Alberta’s forest industry wants Ottawa to take over front-line beetle fight

Alberta’s forest industry wants Ottawa to use large, controlled fires to keep the mountain pine beetle from spreading east into the rest of Canada.

Crews have reported that new swarms of the tree-killing insects flew into Alberta this summer from British Columbia and the mountain parks. The province warns that the new infestation threatens the boreal forest, the forest industry, jobs and the environment.

The Alberta Forest Products Association says it’s time for the federal government to shift the fight against the beetles from B.C. — where the bugs have already destroyed one-quarter of mature lodgepole pine trees — to Alberta, where they have penetrated as far east as the Slave Lake area north of Edmonton.

Alberta's pine beetle infestation spreading

The province has had to adjust its efforts to control the growing mountain pine beetle infestation and is looking to the federal government for financial help in the fight.

The flight of the pine beetle from British Columbia over the season was one of the most severe Alberta has seen, even compared to the 2006 inflight, Sustainable Resources Development Minister Ted Morton revealed in the legislature Wednesday.

The beetles have pushed the leading edge of the infestation farther east between Hinton and Slave Lake.


Alberta faces new mountain pine beetle invasion from B.C. and mountain parks

Alberta is facing a new and bigger invasion of tree-killing mountain pine beetles and is looking to the federal government for help in preventing the tiny insects from spreading further east into the boreal forest.

Crews report a new wave of the bugs flew into the province in July from British Columbia and the mountain national parks in Alberta.

The hardest hit areas are in northwest Alberta - the same region where a high percentage of the tiny beetles died off last winter from extreme cold.

Betting on a timber rebound

Value investors in Canada's beaten-down lumber industry, including some of the country's largest mutual funds and smartest players, could be lost in the woods for a lot longer.

Everything that could go wrong has gone wrong - an epic depression in the U.S. housing market, pine beetles munching their way through the woods and a Canadian dollar that just continues to soar.

With valuations under so much pressure, many of the biggest names in the business have committed significant capital to softwood lumber stocks, and now run the risk of being caught in a value trap while they wait for a rebound. The stakes are big.


Researchers study infested pines, poplars

Genome British Columbia is funding two research projects aimed at increasing the production of biofuels from British Columbia’s biomass by utilizing lodgepole pines killed by pine beetle infestation. Approximately 36 million cumulative acres of trees have been affected by the beetles.

The first project, focused on optimizing the trees for ethanol production, is being co-funded by Novozymes A/S and the Canadian Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council. The second project will focus on identifying genetic characteristics of wild poplars. The U.S. DOE Bioenergy Sciences Center, USDA Forest Products Laboratory, and Sweden-based Sveriges Lantbruksuniversitet Energypoplar will co-fund the project.


China a ready buyer for beetle-ravaged pine

Chinese demand for B.C. lumber is eating up as much of the economy-grade mountain pine beetle wood as the province’s sawmills can produce.

It’s going into everything from concrete forms to furniture, creating a new market for beetle-killed wood and leading the province to a record year in lumber exports to China.

By the end of July, B.C. had shipped more than 850 million board feet of lumber to China – enough lumber to keep three sawmills running year-round, surpassing the 12-month total for 2008. Most of that was made form beetle-killed timber.


Little beetle a big puzzle for Canadian lumber

Investors in Canada's forestry sector should pay attention to the speed skating competition at next year's Winter Olympics in Vancouver because it could help them with an insect problem.

Western Canada's mountain pine beetle infestation has left forestry firms with both the short-term problem of how to make money in a tough market from beetle-killed trees, and the long-term risk of a fiber shortage.

If the industry is lucky, the spectators at the 2010 Games will take their eyes off the athletes speeding around the skating oval and spend a few moments looking at the newly built facility's "wood wave" ceiling.


The most imaginative furniture you've never seen

Judson Beaumont makes some of the coolest, most imaginative furniture you've never seen. A dresser that looks like a carrot, a grandfather clock that looks like a grandfather, a dog house that looks like a vintage Airstream trailer.

But he outdid himself with one of his latest brainstorms: taking wood stained blue by the pine beetle and making it into wooden "stones" that resemble river rocks. Glue a few of them together, and voila, you've got a very stylish bench or bureau.

His "denim pine" design was cited when the 48-year-old was named one of four recipients of the 2009 B.C. Creative Achievement Awards. The five-year-old award recognizes "innovative and talented individuals" from B.C.'s burgeoning applied arts and design community. This year's other winners were industrial designer Robert Johnston, jewelry designer Karl Stittgen and ceramic designer Lilach Lotan.