2009-05-30

The beetles are back

As the weather warms, the mountain pine beetle will again begin its spring resurgence, burrowing into the circulatory systems of trees and cutting off nutrients, leaving sawdust around the base and popcorn-shaped nodules on trunks before turning trees red and, ultimately, killing them.

In British Columbia, the beetles are already flying. And to slow the pest, which has killed hundreds of Bozeman pine trees to date, it’s important people begin taking precautions soon, said city forester Ryon Stover.

Healthy trees can be sprayed with pesticides or given a synthetic pheromone application, marketed as “Verbenone,” to fend off pests.

2009-05-28

Climate health costs: bug-borne ills, killer heat

Tree-munching beetles, malaria-carrying mosquitoes and deer ticks that spread Lyme disease are three living signs that climate change is likely to exact a heavy toll on human health.

These pests and others are expanding their ranges in a warming world, which means people who never had to worry about them will have to start. And they are hardly the only health threats from global warming.

The Lancet medical journal declared in a May 16 commentary: "Climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century."

Time running out on beetle battle

The clock is ticking for a local nonprofit group aimed at mitigating damage to the local forest from mountain pine beetles. The beetles have killed more than 2 million acres of lodgepole pine trees in Colorado, and have begun hitting the Aspen area.

The infectious beetles, which have taken out a swath of forest stretching from Canada to Mexico, are expected to take flight and brood in new trees between now and the Fourth of July.

Board members from the group, For the Forest, have been pressing Aspen City Council and Pitkin County’s board of commissioners to back a “pilot project” that would remove infected trees from Smuggler Mountain and protect at-risk pines with repellent pheromones. Their proposal calls for the selective removal of beetle-hit trees within 150 feet of trails and roads on the mountain — an estimated 200 trees over a 66-acre area — and spreading packets of a pheromone called Verbenone.

2009-05-27

BC biomass plant would use trees killed by pine beetles

A proposed biomass power plant near Hanceville, British Columbia, Canada, will run on trees killed by mountain pine beetles, if the plan is selected as a project for Phase II of BC Hydro’s Bioenergy Call for Power.

Plans for the $260 million 60-megawatt plant in the Cariboo Chilcotin were developed through a partnership between Western Biomass Power Corp. and Tsilhqot’in National Government. It is one of many proposals vying for a place in the Bioenergy Call for Power, a program to provide British Columbia with clean energy and diversify rural economies. Phase II includes a two-stream process, the first targeting larger-scale biomass projects and the second focusing on smaller-scale, community-level biomass energy solutions, according to BC Hydro. Phase I, conducted in 2008, included projects that were immediately viable and resulted in four electricity purchase agreements that were filed with the British Columbia Utilities Commission in February. The program will help the province reach its goal of becoming electrically self-sufficient by 2016.

The region has experienced a mountain pine beetle epidemic and local businessmen responded by establishing Western Biomass to utilize the dead wood. Piles of dead wood left behind by forest licensees are burned under current practices, releasing particulates into the air. “There are literally mountains of these trees,” said Jeff Paquin, manager of business development for the company. “We’re addressing that by using waste wood to create energy. The objective from day one was to do something useful with this otherwise useless wood.” The company was turned over to Run of River Power Inc. in August 2007.

2009-05-25

Fire Fuel Reduction Work Focuses on Critical Areas

The Province has been working on fire fuel mitigation for several years. “This is not to minimize the work that needs to be done, but a great deal of work has been done, focusing on the high risk areas” says Pat Bell, MLA for Prince George – Mackenzie.

Bell was speaking on the Meisner program this morning on CFIS FM in reaction to a report issued last Friday which said many communities in the B.C. Interior are at significant risk of potentially catastrophic forest fires this summer, because critical prevention work promised by the government has not been done.

Forest Economist Tom Hobby was quoted as saying “We’re sitting on a time bomb." He says there hasn’t been enough done to deal with dead stands of pine beetle killed trees, and that 1.7 million hectares of forest needs to be dealt with.

Pine beetle threat

In a stand of lodgepole pine and spruce trees, on the eastern slopes, west of Sundre, lies the answer to how large a challenge the mountain pine beetle will be this year.

The insect — the size of a fat black grain of rice — was first found in large numbers in the woods, close to the Ya Ha Tinda Ranch, in 2007.

That year, 50 trees had some evidence of the tiny pests. Last fall, around 30 new trees were found. All but four of the trees were destroyed last fall.

2009-05-23

Long, cold winter not cold enough to kill pine beetles

The winter might have felt long and cold, but it apparently wasn't a big problem for the province's pine beetles.

The Calgary Herald reports, if a computer model is right, this past winter wasn't cold enough to kill off enough of the pests to stop them from spreading. Provincial forest health officers say they need a 97.5% kill rate in order to stop the spread, but so far the model shows only a 90-95% rate around the province.

Alberta and British Columbia are bearing the brunt of the beetle outbreak that's affecting areas as far away as New Mexico.

Alberta renews assault on pine beetles

Everyone holds their breath as Kristofer Heemeryck strips a circular cut of wood from a battle-scarred lodgepole pine.

Results from this cut will tell how many rice-sized mountain pine beetles have survived the winter by snuggling under a warm blanket of bark.

"These trees were probably attacked in late September. These adults would kind of reawaken this spring and lay their eggs,"says Heemeryck, a provincial forest health officer who has drilled four holes into the tree for his samples.

2009-05-22

B.C. Interior faces high risk of catastrophic forest fires: expert

Many communities in the B.C. Interior are at significant risk of potentially catastrophic forest fires this summer, because critical prevention work promised by the government has not been done, a forestry expert said Friday.

Forest fire fuel in the form of shrubs, branches and even pine-beetle infected trees needs to be cleared from wide swaths of the forest floor, estimated at 1.7 million hectares, said Tom Hobby, a forest economist and author of a new report Looking at the Problem.

"We've seen fuel hazard increasing over time, so we're sitting on a time bomb," Hobby told CBC News in an interview. "If we don't do something and be proactive, sooner or later, we will have that risk executed."

Global warming's impacts on state forests: Burn baby burn!

State Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark looks out at Washington's unhealthy forests from a pilot's seat, flying his plane from Olympia to his family's ranch in the remote reaches of Okanogan County.

"It is just mind-numbing the damage you see on west facing and south facing slopes . . . an overburden of dead and dying trees," Goldmark said yesterday, referring mainly to predation by pine bark beetles.

Goldmark had just shared his up-close perspective on global warming, and its consequences for trees in the Evergreen State, at a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency hearing here.

2009-05-14

Pine trees succumb to beetle invasion

Mount Hood National Forest is known for the lush green conifers that drape its namesake volcano’s flanks for miles in each direction.

But over the past seven years, that green cloak of trees has been interrupted by growing ribbons of brown – tens of thousands of lodgepole pines that have fallen victim to the mountain pine beetle. The tiny insect – about the size of a grain of rice – can kill a 100-foot-tall, mature lodgepole in a few months, something it’s been doing with maddening efficiency across the western United States over the past decade.

“We have a fair number of stands that are at a vulnerable age, and they’re getting attacked,” says Bruce Hostetler, a U.S. Forest Service entomologist stationed at Mount Hood National Forest. “We started seeing increased mortality in Mount Hood around 2002 to 2004.”

2009-05-13

Carbon tax a first step

Remember when one of the biggest environmental issues we faced in B.C. was whether or not to open up the grizzly bear hunt? To shoot or not shoot bears. While both sides may still be reeling – and calling for bans or greater allocations, the debate seems almost simple when compared with the need for action on climate change.

In face of global climate change, we have a daunting task and a need to take multiple actions. In British Columbia we’re already faced with the pine beetle epidemic, shrinking glaciers and warming waters. If we don’t show leadership on climate change, than we may no longer have to debate whether or not to shoot bears. Loss of habitat and dwindling salmon stocks from warming waters might make up the decision for us.

Over the past couple of years, British Columbians have made it clear that they are committed to taking action on global warming. Emboldened by this support, the B.C. government has demonstrated continental leadership by legislating reductions in greenhouse gasses, shifting taxes away from income and onto carbon pollution, and banning dirty coal-fired power plants.

2009-05-12

Group: Time running out for Smuggler pines

As the mountain pine beetle spreads across the West leaving millions of acres of dead trees in its wake, the nonprofit group For the Forest says time is running out to protect key areas like Smuggler Mountain from the devastation.

The group is set to meet with Aspen City Council today and with Pitkin County commissioners next week to pitch a plan to try to protect Smuggler before the beetle epidemic hits in full force.

But the clock is ticking, said former Aspen Mayor John Bennett, who heads the group. By summer, the beetles are expected to multiply here, increasing the number of infected and spreading the destruction farther and faster.

2009-05-11

MAJOR FUNDING FOR TUMBLER RIDGE HIKING TRAILS AND FOREST RECREATION SITES

In a dramatic development $250 000 of provincial funding has been made available for the improvement and maintenance of the Wolverine Nordic and Mountain Society’s hiking trail system and the Forest Recreation Sites in the Tumbler Ridge area. The funding source is the Job Opportunities Program, for displaced forestry workers. The successful proposal for this funding was submitted by Gordon Bryan and Dunne Za Ventures. Starting in the next few weeks, a five person crew will start work on the recreation sites, then work its way through all of the thirty WNMS hiking trails, removing beetle-killed trees and other danger trees, removing roots, and improving signage, benches, bridges and safety features.

Perhaps most exciting, there will be new trail development along routes already identified and flagged by WNMS, such as the Bergeron Falls Circular Route. This route leads to the foot of the tallest accessible waterfall in the region, and will create another flagship trail for Tumbler Ridge and boost its opportunities for residents and its tourist potential. Depending on funding, there may even be an opportunity for small hut development.

Throughout the summer, the work crew and WNMS will be working closely with Tim Bennett, Recreation Officer for the region for the Ministry of Tourism, in implementing this project. Another substantial benefit of this funded trail-work is that it allows the WNMS volunteers more time to develop and mark the new Emperor’s Challenge route on Babcock Mountain.

2009-05-08

Forestry Makes Little Noise In Campaign

If British Columbia's once mighty forest industry had a theme song, it might be the Ray Charles classic, “If I didn't have bad luck, I'd have no luck at all.”

Hammered by punitive U.S. softwood lumber tariffs, a pine-beetle infestation and the imploded American housing market, many B.C. mills have shut down, chain saws have fallen silent and thousands of people have been laid off.

Yet forestry hasn't made it to the centre ring in the election campaign, beyond some political sniping among the parties.

Saving Colorado’s Pine Trees

There’s no denying the mountain pine beetle is changing the face of the Rocky Mountain West. From New Mexico up through western British Columbia, this small, black insect the size of a grain of rice is leaving a path of destruction in its wake. In Wyoming and Colorado, ground zero for the infestation, the number of dead trees grew from one million acres in 2006 to 1.5 million acres in 2007 then grew yet again to an estimated two millions acres in 2008.

While biologists and scientists struggle to save the West’s dwindling forests, information about what can be done to save trees along Colorado’s Front Range, now that winds have blown the insects east of Interstate 25, seems to be conflicting.

To talk about the myths and realities of the mountain pine beetle infestation, Chris Casson of the Pine Needle Tea Company, will be hosting a one-hour “Call to Action” on Thursday, May 7 in the lower level conference room at Guaranty National Bank, 807 Mountain Ave. Seating is limited, so those interested in attending should arrive for the meeting scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m.

2009-05-06

Pine beetle, snowpack, factors in forest fires

The day after 70 Mile House, B.C., residents were allowed to return to their homes after a sweeping forest fire, officials are sounding the alarm about what's shaping up to be an early and devastating season.

A new 125-hectare forest fire at Round Lake between Merritt and Princeton in B.C.'s Interior is just the latest in a series of major forest fires that have caught people off-guard and people fearing they might lose their homes.

"We had everything packed up and ready to go," Round Lake resident Paddy Lingenfelter said.

2009-05-04

B.C. Liberals will ask Ottawa to lift moratorium on offshore exploration, NDP warns

With just seven days left on the campaign trail, the B.C. NDP warned voters Monday that a Liberal government would ask Ottawa to lift a 37-year-old federal moratorium on offshore oil and gas exploration.

The New Democrats said such a move would result in an "inevitable" environmental disaster on the West Coast. But B.C. Energy Minister Blair Lekstrom said if offshore development can be done in an environmentally sound way, the Liberals are prepared to look at it.

A province in which the principal industry, forestry, has been devastated by a pine beetle epidemic, the softwood lumber dispute and now a worldwide economic crash might be more than ready to explore new options in the energy industry.

Libs want to lift offshore oil moratorium: NDP

With just seven days left on the campaign trail, the NDP warned B.C. voters Monday that a Liberal government wants Ottawa to lift a federal moratorium on offshore exploration.

The New Democrats say that would open the West Coast to "inevitable" environmental disaster. Energy Minister Blair Lekstrom said if offshore development can be done in an environmentally sound way, then the Liberals are prepared to look at it.

But in a province where the principal industry -- forestry -- has been devastated by a pine beetle epidemic, the softwood lumber dispute and now a worldwide economic crash, the province may be more than "prepared to look at it."