2009-09-30

Mount Nestor was burning

Planned forest fires in Banff National Park that saw smoke hover over Cochrane and area last week were a necessary safety precaution, said Parks Canada.

Federal and provincial authorities teamed up to burn approximately 1,000 hectares of Mount Nestor 20 kilometres south of Banff townsite Sept. 23-25.

The controlled forest fires are meant to reduce the spread of wildfires and the mountain pine beetle, while restoring vegetation patterns and wildlife habitat.

UBCM passes affordable housing resolutions

The Union of BC Municipalities passed two familiar housing-related resolutions within the first two hours of their policy session today.

The first, passed without related debate or discussion, will see the UBCM lobby the provincial government to develop a strategy that utilizes the use of pine beetle affected timber in the construction of homes throughout the BC, and demands that BC mills be utilized as part of the strategy to reduce BC’s housing shortage.

The UBCM has passed similar resolutions to support the use of BC wood for construction of homes, and specifically pine beetle affected timber, since 1999 and 2002 respectively. This resolution, however, was the first to link the use of BC lumber specifically to the province’s housing strategy and affordable housing crisis.

2009-09-29

When the beetle-killed trees are gone, the real problems begin

The end of the mountain pine beetle epidemic was supposed to be good news, victory at last.

But the only blessing is the infestation is almost over. The bad news is that there was nothing left to save. After more than a decade and millions of dollars spent futilely trying to stop the spread of the ravenous pests, British Columbia’s Forests Minister Pat Bell says they are finally eating themselves out of house and home.

Compounding the natural disaster, Bell says, is the potential for an economic blow as some of the mills that depend on the bargain-priced, beetle-killed wood run out of feed stock.

2009-09-24

Plan for "guaranteed logging zones" riles environmentalists

The B.C. government was accused Wednesday of using the mountain pine beetle to sidestep hard-won environmental protections.

The province is making plans to establish commercial forest reserves, where intensive logging would make more timber available for sawmills once the beetle-killed logs they are now milling are gone.

Some environmental restrictions could be lifted on those lands, Forests Minister Pat Bell said earlier this week. Ken Wu, of the Western Canada Wilderness Committee, said the province's plans would create what he termed "guaranteed logging zones" on portions of Crown forestlands.

2009-09-22

Protected areas out of bounds to loggers, Bell says

Protected areas are out of bounds for the forest industry despite the huge loss of timber to the mountain pine beetle, Forests Minister Pat Bell said Tuesday.

Bell was responding to an industry proposal to re-consider some of the land-use decisions that have removed timber from the working forest.

The beetle's destruction, coupled with species-at-risk recovery strategies and other land-use changes are the prime cause of the Interior timber fall-down.

B.C. pine beetle plague may be near end: minister

After more than a decade of devastation, B.C.'s Forests Minister says the plague of the Pine Beetle may finally be over.

"If you look across the province of British Columbia now, the pine beetle is really on the decline. Unfortunately, that's as a result of it running out of food at this point," minister Pat Bell told reporters at the legislature in Victoria Tuesday.

The pine beetle infestation has ravaged nearly 25 per cent of B.C.'s pine trees, turning vast swaths of once-green forests into a rusty brown.

Pine beetle runs out of food, B.C. mills to run out of wood

The mountain pine beetle epidemic is over, B.C.’s forests minister declared Monday.

But it’s not because the beetles have been defeated. Rather, they have run out of trees, and that heralds a whole new set of problems, Pat Bell told the Vancouver Board of Trade.

The beetles have turned the province’s timber supply expectations upside down. Forest companies that are running out of wood are eyeing healthy stands — including old-growth forest — in protected areas, while Bell is warning that eight to 12 sawmills could close permanently if other sources of timber are not found.

British Columbia Faces Tree Shortage From Pine Beetle, Sun Says

British Columbia’s forest industry risks running out of trees suitable for harvest because of damage caused by infestations of the mountain pine beetle, the Vancouver Sun reported, citing the province’s forests minister.

As many as 12 wood-product mills may be closed permanently unless new areas of the Canadian province are opened to logging, the newspaper reported, citing comments yesterday by Pat Bell in a speech to the Vancouver Board of Trade.

Pine beetle infestations in the British Columbia have killed 620 million cubic meters of trees, or the equivalent of about 620 million telephone polls, the paper reported, citing Bell.

2009-09-21

Pine beetle epidemic is over: B.C. minister

The mountain pine beetle epidemic is over, B.C. forests minister declared Monday.

But it’s not because the beetles have been defeated.

Rather, they have run out of trees, and that heralds a whole new set of problems, Pat Bell told the Vancouver Board of Trade.

Genomic research projects to tackle supply and demand issues in emerging forestry biofuels industry

Two new research projects, receiving a total of nearly $9 million in funding from Genome BC, are focused on discovering efficient and long-term supplies of feedstock for biofuel production.

The first of the two projects will use genomics to determine the most efficient methods of liberating fermentable sugars from the dead pine - sugars that are broken down with enzymes and then fermented to ethanol.

Dr Jack Saddler, the University of British Columbia (UBC)'s dean of forestry, is leading the $1.1 million project, entitled Optimizing Ethanol Fermentation From Mountain Pine Beetle Killed Lodgepole Pine.

Genome British Columbia funds pine beetle, poplar projects

Genome British Columbia announced it will be the primary source of funding for two genomic research projects designed to increase the production of biofuels from biomass grown in British Columbia, particularly from lodgepole pines killed by the pine beetle infestation and the production of wild poplar trees that could potentially replace them.

According to the Canadian Ministry of Forests and Range, as of 2008, the cumulative area of provincial forest affected to some degree by the pine beetle was about 14.5 million hectares (36 million acres).

The research projects will focus on efficiently converting the dead timber to ethanol, and the optimization of breeding and selection of poplars.

Biomass project development list grows in U.S., Canada

Several new biomass power plants are in the works including two in the U.S. and one in Canada.

The Canadian project will be developed on the Lower Nicola Indian Band Reservation in Merrit, British Columbia. The LNIB will own half of the project and Biomass Secure Power Inc. will own the other half. LNIB will provide the 25 acres on which the plant will be built and BSP will supply engineering expertise to design, build and operate the plant, along with a pellet mill that will be included in the same facility, according to BSP President and CEO Jim Carroll. He declined to release a cost estimate for the project.

The 12-megawatt (MW) plant and pellet mill will process 300,000 cubic meters of pine beetle-infested trees from the area annually, Carroll said.

2009-09-19

Five area communities at risk from beetle

Five communities in the Thompson-Nicola Regional District are at risk from economic and social impacts of mountain pine beetle, according to a new report.

The Southern Interior Beetle Action Committee (SIBAC) will present a draft report to government asking for rule changes to allow more logging of waste timber and to force forest companies to harvest timber in and around communities.

Sally Watson, a regional director of the TNRD and a representative on SIBAC, said the committee comprising local politicians from around the region realizes the B.C. Liberal government has no more money to dole out.

2009-09-18

Fungus genome boosts fight to save North American forests

Canadian researchers have decoded the DNA of the tree-killing fungus found in the mouths of mountain pine beetles, the destructive bugs that wipe out entire North American forests. Further genome sequencing of the beetle and pine tree species should help forest managers design better pest-control tactics, the authors say.

"It's really getting to a systems-level understanding of the mountain pine beetle epidemic," says study co-author Jörg Bohlmann, a chemical ecologist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, who is leading the Can$11.9m (US$11.1m) multi-species genome initiative. "What really happens in nature is not confined to one species, but is happening at the intersection when one species interacts with another."

Mountain pine beetles (Dendroctonus ponderosae) have eaten their way through vast swathes of western North American pine forests, including around 15 million hectares in British Columbia alone. As the burrowing beetles tunnel under the bark to feed and lay eggs, they release spores of the blue-stain fungus (Grosmannia clavigera), which stops the production of a protective toxic resin released by the tree and allows the beetles to continue to infest.

2009-09-15

New Sequencing Technique Could Boost Pine Beetle Fight, Improve Cancer Research

UBC researchers have helped developed a cheaper, faster way to compile draft genome sequences that could advance the fight against mountain pine beetle (MPB) infestation and improve cancer research.

Current sequencing methods have a variety of advantages and disadvantages--including the cost involved. Dr Steven Jones and colleagues at UBC, the BC Cancer Agency and Simon Fraser University have combined cutting edge hardware with novel software to compile genome sequences at a fraction of the cost of previous methods.

The technique is outlined in the current issue of the journal Genome Biology.

Mountain pine beetle confirmed south of Edson

Baiting traps near Edson and Hinton have confirmed that the mountain pine beetle is getting closer to Edson.

A pheromone-baited trap located 10 kilometres south of Edson has confirmed the existence of the mountain pine beetle, while another trap in the Town of Hinton’s west side has also confirmed that fact, according to Sustainable Resource Development officials.

It was expected the two beetles were caught shortly after the flight of newly hatched beetles during the July 23 to 25 timeframe, said Foothills region wildfire information officer Heather Hawkins.

2009-09-14

Sustainable, but Too Small?

Rod Krimmer moves through the forest undergrowth with long, confident strides that make him seem perfectly at home here. Graceful, even, compared to my awkward gait. Clutching a camera in one hand, a notebook in the other, I clamber over a fallen trunk to catch up.

I'm on a tour of his 638-hectare woodlot, and he wants to show me the calling card of the bark beetle that has plagued his forest; brown, woody dust that indicates the pest has bored its way into the tree's core. It's a bad sign, but if he's vigilant and catches these trees early, the lumber is still salvageable. Forest management decisions these days, he tells me, are usually made "with a chainsaw in hand when you're on the ground."

Figuring his hands-on and holistic approach to forest management was in line with FSC standards anyway, Krimmer decided to become certified in 2000. With the official stamp of approval, he would reap the benefits of a growing market for sustainable wood. Right?

BC biomass project to use timbre ruined by pine beetle

A First Nations government and a renewable energy developer in British Columbia (B.C.) have paired up for a biomass project that could generate 420-gigawatt hours of electricity per year.

The Tsilhqot'in Power Project is a joint venture between the Tsilhqot'in National Government (TNG) and Western Biomass Power Corporation, a subsidiary of renewable energy developer Run of River Power Inc. (ROR).

The facility is proposed for Hanceville, B.C. It will use timber that has been damaged by the mountain pine beetle to fuel steam-powered turbines.

2009-09-12

Genome sequencing furthers pine beetle and cancer research

A research team co-led by Simon Fraser University professor Steven Jones has developed a new way of sequencing genomes. The researchers are using their novel method to advance knowledge about what causes mountain pine beetle infestations and cancer.

Jones is an SFU molecular biology and biochemistry professor, head of bioinformatics at the B.C. Cancer Agency’s (BCCA’s) Genome Sciences Centre and an SFU grad.

He and his colleagues at the BCCA and UBC have used novel computational approaches to identify quickly and cost effectively the genes and proteins that make up the so-called “blue stain” fungus.

2009-09-10

Arsenic-treated pines pose no health risk, study says

People are not at risk in B.C. forests where the province has used an arsenic-based pesticide to control the mountain pine beetle, according to a research report released Thursday.

But forest users are warned not to harvest edible foods from directly under treated trees. Higher levels of arsenic have been detected in the drip-line under them states the report, by biochemists Ken Reimer of the Royal Military College at Kingston, and Bill Cullen of the University of B.C.

About 150,000 pine trees were treated with monosodium methanearsonate (MSMA) from 1987 to 2004 in an attempt to slow the mountain pine beetle infestation. The pesticide was used mostly in the northern and southern Interior.

Lignol gets $4.7 million in funding from Sustainable Development Technology Canada

Lignol Energy Corp. (TSXV:LEC), a company involved in developing cellulosic ethanol and biorefining, says it has been given $4.7 million in financing from Sustainable Development Technology Canada, a financing agency created by the federal government.

Lignol shares were halted on the TSX Venture Exchange pending the news Thursday.

When trading resumed, the company's stock rose two cents to 18 cents, a gain of 12.5 per cent.

Lignol Awarded $4.72 Million in Funding from SDTC

Lignol Energy Corporation (TSX-V: LEC | Quote | Chart | News | PowerRating) ("Lignol" or "the Company"), a leading technology company in the cellulosic ethanol and biorefining sector, today announced that a project led by its wholly-owned subsidiary, Lignol Innovations Ltd., has been awarded up to $4.72 million in funding contributions from Sustainable Development Technology Canada ("SDTC").

This new SDTC supported project builds on Lignol's world-class, fully integrated, industrial scale pilot plant facility now operating in Burnaby, British Columbia. The scope of the new work plan is concentrated on further improving the environmental and economic benefits of Lignol's cellulosic ethanol technology package. The primary objectives of the work plan are to: demonstrate new innovative technologies that will greater utilize hemicellulose derived sugars to enhance ethanol yields; and to demonstrate industrial, value added applications for Lignol's high purity lignin ("HP-L(TM) Lignin") utilizing a wide range of non-food feedstocks including, long dead, beetle killed, Lodgepole pine.

"Canada is committed to investing in new and innovative technologies to support the development of the renewable biofuels industry in Canada," said SDTC President and CEO Vicky Sharpe. "These next generation technologies could generate even greater environmental benefits than traditional renewable fuels by utilizing a diverse range of non-food feedstock including agricultural residues and long dead, beetle killed, Lodgepole pine. The technology developed by Lignol has the potential to bring Canada one step closer to this goal and to secure its place as a global leader in the production of next-generation biofuels."

2009-09-09

JOB OPPORTUNITIES PROGRAM SUPPORTS VALEMOUNT WORKERS

Workers in the community of Valemount will benefit from more than $49,000 in funding for a trail management project, announced Shirley Bond, Prince George-Valemount MLA, and Kevin Krueger, Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts. The project will create short-term jobs for three unemployed resource workers through the Job Opportunities Program.

“This community, like so many others, has had the challenge of dealing with a downturn in the forest industry at the same time as the pine beetle epidemic,” said Bond. “We know that every job counts and this grant provides three jobs for unemployed resource workers, and at the same time helps maintain important recreational infrastructure.”

Workers involved in this Valemount Area Recreation Development Association project are manually brushing seven winter trails spanning 44.25 km in the vicinity of Valemount. Workers will increase the accessibility and safety of the trails that are popular with snowmobilers by clearing them of hazards and obstructions.

County worried about beetles

With the heavier mountain pine beetle infestation in the region, a smarter strategy to deal with the problem might be necessary, an official with the South Peace Municipalities told the County of Grande Prairie council yesterday.

Preliminary results of the survey work still in progress shows an inflight of the pests from B.C. is worse than in 2006, said Jerry Bauer, project co-ordinator for SPM, the co-ordinated agency set up to battle the beetles. The heavy hit areas include the Wapiti River corridor, the Dunes, Fox Creek, Valleyview and the western part of the County of Grande Prairie near the B.C. border.

It’s much worse than what happened in 2006. It’s wider spread. It’s right across the five municipalities. In the areas that we checked so far, the infestation, the number of trees that are hit is much higher than three years ago,” he said.

2009-09-07

Zilka Biomass Energy Visits Tumbler Ridge

Larry Weick, Vice President of Zilkha Biomass Energy, based in Houston, Texas, met with Mayor Larry White, Councillor Wren, Councillor Schembri, CAO Kim Isaak and the TRCOC Manager Dawn Pouliot. The meeting included a PowerPoint presentation given by Mr. Weick, detailing the history of the company, current biomass projects, and what they propose, utilizing our province’s pine beetle infected trees.

Zilkha Biomass Energy is looking for an area in BC where they can build their plant to produce wood pellets for the purpose of supplying biomass fuel for electricity. The area must be able to ensure the supply of timber to meet the plant’s production demands and have good transportation accessibility.

Peter Brand, an independent consultant hired by Zilkha Biomass Energy has been in touch with CN Rail to verify the transportation accessibility.

2009-09-03

Fire Budget Shrinks As Threats To Forest Health Increase: BC NDP

With climate change and the ravages of the mountain pine beetle dramatically increasing the risk of catastrophic wildfires in B.C.’s forests, it’s inconceivable that the B.C. Liberals have budgeted less to fight forest fires, the New Democrats say.

Projections for the 2010-2011 budget year indicate the Campbell government expects to spend $10 million less on direct fire suppression than they budgeted for this year.

“There’s every reason to believe that we are going to be seeing increased risk of wildfires, not less,” said New Democrat forests critic Norm Macdonald . “It makes no sense that the Campbell government expects to save money on forest fires in the years to come.”