Writers on the Range: A forest management structure that can't cope

When my East Coast-based parents came to Breckenridge, Colo., for our family vacation in June this year, my dad couldn't stop exclaiming over the dead trees. Scores of rust-colored lodgepole pines, killed by the bark beetle epidemic, lined pretty much every road we drove down or bike path we pedaled on.

My father, who attended college on a scholarship for pulp and paper mill technology, wondered why the trees weren't being logged and used. One answer is that most of Colorado's lumber mills have been shut down for a long time. But the inability to deal with dead trees is just one in a line of management obstacles facing agencies like the U.S. Forest Service, as it struggles to cope with forest management in this age of disturbance.

A recent report issued by the Forest Service on its response to the bark-beetle outbreak in Colorado and southern Wyoming points to deeper problems than a paucity of sawmills. Land managers were slow to respond to beetle kill partly because the agency lacked funding to deal with the epidemic when it really took hold in the 1990s, say the report's authors. Add that to a “lack of public acceptance” of the large-scale logging that managers employ to make forests more diverse and resilient, and you get the perfect setup for the sudden, massive beetle kills that continue to shock locals as well as visitors.

Wood marketing tool will provide opportunities

A website designed to connect buyers and sellers of British Columbia wood products was launched this fall by Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Minister Steve Thomson recently.

WoodSourceBC.com was initially formed under the Bridges Project and is intended to provide easy access to current information on the availability of wood products within forest communities across the province.

An initiative of the province's three Beetle Action Committees, the B.C. Community Forest Association, the Federation of BC Woodlot Associations (FBCWA) and Community Futures, its goal is to identify new log market opportunities in an effort to increase the value of wood to small-tenure holders.

Bark beetles, climate change and our future

Recently, a classmate from the University of B.C. asked what I thought about Canada backing out of the Kyoto agreement, and if there was any connection between the insatiable bark beetles infesting the province’s forests and the rising temperatures on Earth.

First, trees are effectively the greatest CO2 warehouses ever created. For every metric ton of wood grown, 1.5 metric tons of CO2 is absorbed and one metric ton of oxygen is released.

Bark beetles like the mountain pine or spruce beetles and lightning-induced fires are nature’s emissaries of change. All forests must undergo a natural process of aging, facilitating regeneration — new life.


Salvage logging, drought, cold weather all factors in Chilcotin ranch water woes

Salvage logging of beetle-killed lodgepole pine forests contributed to water problems on a Chilcotin ranch, the Forest Practices Board said in a report released Tuesday.

But the board suggested that drought and cold weather were also contributing factors on Twinflower Creek flowing through Randy Saugstad’s ranch.

In January 2011, the rancher experienced an “unexpected loss of water when a stream his cattle regularly drink from inexplicably froze solid, and then later in the year two floods affected his pasture land,” the board found. Saugstad blamed salvage logging by Tolko Industries Ltd. of beetle-killed timber in the watershed.


Lumber quality at centre of dispute as US accuses Canada of purposefully underselling wood

When it comes to getting lumber off lots, bad grades are a good thing and U.S. mills say their Canadian counterparts are flunking on purpose.

The conflict is particularly pronounced at an Oregon mill, where owner Steve Swanson says underpriced Canadian wood is forcing him to lay off employees, the Roseburg News-Review reported,

The lumber is priced by grade. Mills in British Columbia claim a pine beetle infestation is affecting their harvest, forcing them to drop the price on lumber.


A flood of problems for ranchers

Watching the pine beetles kill off the Chilcotin's vast stands of lodgepole pine forest was bad enough for cattle rancher Randy Saugstad.

But he argues the greater concern is the way the B.C. government has allowed salvage logging to take precedence on Crown forests at the expense of other land uses and the environment.

Pointing to a clearcut on the hillside in the distance, he laments: "It's like a gold rush mentality. They have an insatiable appetite for this wood."

'It looks like Armageddon': The destruction of B.C. pine forests

Debbie Atha had a dream that went like this: Gregarious woman approaching 30 quits her well-paying pharmaceutical sales job in England to move to the B.C. Interior to invest her time and money building a dude ranch.

"I had an early midlife crisis," she allows. "I wanted to do something special."

And why not? The province had billed itself as Super Natural, the Best Place on Earth, a land where the government is officially committed to doubling tourism revenues by 2015.

Forestry's 'perfect storm'

The Chilcotin's beetle-killed lodge-pole pine forests are saturated with water. The harvesting crews have been sent home. And logging trucks known as Super-B Trains, hauling 300 to 400 logs apiece, are inching their way through deep mud wallows.

Tolko Industries Ltd. needs 125 loads per day to feed its two operating mills in Williams Lake, and likes to maintain a raw-wood inventory of a week or so.

Conditions in the bush have reduced that to as little as one day when The Vancouver Sun visits.


Saskatchewan ponies up money to help Alberta stop mountain pine beetle spread

Saskatchewan is helping its western neighbour in an effort to keep a voracious bug out of its own backyard.

The province is putting up $150,000 to help control the mountain pine beetle outbreak in Alberta and to prevent its spread into Saskatchewan's northern forest.

The money is intended for enhanced monitoring, aggressive removal of infested trees and research.

'Dead' pine forests very much alive

Phil Burton calls this place a jungle.

It's not the tropical Amazonian rainforest or even B.C.'s temperate rainforest, but a stand of lodgepole pine located off the Pelican Forest Service Road about an hour's drive southwest of Prince George.

The federal forests researcher estimates the pines were about 30 years old when the mountain pine beetle epidemic swept through here in 2005.


The environmental costs of B.C.'s logging war on pine beetles

The province sold the epidemic as unprecedented in North American history.

Biblical plagues of mountain pine beetles sweeping across the Interior landscape in dark clouds, leaving a dead zone more than five times the size of Vancouver Island in their wake.

This was war. And the government fought back with an equally aggressive salvage-logging strategy, initially to try to stop the beetle’s spread, and then to harvest as much dead wood as possible before it decayed or burned.