2009-02-27

Alberta hoping cold weather will harm pine beetle

Alberta's sustainable resources minister says it is too early to tell if this week's cold weather will help defend Alberta's forests from the mountain pine beetle.

Ted Morton says it will be April before we learn how many were killed by the latest cold snap and the prior cold weather streak in December.

Morton says while the pest's impact on Alberta pales in comparison to the billions of dollars it has caused B.C's forest industry, the problem has been getting worse.

2009-02-26

Meeting will address pine beetle threat

As the mountain pine beetle invades the South Okanagan, home and land owners can learn how to reduce the risk of fire with dead and dying trees in the area.

The Okanagan Similkameen Pine Beetle Outreach Pilot Project, led by program co-ordinator Chandra Wong, will host a free public information session in Penticton next week.

Local experts from the Ministry of Forests, the Ministry of Environment and the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen will speak on the current state of mountain pine beetle infestation throughout the RDOS, its environmental impacts, how to reduce the risk of fire on personal property and what the RDOS and B.C. Parks are doing to reduce the risk of destructive wildfire.

The pitfalls of depending on bioenergy from Beetle killed timber to revitalize BC's timber economy

The article spells out the tremendous amount of beetle-killed Lodgepole pine that is currently going to waste in BC while the market for its use as lumber and pulp has virtually disappeared. Many people see bioenergy as a use for this resource and see it as the savior of the timber industry in the province. However, there are some serious obstacles to overcome if that scenario is to become reality.

While the current potential wood supply from beetle killed timber in BC is huge and would seem to be more than adequate to supply the raw material needs for a bioenergy strategy for many years, that material has a finite shelf life - both physically and more importantly economically.

The wood starts to break down immediately after death of the tree. While in the dry cold climate of much of interior BC, much of the wood would still have the properties adequate to be used for bioenergy feed stock for up to 15 years, that is at least 20 years short of the time needed to regrow replacement material in that climate.

2009-02-25

Efforts slow bark beetle advance

Aerial application of a substance used in herbal teas could limit spread of the mountain pine beetles that have been devastating lodgepole pine across the West.

Scientists for more than a decade have known that the substance, called verbenone, is released by the beetles themselves to inhibit overcrowding of host trees. What is new is evidence that the verbenone, when spread across broad areas by helicopters or other vehicles, might better disperse beetles and simulate natural beetle release.

The evidence comes from an experiment, in which helicopters were used to test flakes of the substance on plots located near Mount Shasta in northern California and in the Bitterroot Range along the Idaho-Montana border. The sites had similar tree densities and rates of infections. Half the plots were “treated” with the substance and the other half were left untreated.

2009-02-24

Simpson: pine beetle funding ‘disappeared’

Cariboo North MLA Bob Simpson doesn’t approve of the Liberal-proposed B.C. budget that was announced last week and says there is no mention of any pine beetle funding.

He says not only is there no mention of pine beetle funding in the provincial budget, there is no mention of it in the federal budget either.

“The beetle money has completely disappeared,” Simpson says, adding that Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised B.C. $100 million a year of beetle funding for 10 years. He says it’s questionable whether B.C. got the first $200 million since the federal government spent beetle money on expanding the Prince George, Kelowna and Kamloops airport, projects he says should be funded as infrastructure projects.

For the Forest battles beetles

A local group formed to attempt to save local forests from bark pine beetles is enlisting the help of a small Canadian town that has successfully staved off the tree-killing bugs.

Former Aspen Mayor John Bennett, now executive director of For the Forest, visited Merriitt, British Columbia, earlier this month with filmmaker Greg Poschman and scientists Wayne Sheperd and William Murray to research the town’s forest-saving methods.

This Monday they’re inviting the Aspen community to an event at the Hotel Jerome’s ballroom to share what they learned.

2009-02-19

COMMUNITY TRUST REDUCES FIRE RISK AT 144 OKANAGAN SITES

The risk of forest fires at 144 recreation sites in the Okanagan is being reduced as a result of the employment of nine forest workers through the Community Development Trust’s Job Opportunities Program, Community Development Minister Kevin Krueger and Okanagan-Vernon MLA Tom Christensen announced.

“The Community Development Trust is one of our key tools to assist forest workers and their families through these challenging economic times,” said Krueger. “This project, worth close to half a million dollars, will assist forest workers while improving fire safety for visitors and residents in the Okanagan.”

The $470,000 program will mitigate against the likelihood of forest fires in campgrounds as well as hiking, fishing and day-use areas. Dead or dying trees and easily combustible material from the forest floor will be removed, reducing the fire hazards at the sites. The project area ranges from north of Shuswap Lake to Osoyoos and will be particularly effective in areas heavily impacted by the mountain pine beetle.

2009-02-18

Cullen blasts federal budget

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen says that in the federal “hodge-podge” budget, it’s nearly impossible to find the promised pine beetle money.

In addition, he has little confidence that the Pacific Northwest will see much of the new promise of federal money for infrastructure. Cullen has travelled through his riding asking for people’s ideas about economic recovery. He says that the communities are in need of ‘community assisted funds’ and they can’t afford to wait until the government has established the terms of that funding.

“I’ve lobbied very hard for the government to put a green lens on that infrastructure money. It should be to create opportunities and jobs for people in the community. The budget is very, very light on the specifics of that infrastructure money. The hard hit communities are just hanging on - they have no ability to secure matching funding for their third share.”

Council hears about alternate energy

A delegation from Alterna Energy met with council to discuss the viability of producing energy and carbon from biomass. Alterna Energy, based in Prince George, is pursuing opportunities to create green energy through the use of wood and other fiber.

The company has set up a Biocarbon Technical Test Facility in McBride to test the worthiness of carbonizing beetle kill wood and turning it into a sustainable fuel source. They also operate a facility in Johannesburg, South Africa that carbonizes the macadamia nut outer shell and and puts it back into their environment for domestic use in the form of charcoal for cooking. Communities and companies around the world have been operating successful biomass energy systems and Alterna Energy is wishing to collaborate what is already known about those systems with the huge potential of forest potential biomass.

MLA John Rustad has been quoted as saying that BC has the potential for becoming the Saudi Arabia of the world when it comes to our potential for bioenergy. Alterna states: The Alterna process is an accurately controlled, fast pyrolysis process. This describes the thermo-chemical reaction of biomass entering the energy-carbon production system. The carbonization is stopped at the point where almost all of the volatile matter is removed in the form of gas and where most of the fixed carbon remains intact. The Alterna process is unique because it is very efficient, environmentally clean, simple to operate and easy to maintain. The market flexibility of Alterna products could be huge as there’s a long list of natural materials that can be carbonized. Once carbonized the market uses are many including: power; environmental as in water filtration systems; agricultural as in growth promoters for crops and it can be used in the steel industry in coking.

Ecolink Products Group, Inc. announces a regrowable natural wood composite alternative to wood

Ecolink announces its latest product Eco Board. Responding to a growing need for alternative uses for products produced by the Canadian Forest Industry, Ecolink has developed a composite wood product that combines wood fibers with regrowable natural energy to produce Eco Board a fire retardant alternative to traditional wood products.

Fierce competition from China, Brazil and other places where trees grow faster, manufacturing costs are lower, and lax environment rules has created new and substantial challenges for the Canadian Forestry Industry. This combined with a mountain pine beetle infestation has already killed off billions of trees in British Columbia and is threatening to take over Alberta's jack pine, marking the start of a deadly cross-country trek across Canada. The devastating pine beetle infestation is expected to have economic implications for 30 communities and 25,000 families whose livelihood depends on the pulp and paper industry in British Columbia alone.

Ecolink’s new technology has a wide variety of applications and uses. Ecolink’s proprietary technology uses a binder to encapsulate wood fibers. The new resin can be molded in shapes of any dimension and thickness. Further it can be extruded to produce panels, slabs, tiles and boards. Ecolink combines this resin with regrowable energy, natural fillers and wood. The result is a wood based product with a very green footprint.

BC budget has little for forest workers -steelworkers

United Steelworkers (USW) Western Canada Director Stephen Hunt says there is nothing in the BC budget for the thousands of forest workers who have no jobs or whose livelihoods are threatened.

"There is clearly a crisis, acknowledged in the dramatic decline of forest revenues in the budget predictions," said Hunt. "But the government is still not taking action to assist workers, re-tool the wood manufacturing industry or properly reforest areas devastated by the mountain pine beetle."

Hunt said the budget does not include any significant programs to help extend Employment Insurance (EI) for forest workers; does not earmark any new money for training and worker adjustment; and makes no mention of a strategy for aggressive and enhanced silviculture and reforestation to deal with the mountain pine beetle epidemic and other forest health needs.

2009-02-12

Youth have huge stake in fight against climate change

The hills surrounding Kamloops used to be covered with strong, healthy lodgepole pines. Each year, I watch as more and more of them turn from green to red to brown.

In just one year, over 50 trees on my university campus were removed after they were infested by the mountain pine beetle.

The mountain pine beetle epidemic in British Columbia is one of the most visible consequences of climate change to date. The beetle is usually killed off by long periods of cold weather in the winter. But there hasn’t been a cold snap that has lasted long enough to stop the beetle’s devastating march across our forests.

2009-02-11

Global warming is bad news for U.S. trees

Western forests are not doing so well. The temperate, evergreen forests that stretch from the Pacific Northwest to the high deserts of the Southwest are changing quickly, and it appears global warming is the cause.

The forests of western North America have recently been struck by a series of blows to the trunk. First, pests like the Western Pine Beetle attacked trees. Then an increase in catastrophic fires linked (ironically) to fire prevention efforts ravaged huge swathes of forest. Pollution has also been tagged as a cause of tree mortality. City smog travels inland and becomes trapped against mountain ranges by inversion layers in the atmosphere. Now, it looks like warming itself is responsible for the death of old growth forests.

A new study by scientists with the USGS, US Forest Service, and six universities in Canada and the US has shown that warming is the primary reason for an increase in tree mortality in the Western US and British Columbia. The study used data from 76 long-term plots spread across Western North America, an area that has experienced warming rates between 0.3 – 0.5 °C per decade between the 1970s and 2006.

2009-02-09

Log bunk widths increased on select BC runs

The B.C. Ministry of Transportation has approved extending the width of log bunks by a foot on some routes -- from eight feet, six inches to nine feet six.

According to The Williams Lake Tribune, trucking companies have been lobbying for the increase in width because full loads no longer meet full axle weight thresholds.

That's because, reports the paper, pine beetle-affected wood is significantly drier, leaving more allowable axle weight per load.

2009-02-06

Herbal tea ingredient helps beetle-plagued trees

Would a dose of herbal tea slow the march of beetles killing millions of acres of pine trees across the West?

Sort of.

But instead of brewing up a cup, U.S. Forest Service scientists found that sprinkling tiny flakes containing the pheromone verbenone over lodgepole pine forests cut the number of trees attacked by bark beetles by two-thirds.

2009-02-05

Tea treatment

How do you control mountain pine beetles, which are killing vast stretches of lodgepole pine forests in the West and Canada? Invite the bugs to tea.

When pine beetles first invade a stand, they release a chemical that attracts males and females so they can mount a massive attack on the host trees to overwhelm their defenses. Then, when the infestation is established, they produce a pheromone called verbenone that is also found in herbal tea and a variety of plants, including rosemary and sage.

The substance, which other beetles sense with their antennae, amounts to a "no vacancy" sign, signaling them to stay away and avoid overcrowding. Some research indicates that verbenone may also slow the insects' flight muscles, hindering their spread.

2009-02-04

MSMA legacy remains in forest?

British Columbia used a chemical weapon to try to halt the deadly spread of the pine beetle over the past 20 years. But Bulkley Valley environmentalists are concerned the pesticide could claim innocent victims.

Monosodium Methanearsonate, or MSMA, is an arsenic-based pesticide that was used in British Columbia from the mid-1980s until 2004. Its registration finally expired in 2008 in the province and the Canadian manufacturer, United Agri Products, is no longer producing it.

MSMA was moderately effective at killing the beetles, with success rate estimates ranging from 60 to 90 per cent. According to Environment Canada, around 500,000 trees were treated with MSMA from 1995 to 2004. Nearly 6,000 kg of MSMA was used.

Lumber prices gain ground

Lumber futures hit a two-week high yesterday on speculation that recent production cuts by some of the heavyweights of the industry are a sign the overcapacity situation is easing and bringing some much-needed relief to the sector.

The dilemma is that, while not unwelcome, the rising prices leave most producers struggling with price levels still far too low in an anemic market suffering from a host of factors, including the collapse of the U.S. housing sector.

Producers have also been hit hard by high taxes, the damage to B.C. forests caused by the mountain pine beetle and irritants in the Canada-U.S. softwood lumber settlement.

2009-02-02

Landscape-scale treatment promising for slowing beetle spread

Mountain pine beetles devastating lodgepole pine stands across the West might best be kept in check with aerial application of flakes containing a natural substance used in herbal teas that the insects release to avoid overcrowding host trees, according to a team of scientists.

Findings from the U.S. Forest Service-funded study appear in the February issue of Forest Ecology and Management. The study was conducted in California and Idaho, and showed how applications of laminated flakes containing a substance called verbenone resulted in a three-fold reduction in insect attack rates, compared to areas where they were not applied.

The technique could provide a way to treat infestations on a large scale and limit further spread into millions of acres of trees made vulnerable because of climate change, overcrowding and fires.

Climate change and beetles affecting our local forests

It appears the mountain pine beetle outbreak that has devastated thousands of trees in the B.C. Interior isn’t the only way climate change is negatively affecting our forests.

A study recently published in the journal Science shows that forests are dying at an increasing rate across western North America – with non-catastrophic mortality doubling every 17 to 29 years. A total of 76 forest plots in the western United States and southwestern B.C. were studied in the survey.

None of the plots were in the B.C. Interior, cautioned Lori Daniels, a UBC researcher and one of the study’s co-authors.