2010-10-31

How Pine Bark Beetles Created an Elaborate and Deadly Mess

Cal Wettstein presides over a sea of dead and dying trees the size of Connecticut.

Across his domain, hillsides blanketed with lodgepole pines are in the final throes -- their needles are turning red, or their trunks are tipping precariously to one side. Others are already rotting on the forest floor.

Voracious bark beetles are known for leaving a formidable trail of destruction in their wake, and at this point, there is nothing that can be done to stop them.

2010-10-24

Flashback - 25 years ago (Oct. 17-23, 1985): Chilcotin residents oppose pine beetle logging plan

A rare coalition of ranchers, hunters, homesteaders and native bands has stalled plans to clear cut vast tracts of pine-beetle-infested forest in B.C.’s Chilcotin region.

A spokesman for Carrier Lumber, which has provincial stumpage rights to an area about half the size of Vancouver Island, said this week that growing anger from local residents has forced the company to put its logging plans on hold.

The B.C. Forests Ministry estimates that the mountain pine beetle has infested 26 million cubic metres of lodgepole pine in the Central Interior with a potential market value of $70-million.

The ministry hopes to “salvage” five million cubic metres of beetle-infested forest in the West Chilcotin over the next eight years.

Echoing the sentiments of many area residents, long-time guide and outfitter Mike McDonough said logging will change the Chilcotin’s unique way of life forever.

However, Forests Minister Tom Waterland dismissed concerns about the ecological impact, saying “the environment will be damaged much more severely by the continued spread of the bug.”

Flash forward: Since 1999, the mountain pine beetle has killed about 675 million cubic metres of timber in B.C., affecting an area about four times the size of Vancouver Island.

Cypress Hills residents to learn about mountain pine beetle

The mountain pine beetle — a bark beetle about 4-7.5 mm in length — may be small but it can do a lot of damage in a short period of time.

It has been a major pest in areas such as British Columbia, Montana and southwest Alberta.

While it has existed in the Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park for decades, it is not as infamous as it has been in the southwest corner of Alberta.

B.C. lumber production up

B.C.’s lumber production improved by a third in the first half of 2010, as mills reopened or added shifts mainly to meet new Asian demand.

The latest Statistics Canada figures reflect the B.C. industry’s slow recovery in recent months, but the 33 per cent increase from the same period last year is better than expected, Forests Minister Pat Bell says.

Perhaps the surest sign that the B.C. industry is on the mend is another trade complaint from the U.S. government.

Bark beetles threat waning?

As the effort to remove beetle-killed trees along forest roads gets under way this week, it appears that the number of mountain pine beetles in trees on the Helena and Beaverhead/Deerlodge national forests is declining, which could signal that the epidemic has peaked here.

Greg DeNitto, the group leader for forest health protection at the regional national forest office in Missoula, said a survey of trees on the two forests during the summer showed fairly high beetle mortality. Forest Service experts theorize that three circumstances may have impacted the rice-size bugs, which kill pines by drilling under the bark in the summer and eating their way around the tree during the winter, interrupting the flow of nutrients.

“Especially around Helena and Butte, that outbreak has been going on for a number of years, and essentially they’re running out of food, so the population is declining,” DeNitto said on Monday. “We don’t have a lot of information or data, but we also suspect that an early cold snap last October, and then the cool, wet summer, also contributed to the decline, or at least had some effect on the population by disrupting the beetle’s normal progress.”

Lhtako Energy Corp Pellet Plant Breaks Ground

The Economic Development Agreement with the Red Bluff Indian Band paves the way for new pellet plant in Quesnel, announced Minister of Forests and Range Pat Bell today.

"Now that the site for the pellet plant has been selected, Red Bluff, working with National Choice Bio Fuels, can start construction and hiring workers," said Bell. "Today's groundbreaking shows how First Nations, government, and industry can work together to create new jobs and green energy, while improving the utilization of our forest resource."

The Province signed an Economic Development Agreement with the Red Bluff Indian Band in November 2009. The Red Bluff Band, which is also known as Lhtako Dene Nation, partnered with National Choice Bio Fuels Industries Ltd. to form Lhtako Energy Corp. Scheduled to open in spring 2011, the pellet plant will process low-grade, mountain pine beetle-killed timber into wood pellets, a renewable source of bio-energy.

2010-10-14

Pine beetle battle wrapping up for another year

The fight against the mountain pine beetle is wrapping up for the year, and the County of Grande Prairie is now waiting to hear results from Alberta Sustainable Resource Development (SRD).

About 118,200 infested pines were removed with 2,200 hectares treated, Jerry Bauer, the county's pine beetle co-ordinator, told county council Tuesday.

Evergreen Park and the Wapiti Nordic Ski Trails received $971,790 from the Forest Resource Development Improvement Association to stymie fire hazards associated with dead and dying trees. Flintstone Forestry got $957,760 for the same purpose south of the city.

Chinese lumber demand fueling B.C. industry improvements

B.C.’s lumber production improved by a third in the first half of 2010, as mills reopened or added shifts mainly to meet new Asian demand.

The latest Statistics Canada figures reflect the B.C. industry’s slow recovery in recent months, but the 33 per cent increase from the same period last year is better than expected, Forests Minister Pat Bell says.

Perhaps the surest sign the B.C. industry is on the mend is another trade complaint from the U.S. government. While B.C.’s recovery is led by Chinese lumber demand, shipments to the United States were also up 16 per cent. Last Friday the U.S. government asked for arbitration under the 2006 softwood lumber agreement on the price of pine beetle-attacked timber harvested from provincial land.

Softwood Skirmish

Call it “Softwood Lumber…the Sequel.”

The United States has called for formal talks over allegations the 2006 treaty has been violated, claiming B.C. is under pricing timber from the Interior region of the province.

Trade Representative Ron Kirk says the decision to move to consultation is “intended to emphasize the importance of resolving this matter. As contemplated under the Softwood Lumber Agreement, we are asking to continue our engagement on this issue and ensure that the (deal) is implemented as intended.”

U.S. trade officials take step toward reopeining softwood lumber dispute

United States trade officials, on Friday, took the first step toward reopening the Canada U.S. softwood lumber dispute over British Columbia’s pricing method for harvesting mountain-pine-beetle damaged timber.

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk has requested consultations with Canada, as prescribed under the 2006 Canada Softwood Lumber Agreement, with the accusation that the prices being charged to harvest pine-beetle timber on public lands is too low amounting to a subsidy to Canadian companies.

B.C. officials argue that it is the same market-based pricing system that was written into the softwood lumber agreement, which both countries agreed to.

2010-10-06

Additional $1 million in funding every year for Cariboo-Chilcotin Beetle Action Coalition

The Cariboo-Chilcotin Beetle Action Coalition (CCBAC) will receive an additional $1 million in funding every year from the Province to find new opportunities for affected forestry workers throughout the region.

“The pine beetle epidemic is one of the most serious challenges our area has ever faced. However, I believe in the strength of our community and through the Beetle Action Coalition, we’re going to find solutions,” says Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett. “All indications are that our forest industry is strengthening, so this additional funding comes at a great time.

“As Parliamentary Secretary for Pine Beetle Community Recovery, the Beetle Action Coalitions have been a major priority for me. I know the work they do is vital to protecting and creating jobs for forestry workers.”