2009-03-31

Assessing Planning Training program for forest workers in B.C.

The United Steel Workers Local in Prince George, B.C. has received $2 million for a Labour Market Agreement (LMA). The funding was contributed by the Government of Canada and the province of British Columbia.

The funding for the first time provides funding dollars for forest workers currently under-employed or for those who are not eligible for employment insurance. The project region covers most of the northern communities affected by the pine beetle.

Workers involved in the program have the opportunity to improve their present skill level, by taking upgrade courses on-line and by entering into other training programs to improve their ability to meet the changes in the forest sector of the future with advancements in new technology.

2009-03-27

Silviculture changes proposed

Forests Minister Pat Bell released a discussion paper Wednesday, proposing a long-term model for commercial reforestation that would involve commercial thinning and tending trees for decades.

Bell says the expansion of silviculture activities is one way to replace the forest activity to be lost with the die-off of pine beetle-infested forests in coming years. Techniques such as fertilization, thinning and pruning would create jobs and also make replanted forests ready to harvest sooner, the paper says.

Currently, Crown forest licence holders are required to replant trees to a certain density and tend them to “free growing” stage, or Christmas tree size, before responsibility for them reverts to the province after an average of 15 years.

HARVEST LEVEL DECREASED FOR LILLOOET TIMBER SUPPLY AREA

Effective May 1, 2009 the allowable annual cut for the Lillooet timber supply area will be reduced by about 10 per cent, from 639,500 cubic metres down to 570,000 cubic metres, chief forester Jim Snetsinger announced today.

The new allowable annual cut includes a partition that limits the harvest of non-pine to a maximum of 400,000 cubic metres. Current market conditions and the absence of a pine milling facility nearby may somewhat limit pine harvest but the chief forester has also directed that, whenever possible, the overall cut should be managed to address epidemic levels of mountain pine beetle in the timber supply area.

“The partition is necessary for sound stewardship and responsible management of the forest resource,” said Snetsinger. “It’s imperative to keep an ample supply of Douglas-fir and other timber species so there can be harvesting in the future as pine stands recover from the beetle infestation.

2009-03-25

B.C.'s dead trees have life as biofuel

Sunshine Coast environmental engineer Paul Nash has an interesting perspective on the economics of wood. Turn British Columbia's beetle-killed dead trees into oil, he says, and export it.

You fix two problems at once. You exploit an energy resource that's going to waste. And you evade the Canada-U.S. softwood lumber deal, which places restrictions on the export of the wood itself.

Mr. Nash, who lives in the coastal region north of Vancouver, says British Columbia has more than one billion tons of dead trees standing. After three years, these trees are deemed worthless as lumber - but they retain their value as fuel for 10 years. One ton of air-dried wood contains 16 gigajoules (GJ) of energy. (One gigajoule is equal to 25 litres of oil). Based on the cost of natural gas ($8 per GJ), B.C.'s dead trees are worth $128 a ton - worth more as energy, Mr. Nash says, than as two-by-fours.

Government of Canada invests in Okanagan Falls Economic Development

The Honourable Stockwell Day, Minister of International Trade, Minister for the Asia Pacific Gateway and Member of Parliament for Okanagan - Coquihalla, on behalf of the Honourable Lynne Yelich, Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification, today announced federal support to assess economic opportunities and help build a stronger future for the Okanagan-Similkameen region.

“Today’s investment will contribute to the long-term economic stability of the Okanagan Similkameen Region,” said Minister Day. “This project is just one example of the innovative and resourceful work being done in our region to create new opportunities and new jobs in the communities affected by mountain pine beetle infestations.”

“Our government has taken concrete action towards supporting the economic diversification of communities impacted by the mountain pine beetle,” said the Honourable Lisa Raitt, Minister of Natural Resources. “Today’s announcement creates new and exciting opportunities to attract commercial and industrial business to the community.”

Regional economy gets shot in the arm

Fifteen months after Weyerhaeuser closed its mill in Okanagan Falls, the area is receiving a small boost from the federal government.

Stockwell Day, minister of International Trade and Okanagan Coquihalla MP, announced Saturday that the Regional District of the South Okanagan is to receive a $35,000 grant aimed at stimulating economic development in Area D, which includes OK Falls.

“Today’s investment will contribute to the long-term economic stability of the Okanagan Similkameen region,” said Day. “This project is just one example of the innovative and resourceful work being done in our region to create new opportunities and new jobs in the communities affected by mountain pine beetle infestations.”

2009-03-23

Okanagan-Similkameen Receives Economic Investment From Government of Canada

The Honourable Stockwell Day, Minister of International Trade, Minister for the Asia Pacific Gateway and Member of Parliament for Okanagan - Coquihalla, on behalf of the Honourable Lynne Yelich, Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification, announced federal support to assess economic opportunities and help build a stronger future for the Okanagan-Similkameen region.

"Today's investment will contribute to the long-term economic stability of the Okanagan Similkameen Region," said Minister Day. "This project is just one example of the innovative and resourceful work being done in our region to create new opportunities and new jobs in the communities affected by Mountain Pine Beetle infestations."

"Our Government has taken concrete action towards supporting the economic diversification of communities impacted by the Mountain Pine Beetle," said the Honourable Lisa Raitt, Minister of Natural Resources. "Today's announcement creates new and exciting opportunities to attract commercial and industrial business to the community."

2009-03-20

Pine Beetle being killed off in Alberta, BC not so lucky

It's too late for BC, but new scientific data from the Canadian Forest Service suggests frigid temperatures this winter have killed off 95 per cent of the mountain pine beetles in southern Alberta and the mountain parks and about 90 per cent in northern Alberta.

The numbers are promising, but the province won't know until May if the death rate was high enough to stop the destructive bugs from continuing to spread to healthy trees.

The beetles threaten about 60-thousand square kilometres of Alberta pine forests.

2009-03-19

Scientists predict frigid cold has killed most mountain pine beetles in Alberta

Frigid temperatures this winter have killed off more than 90 per cent of the mountain pine beetles in Alberta forests, new scientific data suggests.

But experts won't know until this spring if the death rate is high enough to actually stop the destructive bugs from continuing to spread to new healthy trees.

Computer models run by the Canadian Forest Service on Thursday indicate that 95 per cent of the beetles have died in southern Alberta and the mountain parks because of the harsh winter. About 90 per cent have died in northern Alberta.

DEPUTY CHIEF FORESTER INCREASES AAC FOR TFL 8

The allowable annual cut for tree farm licence 8, near Grand Forks, will increase by about six per cent to 186,000 cubic metres, deputy chief forester Melanie Boyce announced today.

The increase takes effect April 1, 2009. The previous allowable annual cut was 175,000 cubic metres.

“I’ve reviewed the timber supply analysis, which shows higher harvest levels are possible in the future,” Boyce said. “At this time, I’m confident the new harvest level can accommodate objectives for forest resources over the next five years. I also considered mountain pine beetle concerns and expect the licensee to continue harvesting as much pine as possible to help prevent the beetle from reaching an epidemic level in this tree farm licence area.

Forest Pest Creating Allergy Problems Too

The mountain pine beetle is not only devastating forests in the western U.S. and Canada, it's also becoming an allergy trigger for people living in the affected areas, said a researcher here.

A third of the patients at an allergy clinic in one such area in British Columbia were reactive to pine beetle extract, compared with less than 8% of clinic patients in the city of Vancouver, reported Donald F. Stark, M.D., of the University of British Columbia.

Dr. Stark told attendees at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology meeting that there also seemed to be substantial allergic cross-reactivity between the beetles and cockroaches.

2009-03-18

Finally some good news

It looks like there is finally some good news for the forest industry and it’s about time. Minister of Forest and Range Pat Bell has announced new, innovative technology that will allow for loggers to maximize the wood destroyed by the pine beetle, allowing it to be harvested well into the 2020’s.

BC Hydro has already announced phase two of the biomass projects and instead of giving preference to more tenured bids, like they did in phase one, this time needs to be all about helping the communities most severely affected. The hardest hit places need hope and they need recovery now.

With the new mapping technology that will direct loggers to the areas that need harvesting first, more projects should be added to phase two. If they are so confident in this technology maybe it would be wise to put more projects on the table. It would help get more people back to work and significantly enhance the recovery time of the whole area.

2009-03-17

Taking its lumps

Inside the boardroom of Alterna Energy’s office in Prince George, B.C., a row of what appear to be coal briquettes rest on a ledge. Company president and co-founder Leonard Legault picks one of them up, rests the plum-sized object in his hand and explains, “This is a carbonized apple.” The once lush fruit has essentially been reduced to its carbon base and is now a desiccated black lump.

But that lump has energy potential. Alterna Energy doesn’t want to carbonize apples, of course, but instead convert wood waste, such as trees killed by the mountain pine beetle, into what Legault calls “biocarbon,” which can then be used for clean heat and power generation. The idea is similar to using wood pellets for energy production, but Alterna’s carbonization process strips organic material down to its pure combustible elements, which results in an energy density 70% higher than wood pellets. The company calls them “next generation” energy pellets, and claims the process requires almost no external energy inputs and that its pellets can be used in existing coal plants without too many modifications. The process can be carbon-neutral since the CO2 released during combustion will ultimately be reabsorbed by the plant life that grows to replace the original organic material.

That’s created interest in Ontario where the provincial government has pledged to phase out coal-fired plants by 2014. (Ontario Power Generation is already experimenting with wood pellets at the Nanticoke coal plant in the southern part of the province.) Legault says Alterna is currently in talks with OPG, as well as officials from the city of Hamilton in B.C., to use the company’s technology. Alterna already has a small commercial plant in South Africa that provides heat for a nut processing facility using the waste shells, as well as a pilot plant in McBride, B.C.

Willow River Forest Project Gets 10 Working

Ten Prince George forest workers will be removing beetle-killed pine and improving silviculture conditions on a licensed woodlot that is part of the Willow River Demonstration Forest, thanks to $155,519 from the Community Development Trust's Job Opportunities Program.

The workers will hand-harvest pockets of beetle-wood and other dead trees throughout the site, thereby reducing the spread and damage caused by other forest pests such as Western Gall Rust or Atropelis canker, and supporting the forest's future growth regeneration.

The project will also include brushing and maintenance of four kilometres of trails, and may include fire hazard abatement work near the trails and main road.

2009-03-12

Biogas projects proposed as new Terasen Gas energy sources

Proposals to generate biogas from algae growth and pine beetle killed wood are two of nine projects being reviewed by Terasen Gas in response to a call for expressions of interest in clean, renewable biogas production. Other potential projects include recovering biogas from agricultural and municipal biowaste, and several proposals targeting meat, vegetable and food waste.

"We are very pleased with the calibre of projects submitted for consideration," said Doug Stout, Terasen Gas Vice President, Marketing and Business Development. "Developing these types of projects will increase the province's production of clean, renewable energy and help to reduce emissions from waste methane, which is 21 times more powerful in warming the atmosphere than CO(2)."

Last fall, Terasen Gas issued a request for expressions of interest to municipalities, waste management companies, farms and other businesses to bring forward opportunities whereby new facilities could be built, or existing ones upgraded, to allow the production of biogas and its conversion into a clean, renewable energy source. As part of that call, information sessions were held in four regions of the province to gather feedback and responses.

Pine beetle wood may be used longer: MLA Pat Bell

The provincial government is predicting that much of the lumber hit by the Pine Beetle is going to last considerably longer than initial predications.

Using a variety of methods, including remote sensing, aerial photography, and drawing on a plethora of reports and surveys, the Mountain Pine Beetle Mapping Project is making damage control easier, officials say.

“These new maps are an important planning tool to help us extract more value from our beetle-attacked stands and regenerate our forest resource,” Bell said.

Preparing for the pine beetle battle

The community response to last week’s mountain pine beetle forum at the Jerome Ballroom has been tremendous.

By showing up in such numbers, you made it clear that our community cares about saving pine trees in and around Aspen, from the grand old trees in Paepcke Park to select parts of Smuggler Mountain, Hunter Creek, Independence Pass and other areas in our valley’s wildland/urban interface.

This is an urgent problem. While the mountain pine beetle plays a natural role in forest ecology, the scale of this epidemic is unprecedented in recorded history. It’s yet another “calling card” of climate change.

Plan to better manage B.C.’s forest

Minister of Forests and Range Pat Bell said the province will announce four major forestry initiatives in the next three weeks.

Bell was one of the keynote speakers at the Association of B.C. Forest Professionals conference in Prince George last Friday.

The four announcements will focus on promoting advanced silviculture, increasing access to waste wood left behind by logging, mapping software to predict the value of pine killed by the mountain pine beetle, and an aggressive project to promote B.C. forest products in China.

2009-03-11

Blood in the forest

Northern B.C. is looking for relief.

The downturn in forestry coupled with the mountain pine beetle epidemic have crippled smaller communities that have relied on trees as their economic lifeblood.

Few towns have felt the crunch more than Fort St. James and Mackenzie. But as they wither, there is hope that relief will come in the form of a new mine - called Mount Milligan - located between the two communities, that could bring new jobs and breathe new life into a population that has taken one body blow after another.

2009-03-07

Colorado wages battle with beetles

As sunset softens the vast Colorado sky into warm shades of pink and blue, the sound of chainsaws jars the stillness of this remote and rugged wilderness.

A forest service team works quickly, felling dozens of dead or dying lodgepole pines, the majestic trees that have towered over this region for generations.

They are locked in a race against the mountain bark beetle, a tiny insect the size of a rice kernel, which is devouring unprecedented swathes of woodland across the US and Canadian north-west.

2009-03-06

COMMUNITY TRUST WORKERS REDUCING CHILCOTIN FIRE RISK

Four forest workers are removing fire hazards from a right of way and replacing over five kilometres of cattle fencing near Alexis Creek, through $61,908 from the Community Development Trust’s Job Opportunities Program, Forests and Range Minister Pat Bell and Community Development Minister Kevin Krueger announced.

“The Job Opportunities Program is generating employment for Alexis Creek forest workers during this period of global economic uncertainty and improving safety levels for nearby communities,” said Bell. “By clearing all debris within a tree length on each side of the right of way, these forest workers are creating an access route and initial fire break, both of which can be lifesavers when fighting forest fires.”

The project will take place at Avon Creek, north of Alexis Creek, and include the clearing of all dead, beetle-attacked or leaning trees, and the construction of 5.5 kilometres of barbed wire fencing to contain cattle. The tree removal will protect the new fence from falling timber, and provide an access route for maintenance and, if ever needed, firefighters.

B.C. Hydro issues call for bioenergy proposals

B.C. Hydro is calling for more bioenergy proposals to turn waste wood into electricity.

This is Phase II of its calls for such projects. The first phase was only for companies that already had forest tenure. Now, in this new phase, if you have a convincing plan to build a power generator using wood waste, including dead pine beetle trees, the government will give you the tenure.

"This is very exciting for our forest industry, it is a whole new opportunity for utilizing our low-value wood, whether it is the waste and residue piles left behind in the bush, or the low-value mountain pine beetle stands," said Forests Minister Pat Bell.

2009-03-03

Pine Beetle Trees Shelf Life Longer

Minister of Forests and Range Pat Bell says new technology is helping to add shelf life to mountain pine beetle attacked trees.

“We think there is a significant opportunity to capture value for a longer period” says Bell. “We think the opportunity to harvest these stands exists well into 2020, 2026.”

New technology at the mills allows mills to scan and rotate logs to get maximum value from a checked log. Bell says new mapping technology will allow better harvesting plans as the mapping can pin point those stands which should be harvested first “We can accurately predict the shelf life of each stand” says Bell.

MANAGEMENT OF BEETLE-ATTACK MAPPED OUT

A new mapping project clearly identifies the best areas for harvesting and reforestation of mountain pine beetle-attacked stands, Forests and Range Minister Pat Bell announced today.

“These new maps are an important planning tool to help us extract more value from our beetle-attacked stands and regenerate our forest resource,” said Bell. “These maps can help us prioritize which stands should be harvested first, identify the biomass opportunities, and pinpoint the best areas for intensive silviculture.”

The Mountain Pine Beetle Mapping Project shows impacts and potential opportunities in stands of 30 per cent or more pine. The project combines several layers of detailed mapping information into a single source for operational planning in beetle-attacked areas.

Start infrastructure from ground up — in the forest

When politicians at the federal and provincial level talk about investing in infrastructure to stimulate the economy, they’re talking about roads, bridges, water treatment systems, ports, concrete and asphalt.

However, Western Silviculture Contractors’ Association executive director John Betts believes that the politicians aren’t seeing the forest for the trees.

B.C.’s forests are public infrastructure, built on Crown lands. And, due to the Mountain Pine Beetle, we have a substantial infrastructure deficit in the woods.

For the Forest lays out beetle defense options

The beetles are no longer coming, they’re here, and For the Forest presenters had some good and bad news — both of which they delivered to Roaring Fork residents packed into the Hotel Jerome ballroom on Monday night.

Their message was this: The pine beetle epidemic, which has claimed more than 2 million lodgepole pines in Colorado already, has finally crept into the valley but there is still hope to save watersheds, lives and property if a community is ready to take action.

Attendees watched “A Call to Action,” a Greg Poschman-produced film detailing the consequences of living close to forests infected by pine beetle and an outline of what residents can do. The most immediate concern is wildfire, which is a more significant danger once beetles destroy a forest by killing the majority of trees.

2009-03-02

Cap and trade key to silviculture funding: Minister

Minister of Forests and Range Pat Bell said the province will announce four major forestry initiatives in the next three weeks.

Bell was one of the keynote speakers at the Association of B.C. Forest Professionals conference in Prince George Friday. The four announcements will focus on promoting advanced silviculture, increasing access to waste wood left behind by logging, mapping software to predict the value of pine killed by the mountain pine beetle, and an aggressive project to promote B.C. forest products in China.

"We are arguably the best in the world at cutting down trees. We are very good at making flat boards out of round trees," Bell said. "But we need to start thinking about how we manage our (tree) stands. We're going to be releasing, in the next two-three weeks, a discussion paper on advanced silviculture planing."