North America faces beetle plague

A plague of tree-killing beetles which swept across British Columbia is threatening to spread east, to the US.

The mountain pine beetle has killed more than half of all lodge pole pine in the province and is now active in neighbouring Alberta.

Cold winters usually kill off the beetle larvae, but the region has been warmer than usual in recent years.

Scientists use genomic research to tackle mountain pine beetle

A new research project probing the genetic blueprint in the war between the mountain pine beetle and the lodgepole pine trees it attacks is expected to yield key information on how molecular-level triggers in a tiny pest can destroy a landscape as vast as Canada’s northern pine forests.

Using $7.8 million in new reseach funding, scientists intend to look at the outbreak as a disease that’s infecting an organism. In this case the organism is the endless pine forest that sweeps across Canada from the British Columbia Interior to Newfoundland.

They want to discover the molecular interactions between the players in what has to be one of nature’s most dramatic battles: a war with the potential to kill a continent-wide eco-system.


Genome researchers to turn microscopes on pine beetle epidemic

The battle against the pine beetle epidemic is being fought at microscopic levels.

Genome Canada, Genome B.C. and Genome Alberta have committed nearly $8 million to a research project designed to map the basic building blocks of trees and the pests that attack them.

Research leader Dr. Joerg Bohlmann says genomes could eventually help scientists fight the pine beetle infestation.


Beetles Add New Dynamic to Forest Fire Control Efforts

Summer fire seasons in the great forests of the West have always hinged on elements of chance: a heat wave in August, a random lightning strike, a passing storm front that whips a small fire into an inferno or dampens it with cooling rain.

But tiny bark beetles, munching and killing pine trees by the millions from Colorado to Canada, are now increasingly adding their own new dynamic. As the height of summer fire season approaches, more than seven million acres of forest in the United States have been declared all but dead, throwing a swath of land bigger than Massachusetts into a kind of fire-cycle purgatory that forestry officials admit they do not yet have a good handle on for fire prediction or assessment.

Dead trees, depending on how recently they died, may be much more flammable than living trees, or slightly more flammable, or even for a certain period less flammable. The only certainties are that dead forests are growing in size and scale — 22 million more acres are expected to die over the next 15 years — and that foresters, like the fire-tower lookouts of old, are keeping their eyes peeled and their fingers crossed.


Forestry Update Demonstrates Change in Industry

Chief Forester for the province of B.C. is working on the annual allowable cut for the Prince George Timber Supply area, but it will be the end of the year before there is any final decision.

Speaking to the Regional District of Fraser Fort George, Ministry of Forests Stewardship Manager Jeff Burrows, says this is the 4th round of cut review.

1996 cut was set at 9.3 million cubic meters. Then, to respond to the beetle attack, in 2002 that cut was increased to 12.2 million cubic meters . Beetle devastation was the reason behind a further increase in 2004 when the annual allowable cut was boosted to 14.9 million cubic meters.


Barnett receives special appointment

Donna Barnett, Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA, is very pleased to have been appointed parliamentary secretary on the Community Pine Beetle Recovery Plan.

Barnett said she will work with Bill Bennett, minister of Community and Rural Development, but she doesn’t have too many details yet since the appointments were just announced last week.

Barnett said a parliamentary secretary is an appointment by the premier with a specific mandate.


Who watches the woodlots?

The B.C. Forest Practices Board is auditing five woodlots in the Quesnel Forest District this week.

The board -- the province's independent watch dog -- carries out periodic independent audits to see if government and forest companies are complying with provincial forest practices legislation.

The audit will examine each woodlot holder’s harvesting, roads, silviculture, fire protection activities, and associated planning for compliance with the Forest and Range Practices Act, and the Wildfire Act. The area being examined has been hit heavily by mountain pine beetle, and most harvesting activity is salvage of beetle killed trees.


Tsilhqot'in Biomass Project Endorsed by City Council of Williams Lake, BC

The city council of Williams Lake, BC has endorsed the development of a 60 MW biomass power project by a joint-venture subsidiary of Run of River Power Inc. ("ROR Power" or "the Company") (TSX-V: ROR).

The project is being jointly spearheaded by ROR Power's 100%-owned subsidiary, Western Biomass Power Corp., and the Tsilhqot'in National Government. The Williams Lake endorsement came in the form of a letter of support approved at the most recent meeting of council. The measure had been previously discussed with the joint-venture partners and it comes as the project is being considered for submission under the anticipated Phase Two of BC Hydro's Bioenergy Call. The plant, to be located in nearby Hanceville, will generate electricity by utilizing trees damaged by the mountain pine beetle infestation plus local organic logging and mill waste.

"This initiative is an innovative and productive utilization of wood fibre that would result in significant social, environmental and economic benefits,"said Mayor Kerry Cook. "The City of Williams Lake supports the sustainable approach to community development for the betterment of the region and the province."


Experts advise on beetle battle

Carbondale Town Hall was a briefing room for the war on pine beetles Thursday afternoon as two experts of the bug and its habits talked about measures to slow its tour of North America.

Nancy Gillette of the U.S. Forest Service and Don Fowler, a forestry consultant for Contech, Inc., talked to foresters, property owners and concerned citizens about the beetle’s infestation, past efforts to control the beetle and the use of the pheromone verbenone to deter the beetle.

Fowler, who has done most of his work in British Columbia, said most of the pine trees are dead where he comes from.


Pine beetle workshop set in Carbondale

For The Forest, the group that initiated a plan to reduce the threat of pine beetles on Aspen's Smuggler Mountain, is offering a free Verbenone workshop Thursday at Carbondale Town Hall.

The session, from 2 to 5 p.m., is an opportunity for landowners, arborists, property managers and silviculture professionals to learn about approaches to controlling the beetle with the use of Verbenone, a naturally occurring pheromone, according to For The Forest.

The workshop will feature Nancy Gillette, a research entomologist with the Pacific Southwest station of the U.S. Forest Service, and Don Fowler, a forestry consultant for Contech, Inc. who spent several years battling the mountain pine beetle epidemic in British Columbia.


The mountain pine beetle has been ravaging the pine forests in B.C. since the mid-1990s, leaving behind an estimated 1 billion tons of dead trees and a forestry industry in dire need of rescue.

When life gives you beetle-killed dead trees, make biofuel.

The reasoning is simple – the dead trees can be converted into oil through a carbon-neutral process, producing biofuel. The process is expensive and until now has only been done on a small scale, but the technology and potential is there.


Pine beetle culprit in spread of B.C. forest fire

The pine beetle is helping spread a B.C. forest fire.

Since the 1980s, the beetle has been laying its eggs inside trees in the Bridge River Valley, the site of a forest fire burning 65 kilometres east of Lillooet, said fire information officer Mary Ann Leach.

“When a tree dies, it drops its needles to the ground. That’s fuel. When it dies and falls over, that’s fuel on the ground,” she said. “It adds to the fuel that the fire eats up as it goes through.”

Revelstoke drier than average heading into fire season

The smoky haze that rolled into Revelstoke on June 3 was the first reminder for many that the wildfire season was at hand.

Fortunately, the smoke was a false alarm. Southeast Fire Centre information officer Gwen Eamer says the smoke was from a series of prescribed burns just across the provincial border. Alberta’s provincial forest fire centre reports they are undertaking numerous prescribed burns in the coming days in an attempt to limit the spread of pine beetle. The largest fire covers a 7,900 hectare area 70 kilometres southwest of Nordegg, just north of the Saskatchewan River. The fire will also burn portions of Banff National Park.

Eamer says the smoke from a series of prescribed burns was clearly visible on satellite images.

Dry conditions could spark record fire season

It's too early to compare the B.C. wildfire season with 2003, the worst on record, says a forest-fire expert.

But Ken Lertzman warns the province could be in for something comparable if conditions remain dry and large swaths of beetle-killed timber are threatened.

"It's interesting to see that we've got such a big and early start to the fire season," Lertzman, director of Simon Fraser University's School of Resource and Environmental Management, said Monday.


Big chill not enough to stop pine beetle

The consensus lately around southern Alberta’s water coolers and coffee shops is that the welcome warmth of spring has been overdue in scaring off the lingering chill of a bitterly cold winter.

And while it was cold enough this year to freeze the orbs off a brass monkey, it was not cold enough long enough to thwart the mighty mountain pine beetle, which appears to be awake and eating its way through an easterly route from the Elk Valley toward the Crowsnest Pass, where vulnerable stands of trees grow on the hips of Crowsnest Mountain.

Brad Jones, forest health officer for sustainable resource development, said this week that testing has revealed about 18,000 pine beetle-infested trees in the south part of the South Rockies Region, compared with 3,000 counted last year — a five-fold increase.


Mountain Pine Beetle Suspected in Banner County

An insect infestation on pine trees in the Panhandle has tentatively been identified as mountain pine beetle.

Final confirmation of the insect is still pending, but now is the time to apply treatments for mountain pine beetle if necessary to protect high-value pines in the central and southern Nebraska Panhandle near Wyoming.

The infestation was first detected late this spring after a Scotch pine tree that died near Harrisburg was reported to state officials.