2010-02-22

Jobs program pays to burn Spilly pine

Workers in the Golden area are benefiting from close to $350,000 through a Job Opportunities Program project that will identify and remove trees infested with the mountain pine beetle, announced Pat Bell, Minister of Forests and Range and Bill Bennett, Minister of Community and Rural Development.

“The Province is working hard to deal with the impact of the economic downturn and the mountain pine beetle epidemic,” said Bell. “The Job Opportunities Program is one of the ways we’re helping resource workers find employment while improving forest health in this region.”

Pioneer Forest Consulting is using the $349,976 to hire about 12 resource workers to conduct the beetle fall and burn. As part of the project, workers will probe for mountain pine beetle on more than 989 hectares, and fall and burn about 2,500 infested trees. The work will take place in the Lower Spillimacheen Beetle Management Unit; Bobbie Burns Beetle Management Unit; and Twelve Mile Beetle Management Units.

2010-02-20

Belgium buys more beetle wood

A deal to ship an additional 2.4 million tonnes of wood pellets to Belgium over the next 10 years is only the beginning of growth in bioenergy and other clean power development in B.C., Premier Gordon Campbell vowed Monday.

The expansion of pellet exports from B.C. waste wood will finance a $24 million expansion of Pacific BioEnergy Corp. production in Prince George, to be completed this fall. The pellets, mostly from beetle-killed trees in the Prince George region, are being purchased by GDF SUEZ to burn in its European thermal power plants that are being converted from coal.

Campbell and Energy Minister Blair Lekstrom joined industry officials at the Olympic international media centre to unveil the pellet deal and two other investments, to mark Clean Energy Day. They indicated there are more announcements like this to come.

2010-02-18

Bark beetles flee their own calls

The pine beetle is so tough that not even chainsaws, fire and icy cold have stopped its destructive march across North American forests.

But new research suggests there is a new weapon that could halt the tiny insect in its tracks -- the sound of its own voice.

Researchers at the Northern Arizona University believe they have found a silver bullet by digitally altering the sound of the bark beetles' squeaky, clicking calls. The sound drives them so buggy they flee or attack each other.

2010-02-16

Pacific BioEnergy Touted As A Green Leader

Initiatives Prince George is hailing yesterday's announced expansion of Pacific BioEnergy's wood pellet as terrific news for the region. (click here, for previous story)

IPG says the local company's partnership with the European Utility, GDF Suez, is evidence of the region's importance to international clean energy trade and investment for the province.

"Bioenergy is an important economic sector for Prince George and the region and in the aftermath of the pine beetle infestation," says Kathy Scouten, V-P, Economic Development. "PBEC is demonstrating leadership in the expansion of this industry".

Landowners learn how to spot mountain pine beetle

The first of two mountain pine beetle sessions hosted by Yellowhead County drew a light crowd on Feb. 2.

Twelve Wildwood and area residents attended the open house presentation at the community hall. Although the turnout was small, Sustainable Resource Development (SRD) mountain pine beetle information officer Heather Hawkins was impressed with the quality of questions presented.

"They seemed to be a relatively informed group of people," Hawkins said.

New response to beetle

In the fight against climate change, few natural assets are as important as forests. Healthy living trees store enormous amounts of atmospheric carbon.

The same is true of many forest products: every two-by-four in a house stores the carbon that the tree it came from stored. Depending on how well the house is made, that carbon remains locked up for decades, if not centuries to come.

In British Columbia, however, we face enormous hurdles to managing our forests in ways that maximize carbon storage.

2010-02-15

Pacific BioEnergy and GDF SUEZ Announce Strategic Partnership

Pacific BioEnergy Corporation and GDF SUEZ today announced that they have entered into a strategic partnership to support a $24 million expansion of Pacific BioEnergy's existing wood pellet production facilities in Prince George, BC (the "PG Plant"). Pacific BioEnergy and global energy production leader GDF SUEZ have formed a new joint venture to own and operate the PG Plant.

In addition to its minority interest in the joint venture, GDF SUEZ has also agreed to purchase 2.5 million tonnes of carbon-neutral wood pellets for its electrical generating facilities in Belgium over the next 10 years, replacing approximately two million tonnes of coal and reducing net CO2 emissions by over 4 million tonnes.

The expansion project, expected to be complete in the fall of 2010, will see annual wood pellet production at the PG Plant double to 350,000 tonnes. New state-of-the-art emission control equipment will be installed, improving the air quality in and around Prince George. The expanded PG Plant will also utilize more mountain pine beetle killed wood and other waste wood from the forests surrounding Prince George. Left to decompose, or burned as slash, this biomass creates carbon dioxide and methane, a greenhouse gas that can trap 20 times more heat than carbon dioxide.

2010-02-11

Mountain Pine Beetle: Assessing the damage

A significant portion of sessions at the PAPTAC 2010 Annual Meeting was devoted to discussing something roughly half the size of a fingernail. And yet, the overwhelming devastation caused by the tiny Mountain Pine Beetle (MPB) is indisputable and calling out for industry action.

While the beetle has plagued B.C. forests for a decade, and began its migration to Alberta in approximately 2001, the forestry sector is starting to shift focus from prevention to dealing with the millions of hectares of dead lodgepole and jack pine. A morning panel session devoted to an update on the MPB in Alberta confirmed the current affected area in the province stands at 14 million hectares. While there are a number of culpable factors that contributed to the insect’s successful migration, jet streams helped push the beetle from B.C. over the Rockies into Alberta, and the lack of colder temperatures failed to kill off the insect in sufficient numbers to save the province’s forests from attack.

The situation in B.C. continues to be dire as well. Research projects that by 2017 roughly 70% of the western province’s mature pine will have been killed off. Here too, climate change is the main contributor to the problem. The tendency towards more moderate winters has allowed the MPB to prosper, while improved fire suppression techniques have altered the age classification of forests, leaving increased numbers of older trees still standing, and highly vulnerable to beetle infestation and attack.


2010-02-09

Pine Beetle Wood Spurs Innovation

A host of new products – like the promising building material beetlecrete – emerge from B.C.'s pine-beetle-killed expanses of forest.

It pours like concrete, it cuts like wood and it’s all thanks to the mountain pine beetle. Beetlecrete, developed by graduate students at the University of Northern B.C., combines blue flakes of beetle-killed wood with Portland cement to form a marbled material with the strength of concrete, but the look and feel of wood. “You can nail into it, you can screw into it and you can cut it with normal woodworking tools,” says Ian Hartley, dean of the school’s graduate programs.


According to Beetlecrete’s Prince George-based marketing team, the substance could soon be making anything from sidewalks to park benches to seismic-friendly houses in China. “We’re making use of wood we have far too much of,” says marketing head Alex Ng.

To Deter Plague of Bark Beetles, A Boombox Blasting Bug Sounds

Bark beetles plague the forests of Canada so furiously you'd think rivers of blood and the death of the firstborn would follow hot on their heels. So far, no one has stopped the beetle rampage that has destroyed 33 million acres of trees in British Columbia. However, scientists at Northern Arizona University (NAU) may have devised a way to turn back the beetle tide using sound recordings.

Like Nevada residents tried last year, the NAU scientists started by blasting rock music and backwards recordings of Rush Limbaugh (presumably because playing the Rush Limbaugh recordings forward is a punishment too terrible even for the beetles). Unfortunately, the beetles quickly became immune to the sounds of heavy metal and heavy bloviating.

The researchers then struck back with an even more annoying sound: recordings of the beetles themselves. The scientists recorded the bark beetle's own aggression sound, and played it back at them. Faced with a wall of screaming beetle noises, the beetle host quickly fled. Not only did the recordings scatter the swarm, but the playback only cost $100 per tree, far less than any other method.

2010-02-04

Bark beetles rocked by sound

A phenomenon being dubbed Beetlemania is playing out in northern Arizona.

As can be expected, it involves rock music. But instead of screaming fans, there are cheering scientists who have found a way to drive bark beetles crazy with sound.

In a Northern Arizona University School of Forestry lab, researchers are listening to the sound of western forests under attack: the scratching, scraping, crunching of the Ips bark beetle and its cousins chewing the life out of ponderosa, pinyon and lodgepole pines.

2010-02-03

Pine beetle invasion still on in the Okanagan

Even though last summer's fires are out, there's some other natural threats which haven't gone away, and in fact, are gaining new traction.

The pine beetle, its progress slowed by recent cooler winters, and new threat to Kelowna’s tree canopy, the tussock moth, are both set to explode in population, threatening over half the trees in Kelowna.

And while nobody is likely to lose their home or life over it (unless a dead tree falls over on a house) there is the potential for some homeowners to have to pay thousands to have dead trees removed from their yards.

Beat the Beetles: Researchers Crank Up the Volume to Fight Tree-Killing Pests

A phenomenon dubbed “Beetle Mania” is playing out in northern Arizona. As can be expected, it involves rock music, but instead of screaming fans there are cheering scientists who have found a way to drive bark beetles crazy with sound.

In a Northern Arizona University School of Forestry lab, researchers are listening to the sound of Western forests under attack: the scratching, scraping, crunching of the Ips bark beetle and its cousins chewing the life out of ponderosa, pinyon and lodgepole pines.

Armed with sonic bullets, they are firing back with Rush Limbaugh, Queen, Guns N’ Roses and manipulated sounds of the bugs themselves.

P.G. Roots Are In Olympic Podium

When some 2010 Olympians receive their medals, they will be stepping on a podium that has its roots in Prince George.

Prince George, the Prince George Community Forest and Lakeland Mills share in the creation of a beetle enhanced lodge pole pine podium that will be at the Pacific Coliseum.

The wood was harvested from Forests for the World, taken to Lakeland Mills where it was made into 2x4’s, then shipped to Bayview Mills in Vancouver where it was converted to panels.

2010-02-01

BC energy policy--green or greenwashing?

It’s not easy being green, as the saying goes, and nowhere more so than here in British Columbia. After all, our province has an established reputation as an incubator for social and political change: BC is the birthplace of Greenpeace, the front line in the “war in the woods,” and the arena where environmentalists, First Nations, government, and business came together to create the Great Bear Rain Forest.

It is also the place where climate change has generated a massive mountain pine beetle infestation that is destroying the boreal forest, and where the provincial government is accelerating construction of run-of-river private power projects while encouraging expanded oil and gas development.

There is no question that genuine green solutions are urgently needed in BC’s energy sector—aggressive conservation programs, realistic forecasting of our domestic energy requirements, and research and development of renewable energy projects. But what has emerged, instead, through BC’s energy policy and the private power industry, is a growing body of evidence of “greenwashing.”