2009-07-30

Agriculture expansion eyed

The agriculture sector in north-central B.C. could be expanded as productive land is available, and there is growing interest for locally-produced food and an opportunity for providing certain products for export, shows a strategy released Tuesday by a community coalition.

The strategy is the last element -- seven others involving areas like mining, tourism and transportation already released -- meant to help diversify the north central region's economy in the face of anticipated lower level of forestry activities in the wake of the pine beetle epidemic.

The plan was created by the Omineca Beetle Action Coalition, a group which represents communities like Prince George, Vanderhoof, Burns Lake and Mackenzie.

2009-07-29

UNBC bioenergy potential

There is no denying our trees are dying.

The mountain pine beetle has taken a huge toll on the pine forests around Fort St. James and in British Columbia as a whole. There has been a lot of discussion about what should be done with the wood, and how it could best be utilized.

The University of Northern British Columbia has a new program that looks at bio-energy. UNBC has been doing a lot of research into the different products that can be made from the dead trees.

2009-07-27

Pine beetle studies to influence Canadian feedstock supply research

Genomics and proteomics research organizations Genome Canada, Genome British Columbia and Genome Alberta will help fund a $7.8 million research project designed to create tools for the prediction and guarantee of sustainable biomass feedstocks for Canadian biofuel production.

The University of Alberta and the U.S. DOE’s Joint Genome Institute will also co-fund the project.

The project, titled “Genomics-Enhanced Forecasting Tools to Secure Canada’s Near-Term Lignocellulosic Feedstock Supply for Bioenergy using the Mountain Pine Beetle System,” will study the current mountain pine beetle epidemic in search of genomics information on pine trees, bark beetles and associated fungal pathogens.

2009-07-24

Kelowna fires raise aboriginal concern

B.C. First Nations are using the recent Kelowna fires to highlight their demand for funding to help fire-proof 103 native communities in the large beetle-infested Interior and northern areas of the province.

The B.C. First Nations Forestry Council has asked for $60 million funding over three years from the federal government to protect their communities from wildfires.

The group says the Kelowna fires have heightened fears in their communities that the 13-million hectare beetle-infested area has turned into a tinder box of dead and dying trees, where tens of thousands of people are living on borrowed time.

2009-07-23

Whistler2020 on the Ground

The interface forest fire raging around West Kelowna right now may seem distant, but the reality of living in a bone-dry forest environment exists in every Whistler backyard.

The British Columbia Forest Service announced early this week the conditions in Sea to Sky Forests are as dry as those around Kelowna and the Mountain Pine Beetle infestation in our region has created perfect conditions for forest fire potential in and around Whistler. Any time we talk about fire, we also need to talk about water - a resource needing conservation every day of the year, hot or not.

Whistler's Fire Danger Rating Notice has been "High" for most of this summer. As of July 17 that rating went to "Extreme," meaning no fires are allowed. In parks, no open flames such as torches and briquette or wood barbecues are allowed. Propane barbecues may be used only if they are not on the grass and are not near any trees (the propane barbecue would be on a stand or of a commercial or household design). In residential areas no wood barbecues are allowed. Propane or briquette barbecues may be used only if they are used in a safe manner and have proper clearance from structures and meet municipal regulatory requirements.

Peace pine beetles survive winter well

Local infestations of Mountain Pine Beetle are expected to increase in the Peace region this summer after the insects survived winter in the north better than what provincial experts hoped.

“Where the beetles did the best,” according to Sustainable Resource Development Senior Health Officer Erica Lee, was in areas north of Grande Prairie and northwest of Peace River.

“Local mature pine is at high risk of attack this summer,” she explained, “with a high probability of flight from B.C.”

2009-07-22

Massive Infestation of Beetles Threatens Mountain Pines in Western U.S.

A major infestation of the mountain pine beetle, a scourge stretching from New Mexico, in the U.S., to British Columbia, Canada, has been turning vast areas of formerly green pine forests to rust red, and slowly killing them.

The beetle infestation has been growing “exponentially” since 2006-07, according to the Forest Service management team in Laramie, Wyoming, and has so far claimed millions of acres of pine forest in Montana, Colorado, and Wyoming. North of the border, British Columbia has already lost over 33 million acres of lodgepole pine forest due to the ravages of this type of bark beetle. And more recently (in 2008), Alberta province is come under threat due to an aberrant wind storm that apparently lofted the beetles across the continental divide.

The black, hard-shelled beetle, a member of the genus Dendoctonus (which mean “tree-killer” in Latin) drills a hole through the tree’s bark and lays its eggs in a tiny “room” that it makes in the tree’s softer and more nutritious cambium (the dual-layer of xylum and phloem tissue just beneath the bark that provides nutrients to the tree). As the larvae hatch, they fed off of the sweet-tasting cambium, and also inject a symbiotic fungus into the cambium that blocks the movement of pine sap that would normally swallow up the larvae. This fungus secrets a protein that stains the cambium blue.

Gov’t officials still fighting beetlemania

Despite an exceptionally cold winter, the mountain pine beetle is still a threat.

The beetle, which threatens six million hectares of pine forest in Alberta, doesn't have a presence in the forest's around Fort McMurray right now, and Alberta Sustainable Resource Development is working to keep it that way.

“We're just heading into migration season. The latest generation of beetles are getting ready to emerge from their trees in the next couple of weeks and they'll go off in search of new trees to infest,” said Duncan MacDonnell, public affairs officer for SRD.

2009-07-21

Beetles still pose threat

The mountain pine beetle will continue to pose a threat to Alberta forests this year, according to a press release from the Sustainable Resource Development.

Last winter was not cold enough to impact the mountain pine beetle population, which has been on a steep increase since 2006, according to Duncan MacDonnell, public affairs officer for the Sustainable Resource Development (SRD).

“It’s all about temperature and timing,” said MacDonnell. Just having cold weather isn’t enough unless it’s at the right time in the winter.

2009-07-20

Beetle movement curtailed in Willmore

Alberta Sustainable Resource Development (SRD) Foothills forest region spokesperson Heather Hawkins said there weren’t that many surprises resulting from a mountain pine beetle press conference last Tuesday in Edmonton.

Mountain pine beetle mortality rates, according to SRD surveys, were higher in Willmore Wilderness Park, south of Grande Cache, this past winter. While this has resulted in a lower probability of spread, she said aggressive containment efforts including selective tree harvesting and selective burns will continue in an effort to stop the spread.

Hawkins, who is also the wildfire information officer for Foothills region, said there is still a likelihood that the beetle will spread eastward.

2009-07-17

Fears grow pine beetles threaten all of Canada

Despite a frigid winter that killed many of them off, destructive mountain pine beetles continue to thrive in Alberta and could spread farther east.

Field surveys show low temperatures last winter and fall killed off most of the bugs in the mountains and foothills of Southern Alberta, but new swarms of the tree-killing insects are expected to fly into the area this summer from British Columbia.

In northeastern Alberta, more of the tenacious beetles survived the cold and have hatched new offspring that could now fly east through a band of boreal forest.

Federal Government Funding to Strengthen Quesnel Economy

Dick Harris, Member of Parliament for Cariboo – Prince George, on behalf of the Honourable Lynne Yelich, Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification, announced federal support for two projects with the Quesnel Community and Economic Development Corporation.

“Our Government is taking action to assist communities that have been challenged by the mountain pine beetle,” said Mr. Harris. “This investment will strengthen Quesnel’s infrastructure, create new job opportunities, and better equip our region for future prosperity.”

“We are pleased to receive funding that will give our community the opportunity to plan for a potential bypass route. The North South Connector funding will assist in planning the best alternate route for Quesnel," said Mayor Sjostrom. "Funding for the Quesnel Commercial Areas Beautification Planning and Design Project will assist in planning for beautification for the corridors and the commercial areas of Quesnel.”

Winter did not stop Alberta pine beetle outbreak

This past winter did not provide the bitter cold needed to kill the infestation of mountain pine beetles in the forests of the western Canadian province of Alberta, so human efforts must continue, officials said on Tuesday.

The risk of the beetle's spread remains highest in northwest Alberta, making it likely it will eventually reach Canada's huge boreal forests, although its tree-killing march east becomes more difficult because there are fewer pine trees to infest.

The Rocky Mountains of southwestern Alberta are also infested, and the area remains under threat from bugs flying east across the border from infested forests in British Columbia, officials said.

BCTS feeling the economic pinch as sales begin to fall

Despite the increase in volume of pine beetle infestation, British Columbia Timber Sales (BCTS) is reporting a decrease in sales for the 2009/2010 year due to the ailing economy.

An arm of the Ministry of Forests and Range, BCTS manages the sale of timber areas at an upset stumpage rate, which the contractors can then sell to mills, or utilize themselves. They are also responsible for ensuring the management and reforestation measures after the timber has been removed.

“There’s really good wood here,” Dennis Singer, woodlands manager for BCTS said, referring to the Bulkley Valley. “The trees are generally larger and as you go west there’s less pine that has been impacted by the mountain pine beetle.”

Dreaming of -30C October cold snap

Most Canadians loathe the thought of bitter cold, especially if it comes in early fall or late spring.

But Erica Lee's dreams would be answered by super-cold weather -- preferably temperatures of - 30C or below this October.

No, she's not a masochist.

Winter did not stop Alberta pine beetle outbreak

This past winter did not provide the bitter cold needed to kill the infestation of mountain pine beetles in the forests of the western Canadian province of Alberta, so human efforts must continue, officials said on Tuesday.

The risk of the beetle's spread remains highest in northwest Alberta, making it likely it will eventually reach Canada's huge boreal forests, although its tree-killing march east becomes more difficult because there are fewer pine trees to infest.

The Rocky Mountains of southwestern Alberta are also infested, and the area remains under threat from bugs flying east across the border from infested forests in British Columbia, officials said.

Frigid winter failed to stop Alberta pine beetles

Despite a frigid winter that killed many of them off, destructive mountain pine beetles continue to thrive in Alberta and could spread farther east.

Field surveys show low temperatures last winter and fall killed off most of the bugs in the mountains and foothills of southern Alberta, but new swarms of the tree-killing insects are expected to fly into the area this summer from British Columbia.

In northeastern Alberta, more of the tenacious beetles survived the cold and have hatched new offspring that could now fly east through a band of boreal forest.

Genomic research will forecast the potential of a forestry biofuels industry

As Canada and the world begin to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels, the emerging bioenergy sector faces a key challenge: the sheer volume of biomass required to produce biofuels, and how to guarantee a steady supply.

A new research project largely funded by Genome Canada, Genome BC and Genome Alberta will tackle this problem, by developing genomic tools that will allow a more strategic approach to resource planning.

The sustainable use of Canada’s forests for biofuel production would help economically diversify the forestry sector and reduce dependence on fossil fuels. But predicting and guaranteeing sources of feedstock is complicated by natural and environmental factors, such as the current mountain pine beetle epidemic.

Winter not cold enough to kill Alberta’s pine beetles

The temperatures last winter just weren’t cold enough to rid Alberta of mountain pine beetles, the province said Tuesday.

As a result, the provincial government is continuing its efforts to reduce the spread of the beetles, especially north and south along the Eastern Slopes and in the boreal forest, using methods such as single-tree removals, stand-level harvest and controlled fires.

Surveys were conducted in June at more than 200 sites in pine forests across the province. Researchers examined the number of living and dead pine beetles under the bark.

2009-07-13

Saik'uz to Develop Training Centre

The Saik’uz First Nation has been granted $ 477,931 through the Federal Mountain Pine Beetle Program to develop and implement a regional trades, technology and business development program in the Vanderhoof area.

The Saik'uz Skill Development and Training Institute (SSDTI) will deliver high priority industry training programs initially delivered by existing accredited institutions.

Courses offered will include trades, technology and small business start up, human resource and business management. Saik'uz will partner with the local Community Futures to provide the business training. This project will enhance course delivery, increase job placement rates in the participating First Nations' communities, and provide a catalyst to local business attraction and retention.

Bark beetles may cost city $2M

The widening sea of red trees surrounding Helena will soon likely be accompanied by the buzz of chain saws, and city officials believe the scope of the cutting work - and replanting - could cost up to $2 million.

Helena natural resources coordinator Brad Langsather said the city will need roughly $825,000 just to cut the dead trees he observed this spring in Helena's 2,140 acres of open spaces.

Langsather recently told officials the infestation of the mountain pine bark beetle will result in a landscape change unseen since the birth of the Capital City. Many of the ponderosa pines in the Helena area are dead, and most of the living trees will die in the next few years.

2009-07-10

Government of Canada Invests in 100 Mile House Tourism

Today, Cathy McLeod, Member of Parliament for Kamloops - Thompson - Cariboo, on behalf of the Honourable Lynne Yelich, Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification, announced federal support for the development and upgrading of a trail system in the 100 Mile House area.

"Our Government is taking action to assist communities that have been challenged by the Mountain Pine Beetle," said Mrs. McLeod. "This investment will support our local tourism industry and build a stronger economic foundation for the future."

The District of 100 Mile House will assess already existing trail systems, identify linkage opportunities, and undertake signage, mapping and promotional activities. By linking community trails between 70 Mile House and Wells, this project would provide social, recreational and tangible business opportunities to many communities in the Cariboo region. Project activities will include: trail development and upgrading for a multi-purpose trail; updating trail mapping; improving trail signage; trail marketing; trail clean up and establishing a trail maintenance program to ensure trail safety and sustainability.

2009-07-08

A 50 cent carbon tax?

Did you fill up your tank before July 1? That’s when the provincial carbon tax increased by 50 per cent, from 2.4 cents per litre to 3.6 cents per litre. Get used to it, the tax will increase next year, and the year after.

Similar increases apply to diesel, natural gas and other fossil fuels, each July 1 until 2012 when they will represent a tax of $30 per tonne of greenhouse gas emissions.

Richmond MLA John Yap, B.C.’s new minister of state for climate action, referred questions about the carbon tax to the finance ministry last week. He said he is aware of the ongoing scientific debate about climate indicators, but evidence such as the unchecked spread of pine beetle show that inaction has its own risks.

2009-07-01

North America Could Face Massive Pine Beetle Infestation

Scientists fear that the swarms of mountain pine beetles that have killed more than half of all lodge pole pines in British Columbia may eventually make their way into forests in the US.

And while cold winters typically kill most of the beetle larvae, the region has recently witnessed unusually higher temperatures that have allowed the beetle to thrive for longer periods of time.

The beetle has recently been found in Alberta, and scientists told BBC News that they could threaten jack pine forests throughout North America.