whammy of reduced U.S. demand and deteriorating timber supply resulting from the pine beetle infestation will force the closure of dozens of B.C. Interior sawmills over the next two market cycles.

Growth in value-added wood products manufacturing capacity can help offset some of the commodity product decline. But sustainable growth requires two fundamentals working in its favour: markets and viable enterprises.

Looking beyond today’s severe global market recession, value-added capacity growth is not market-limited. But viability among the province’s many small, often cottage-industry scale, value-added wood products manufacturing facilities is elusive. Now, bankruptcies are wiping out large parts of that capacity.

Stores to start selling repellent to fight pine beetle infestation

The chemical verbenone, a natural mountain pine beetle repellent, will hit Montana store shelves by spring, giving residents easy access to another tool in the war against the pine tree killer.

The bug, which is marching across Montana, recently surfaced far outside the forest in Cascade County, where it already killed almost 2,000 trees, including approximately 600 in Great Falls.

"This will be the first state in the United States this (verbenone) will be rolled out to," said Don Fowler of Victoria, British Columbia-based Contech, which manufactures the beetle repellent.

First Nations council upset at beetle funding delay

B.C.'s First Nations Forestry Council said Thursday it is disappointed the federal government removed pine beetle funding from its recent budget.

The council says it is now placing it's hope for desperately needed dollars on new federal programs announced as part of the budget last Tuesday.

"We are trying to remain optimistic. We are ready to act and are anxious to work with the government to do our part to make its economic stimulus plan a success," said First Nations Forestry Council president Leonard Thomas.

2009-01-29

Federal Budget Shows Promise as First Step Toward Closing the Gap: BC Regional Chief

Today's federal budget includes welcome and overdue measures that, if implemented, could allow First Nations to at least start addressing historic issues that have left them among Canada's most disadvantaged, BC Regional Chief A-in-chut (Shawn Atleo) said.

"There is positive news, but at the same time the budget falls dramatically short of the commitment and funding needed to ensure Canada's First Nations share fully in the economic recovery, and we can only pray that this is but a first step," said the Regional Chief.

Initial indications are that $1.4 billion is being specifically targeted to Aboriginal Canadians. In addition it is hoped that First Nations will also be able to access the $1 billion community investment fund for communities, such as the 203 First Nations in BC devastated by the mountain pine beetle crisis.

2009-01-28

Warming weather may harm forests

A study published last week pinpoints regional warming as the most probable explanation for tree death rates that have more than doubled in recent decades in the western United States.

The study — led by the U.S. Geological Survey and published last week in the journal Science — also found that the increased mortality rates could indicate that forests throughout the entire West are “vulnerable to sudden, extensive die-back” similar to what has been seen in Colorado and other Rocky Mountain areas in the grip of an unprecedented mountain pine beetle epidemic.

“That may be our biggest concern,” said Nate Stephenson of the USGS, a co-leader of the study. “Is the trend we’re seeing a prelude to bigger, more abrupt changes to our forests?”

2009-01-27

$53 MILLION BENEFITS NORTHWEST HIGHWAYS AND ECONOMY

The Province is investing more than $53 million to improve highway infrastructure in the Northwest, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Kevin Falcon announced today.

“The Province is investing in highway rehabilitation and side road improvement projects that will improve our vital transportation links in the Northwest,” said Falcon. “These roads are heavily relied upon by residents and industry, and it’s important we ensure their continued mobility with projects like these.”

The projects range from improving sight lines by removing beetle-killed trees along rights-of-way, to major resurfacing work. Routes to benefit from these programs include Highway 16, Highway 35, Highway 37, Highway 118 and numerous side roads throughout the region.

2009-01-26

NEW MINERAL DISCOVERIES USHER INDUSTRY INTO 2009

The Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources has discovered two mineralized areas of the province that may attract new mineral exploration and encourage further investments in the mining sector, announced Minister of State for Mining Gordon Hogg.

The finds were discovered by the ministry’s Geological Survey Branch during the course of their geological mapping.

“These finds demonstrate government’s continued commitment to stimulate and support mining activity across the province,” said Hogg. “These new discoveries will foster increased exploration throughout the mountain pine beetle impacted areas of the province, further fuelling a well established mining sector while providing more jobs for rural B.C.”

Geoscience BC Releases New Results From $5 Million QUEST-West Project

Geoscience BC is pleased to announce the release of new QUEST-West results at the Mineral Exploration Roundup conference. Data released includes the QUEST-West airborne time domain electromagnetic (TEM) survey, and geochemical results from the reanalysis of almost 3500 archived stream sediment samples collected in the region between 1983 and 1996.

The QUEST-West Project area has excellent potential for molybdenum, copper, gold and silver mineralization. Operating mines in the region include Endako (molybdenum) and Huckleberry (copper-molybdenum). The region is also in the heart of the Mountain Pine Beetle infestation, and communities are looking for new opportunities to diversify their economies.

"I am very pleased to see Geoscience BC investing in geoscience in Mountain Pine Beetle affected regions," said Gordon Hogg, Minister of State for Mining. "New data sets like these will help unlock B.C.'s full mineral potential, creating jobs, new opportunities and greater economic diversification for communities affected by the pine beetle infestation."

2009-01-23

British Columbia Indian Tribes In Pellet Deal

An economic development agreement signed with four Indian tribes in British Columbia will result in the harvest of mountain pine beetle timber and support the construction of a tribal-owned wood-pellet plant.

First Perspective Magazine reports that the Whispering Pines/Clinton Indian Band, High Bar Indian Band, the Shuswap Indian Band and Little Shuswap Indian Band will operate Pelltiq't Energy Group Ltd., which is expected to open its first wood-pellet plant by the end of 2010, creating 65 manufacturing and forestry jobs. The new company will process timber from tribal lands and sell the pellets across North America.

"This agreement hits three important objectives - salvaging value from beetle-killed timber, addressing climate change through bioenergy production, and helping First Nations benefit from our forest resource," says Pat Bell, British Columbia’s forests and range minister. "By working together and capitalizing on our biomass reserve, we're creating enduring economic benefits for British Columbia."

Global warming doubles tree deaths in western US: study

Global warming and the resulting drought have likely doubled the tree death rate over the past 30 years in old-growth forests in the western United States, according to a study released Thursday.

Researchers said the accelerated forest loss could trigger an environmental
domino effect on the region's wildlife and climate.

Temperatures in western US forests have increased on average more than 0.5 degrees Celsius over the past 30 years, reducing snowfall accumulations, prolonging summer droughts and raising the insect population, including tree-killing bark beetles.

CU: Tree deaths have doubled

Even before masses of hungry pine beetles began to decimate Colorado’s lodgepole pines, trees were dying in the West’s old-growth forests at double the rate compared to just a few decades ago.

A new study published in this week’s issue of the journal Science — and co-authored by University of Colorado professor Thomas Veblen — shows that trees at varying elevations and of various types, including pine, fir and hemlock, are dying at much higher rates across the West.

The cause of the tree death, which was studied from British Columbia to the southern Rockies, is likely regional warming and related drought conditions, researchers said.

2009-01-22

Everyday tree deaths have doubled

Those trees falling in the forest with no one listening — in the changing climate of the West, they’re falling about twice as fast as they were 50 years ago, says a new study.

These background, or noncatastrophic, mortalities aren’t the result of wildfires or the huge outbreaks of pine beetles. The recent increase in temperature is likely to blame, the researchers suggest.

Records from 76 plots of apparently healthy, old-growth temperate forest in the western United States and Canada show that the small number of routine, noncatastrophic tree deaths in a year has doubled since 1955, reports a team of researchers from eight institutions.

US forests hold new evidence of global warming

Old-growth forests in the Western United States appear to be losing ground to the regional effects of global warming.

That’s the conclusion a team of federal and university-based forest ecologists have reached after looking at long-term trends in patches of relatively pristine old-growth forests. The study sites range from northern Arizona and north central Colorado to the Olympic Peninsula and southern British Columbia.

Over the past 50 years, trees large and small in these tracts – largely untouched by wildfires or beetle infestations – have been dying at an increasing rate. And the rate at which they are being replaced has not changed. If the trend continues, researchers say, forest age, average tree size, and carbon-storing capacity of these areas will gradually fall.

Study: U.S. Trees Dying at Alarming Rate

Think of them as America's giant lungs, soaking up masses of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But just as human lungs can become sick, so the forests of the western U.S. have fallen ill. At least that's the finding of an extensive, thirty-year study published on Thursday, which found that trees in the American west are dying at a quickening and alarming rate. The most probable cause, according to the study: global warming, the very trend trees should be helping to slow.

The study, led by authors from the United States Geological Survey and published in the journal Science, found the rate of tree deaths has more than doubled in the last few decades even in apparently healthy, well-established forests. Death rates have increased at all elevations, and for trees of all sizes and types, leading the researchers to worry that the U.S. may soon suffer massive and sudden die-backs of its seemingly healthy forests, a cascading effect that could release carbon dioxide into the air, further speeding global warming. (See pictures of trees.)

Scientists have already witnessed mass tree deaths in American forests due to beetle infestations. Periodic outbreaks of Mountain Pine Beetle in Colorado, for example, has killed an estimated 7.4 million trees in the past decade. But the Science study, titled "Widespread Increase of Tree Mortality Rates in the Western United States," is the first to show a creeping death rate in ancient, well-established coniferous forests with no evidence of epidemic infestations.

Economic Agreement Supports New Wood Pellet Plant

An economic development agreement signed with four Secwepemc First Nations will assist the harvest of mountain pine beetle timber and support the construction of a wood pellet plant near Kamloops, Forests and Range Minister Pat Bell announced today.

“This agreement hits three important objectives – salvaging value from beetle-killed timber, addressing climate change through bioenergy production, and helping First Nations benefit from our forest resource,” said Bell. “By working together, and capitalizing on our biomass reserve, we’re creating enduring economic benefits for British Columbia.”

The agreement allows the Whispering Pines/ Clinton Indian Band, High Bar Indian Band, the Shuswap Indian Band and Little Shuswap Indian Band to apply for up to three million cubic metres of timber over 15 years to support the estimated $20-million wood pellet project. The bands’ joint company, Pelltiq’t Energy Group Ltd., is currently working to secure construction, operating and harvesting partnerships, as well as a plant site. The facility is expected to be running by the end of 2010, creating an estimated 35 new jobs at the plant and another 30 in the forest.

Court rules in favor of logging project

Three environmental groups couldn’t quash a project on national forest lands meant to lessen the threat of wildfires near Clancy and Unionville southwest of Helena, but it appears that the tiny mountain pine beetle has made the Helena National Forest rethink its plan.

In a decision issued Tuesday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the Helena forest’s 2003 plan to undertake commercial thinning and other efforts to remove small trees and vegetation on about 1,500 acres. However, Helena District Ranger Duane Harp said the prescription is only good now for about 100 acres containing Douglas fir trees, since about 90 percent of the trees on the remaining 1,400 acres — mainly lodgepole pines — are now dead.

“We are obviously extremely pleased that the Ninth Circuit has found in our favor. But it’s bittersweet news because with the current beetle epidemic, the vast majority of the project area, which was proposed for timber harvest, is now dead,” Harp said. “You can’t use the prescription for green trees on dead trees.

2009-01-21

Funds okayed for training

B.C. Minister of Forests and Range Pat Bell has announced a $2 million program to assist employed forestry workers and those ineligible for Employment Insurance benefits to upgrade their skills and training.

The program will serve 11 communities in the Omineca Beetle Action Coalition (OBAC) region, including Prince George, Vanderhoof, Burns Lake, Fort St. James and Smithers. Funding for the initiative comes from the Canada-B.C. Labour Market Agreement, a six-year, $396 million deal which provides funding for skills training.

The program will be administrated by the United Steelworkers of Canada.

Yellowhead Highway improvements complete

Improvements to Highway 16 near Vanderhoof, B.C. are now complete, bringing to a close the $3.4 million project.

The federal government contributed $1.05million and British Columbia contributed $2.35 million towards the project.

The federal funding comes from the $44-million federal commitment to fund transportation infrastructure projects through the Mountain Pine Beetle Program under the Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative (APGCI).

Forestry focus shifts from pine beetle onto new pests

In the wake of the devastating mountain pine beetle attack that struck the Cariboo and killed the vast majority of pine trees, the focus is now zeroing in on spruce and fir beetles.

Not nearly as widespread as the pine beetle attack, infestation by spruce beetle and fir beetle nevertheless continues to get the attention of the local 100 Mile forestry office as the trees they attack are now crucial to the survival of the forests.

Ken Waite, the supervisor of the Ministry of Forests and Range office in 100 Mile House, says spruce and Douglas fir trees are key elements to the future of the industry and our woodlands.

2009-01-19

Planer mill upgrade to improve training, research

A $50,000 grant to the College of New Caledonia (CNC) from the BC government will be used 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, the grant will allow the college to enter the field of terahertz research.

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 upgraded equipment will allow the college to partner 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.

Stage Set for Two Day Summit

The "Opportunities North" two day economic summit will be held later this week in Prince George. There has been so much interest in the summit it has sold out.

"The North is a critical part of the Province's overall economy so it is vital that representatives from resource industries, labour and our communities come together to develop strategies that will ensure we come out of this global economic downturn stronger than ever," says MLA for Prince George North Pat Bell, who as Minister of Forests and Range will lead a session on the future of the forest industry and the mountain pine beetle.

The two day summit is set for Thursday and Friday of this week at the Civic Centre in Prince George. The summit will bring together business, government and community leaders to highlight the choices, challenges and potential of B.C.'s economy. Close to 500 participants have signed up to be a part of the summit and include reps from local hospitality, mining, energy forestry, transportation , construction, education, First Nations , economic development and employment agencies.

2009-01-16

B.C. COMPANY HELPING TURN BEETLE WOOD INTO POWER

Trace Resources is helping turn wood waste into clean power by grinding slash and unsalvageable mountain pine beetle timber for electricity production at the Domtar pulp mill in Kamloops, Forests and Range Minister Pat Bell announced today.

“With companies like Trace, we’re turning the mountain pine beetle infestation into a bioenergy opportunity that will create jobs and meet our climate goals,” said Bell, as he toured Trace’s new grinding operations north of Merritt. “We’re seeing a whole new industry developing – an industry that leaves no piece of wood behind.”

Trace Resources formed in October 2008 in answer to new opportunities around the utilization of wood waste. Together with an affiliated company, Jaeden Resources, it recently put into operation two grinders and loaders worth $1.8 million.

2009-01-15

U.S. protests B.C. stumpage cut

The B.C. government's move to cut its fee for coastal timber by half effective today has sparked another protest from the U.S. forest industry, which claims the province is increasing its "subsidy" to the Canadian industry with artificially cheap wood from Crown land.

Oregon lumberman Steve Swanson, chairman of the Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports, was in the audience when Premier Gordon Campbell made the announcement at the Truck Loggers Association convention in Vancouver Wednesday.

The latest cut to $5 per cubic metre for B.C. coast region logs caps a reduction from $18.56 a year ago, and that represents a breach of the Canada-U.S. softwood lumber agreement, Swanson said. On top of the 25-cent stumpage being paid for logs in the pine beetle-ravaged B.C. Interior, he said the price of public-land logs represents the "most egregious" violation of the trade deal since it was signed in 2006 according to the U.S. lobby group.

2009-01-14

Agreement helps forest workers

A partnership between the United Steelworkers and the province will help hundreds of workers in northern British Columbia to upgrade their skills and obtain sustainable employment.

“This pilot project will allow us to work with those who are facing significant challenges due to the downturn in the economy,” said USWA president Frank Everitt.

Under the Labour Market Agreement (LMA), the Province is providing $2 million to the United Steelworkers Local 1-424 to co-ordinate employment and training services in northern communities served by the Omineca Beetle Action Coalition. Beginning in January, the employment services will be offered to job-threatened forestry workers and those ineligible for Employment Insurance. The services are available to both forest and non forest workers.

2009-01-12

$2 million to help northern workers upgrade skills

The province is using $2 million in federal funding to create a partnership with the United Steelworkers to potentially help hundreds of workers upgrade their skills to make them more employable.

The United Steelworkers, which represents 6,000 workers in northern B.C. that work mostly in the forest sector, will use the funding to co-odinate employment and training services in northern communities served by the Omineca Beetle Action Coalition.

The services will be available in communities like Prince George, Mackenzie, Fort St. James, Burns Lake and McBride.

2009-01-09

Federal Funding for Youth Work Experience in Construction Trade

Today, Colin Mayes, Member of Parliament for Okanagan-Shuswap, on behalf of the Honourable Lynne Yelich, Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification, announced funding of $31,555 towards the Sounds of Light Multicultural Society to support a new youth work experience program and affordable housing initiative. Funding is provided under the Community Economic Diversification Initiative (CEDI), a component of the federal Mountain Pine Beetle Program, through Western Economic Diversification Canada.

"Our Government realizes the importance of having our rural youth engaged in valuable work experience programs," said Mr. Mayes. "Not only will this experience provide important employment opportunities, but this project is diversifying the use of Mountain Pine Beetle affected wood in an innovative way."

Funding for the Sounds of Light Multicultural Society will help deliver a work experience program for youth and people with disabilities who have demonstrated an interest in construction trades. The youth participants will work toward constructing two log homes, made out of Mountain Pine Beetle affected wood, as a prototype of an affordable housing alternative with a low environmental impact.

Province taps fed fund for forest fallout

The province is using federal funding to create a handful of temporary jobs in northern B.C. as part of efforts to mitigate the fallout from the forest sector downturn.

A $150,000 grant from the Community Development Trust's jobs program will fund a project in Houston to employ six forest workers to clear mountain pine beetle-killed trees in recreation sites. The wood will be used to build picnic tables, shelters and board walks.

The recreation sites include Owen Flats, Helen, Paul and Tenglechain lakes, Eagle Creek and the Nordic ski trails at Morice Mountain.

2009-01-08

COMMUNITY TRUST EMPLOYS FOREST WORKERS IN HOUSTON

The Community Development Trust’s Job Opportunities Program is funding the clearing of mountain pine beetle trees in recreation sites near Houston and using the wood to build picnic tables, shelters and board walks, Community Development Minister Blair Lekstrom and Bulkley Valley-Stikine MLA Dennis MacKAY announced today.

“The Community Development Trust is an important tool when it comes to helping families and workers through this difficult economic time,” said Lekstrom. “This project is improving parks and trails in the Houston area, finding uses for beetle kill wood and keeping forest workers employed in their hometown.”

The $150,000 project is employing six forest workers to remove beetle killed trees that are within a tree length of access ways, public areas and infrastructure at recreation sites at Owen Flats, Helen, Paul and Tanglechain lakes, Eagle Creek/Opal Beds and Nordic ski trails at Morice Mountain. The felled trees are then being processed into lumber, and used to build structures and support trails at recreation sites in the Houston area.

Expert says pine beetle will survive cold

An entomologist with the Canadian Forest Service believes the recent cold snap will kill a lot of mountain pine beetles but will not “annihilate” the tree-infesting insects.

Allan Carroll said he believes the snows will have a “pretty big impact” in terms of “causing mortality” in mountain-pine-beetle populations spreading in B.C.’s Peace River region and northern Alberta.

“It might set them back,” Carroll told the Straight by phone from Saanich, “but the problem hasn’t gone away or is unlikely to go away with this level of cold.”

Forest industry deserves better

The news just keeps getting worse for British Columbia's beleaguered forest industry. On Tuesday, Western Forest Products said its three Nanaimo-area operations are closing indefinitely. More than 300 employees in Nanaimo won't be returning to work anytime soon.

Continuing with the gloomy news, WFP also decided to keep its three timberlands operations (in the Queen Charlottes, Port Alberni and on the mainland coast) closed indefinitely, affecting 400 contracted workers. Mills in Chemainus, Cowichan Bay and Saltair will re-open this month.

No one is blaming the government entirely for the current bleak condition of our once-robust forest sector. You can toss about climate change, world markets, pine beetles, the U.S. housing crisis and more and you'll be on the right track.

2009-01-07

Wood pellet producers turn scourge of tree-killing beetles into a profit and renewable fuel

A tiny middle school tucked in a snow-covered mountain valley ditched its decades-old coal-fired boilers for a wood pellet furnace, partly due to a beetle not much bigger than an eyelash.

Mountain pine beetles have ravaged wide swaths of trees in Colorado, leaving the surviving forest more susceptible to fire from decaying trees.

A handful of businesses are trying to capitalize on a bad situation, and may incidentally prevent it from getting worse.

As beetle invasion rages, a debate over logs

Tromping through a snowy thicket of lodgepole pine, forester Tim Love identifies the telltale signs that the trees are, in his words, “dead already but don’t know it.”

He points to a trunk riddled with pitch-outs – ejections of sap sent out by the tree trying desperately to dislodge the bark beetles that are killing it. The branches are covered in rust-colored needles that have faded from their original healthy green as the beetle attack cuts off the tree’s food and water. These are the visible scars of massive beetle destruction that now stretches from Colorado to British Columbia.

Soon, wind will likely finish off the pockmarked lodgepoles, sending them crashing to the forest floor, says Mr. Love, a district ranger in the Lolo National Forest in Montana. That’s a fire hazard headache for the forest service – and, some say, a missed opportunity.

Scourge of forest beetles turned into a profit

A tiny middle school tucked in a snow-covered mountain valley ditched its decades-old coal-fired boilers for a wood pellet furnace, partly due to a beetle not much bigger than an eyelash.

Mountain pine beetles have ravaged wide swaths of trees in Colorado, leaving the surviving forest more susceptible to fire from decaying trees.

A handful of businesses are trying to capitalize on a bad situation, and may incidentally prevent it from getting worse.

2009-01-06

Out on a limb

Thousands of jobs lost. Mills idled. Towns paralyzed. Every imaginable tool of the trade sold at auction. It's been a familiar story for much of the B.C. forest industry in the past few years.

But throughout it all, the forestry-dependent city of Quesnel has chugged along, its pulp, plywood and sawmills chewing through mountain pine beetle-ravaged wood as voraciously as the pests themselves have attacked the surrounding forests.

"The mills are working flat out. People are harvesting; shifts are being maintained," B.C. Forests Minister Pat Bell said late in November.

2009-01-01

Canada's forests, once huge help on greenhouse gases, now contribute to climate change

As relentlessly bad as the news about global warming seems to be, with ice at the poles melting faster than scientists had predicted and world temperatures rising higher than expected, there was at least a reservoir of hope stored here in Canada's vast forests.

The country's 1.2 million square miles of trees have been dubbed the "lungs of the planet" by ecologists because they account for more than 7 percent of Earth's total forest lands. They could always be depended upon to suck in vast quantities of carbon dioxide, naturally cleansing the world of much of the harmful heat-trapping gas.

But not anymore.