2012-03-30

Effect of Mountain Pine Beetles on Rockies Water Supply Debated

Regions of the Rocky Mountains — extending from British Columbia into Colorado — are in the midst of a mountain pine beetle epidemic that is killing their mature trees, which ultimately affects watersheds throughout these areas.

In northern Colorado and southeastern Wyoming, an estimated four million acres of forests are affected. The British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations says it is now “experiencing the largest recorded mountain pine beetle outbreak in North America.”

There have been numerous studies, but no consensus on whether the mountain pine beetle is deteriorating water quality in infected areas.

2012-03-28

Province could relax the forestry rules

Forestry rules protecting scenic corridors, wildlife and old growth may have to be relaxed or abandoned to secure enough timber for a new sawmill in Burns Lake.

British Columbia Liberal MLA John Rustad said that the province’s Burns Lake recovery task force, which began analyzing the timber supply weeks ago, is coming up against some hard numbers.

“It’s going to be very, very difficult,” he said.

2012-03-26

District gets funds for green energy scan

The federal government is providing $200,000 in Community Development Program funding for green energy initiatives in the North Thompson Valley and elsewhere, M.P. Cathy McLeod announced on Tuesday.

“Our government’s top priority remains the economy, and lessening the impact of invasive species like the mountain pine beetle is necessary to ensure the economic prosperity of British Columbia,” said McLeod. “By turning forest waste into useful products, we can ensure sustainable employment, innovative business ventures and more robust economies for the affected rural regions.”

A total of $80,000 will be used for a green energy opportunity scan for the communities of Clearwater, Barriere, Simpcw First Nation and surrounding areas. The opportunity scan will identify the Valley’s potential for green energy development, such as micro-hydro, wind, geothermal and so on.

2012-03-25

Study shows pine-beetle impact on snow levels

New research suggests B.C’s beetle-infested forests will see a rise in snowpack as their canopies grow thin.

But in some areas, changes in snowpack are showing up later than expected.

The six-year study compared snow levels under a beetle-infested pine trees, green trees of other species, and a clearcut stand on the Bonaparte Plateau north of Kamloops.

2012-03-21

With habitat warming up, pine beetles are booming

Call it the beetle baby boom. Climate change could be throwing common tree killers called mountain pine beetles into a reproductive frenzy. A new study suggests that some beetles living in Colorado, which normally reproduce just once annually, now churn out an extra generation of new bugs each year. And that could further devastate the region’s forests.

Pine beetles, which scuttle from New Mexico north into Canada, are trouble for trees, says study co-author Jeffry Mitton, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Beginning in late summer along high-altitude sites in the eastern Colorado Rocky Mountains, for instance, swarms of hundreds or even thousands of these small black bugs will single out individual lodgepole pines or related trees, then advance on them en masse.

The plight of BC forests

Several weeks ago, Wendy Fraser wrote a strong editorial deploring the mismanagement of forests by the Liberal government. Let me add a few observations to her statement.

This year the forest ministry is celebrating its hundredth anniversary of service. The Forest Act of 1912 was created in order to enshrine legislation against “destructive lumbering.”

Since 1978, the Forest Service’s mission statement stressed integrated management of forest values: “To manage, conserve their sustainable use for the economic, cultural, physical and spiritual well-being of British Columbians, who hold those same resources in trust for future generations. In respecting and caring for public forest and range lands, the ministry is guided by the ethics of stewardship and public service.”

2012-03-20

Feds provide money for green energy

The federal government is providing $200,000 in Community Development Program funding for green energy initiatives in the North Thompson Valley and elsewhere, M.P. Cathy McLeod announced on Tuesday.

"Our government's top priority remains the economy, and lessening the impact of invasive species like the mountain pine beetle is necessary to ensure the economic prosperity of British Columbia," said McLeod. "By turning forest waste into useful products, we can ensure sustainable employment, innovative business ventures and more robust economies for the affected rural regions."

A total of $80,000 will be used for a green energy opportunity scan for the communities of Clearwater, Barriere, Simpcw First Nation and surrounding areas. The opportunity scan will identify the Valley's potential for green energy development, such as micro-hydro, wind, geothermal and so on.

2012-03-18

University of Alberta research finds pine beetles, exotic fungus endanger iconic high mountain pines

Called the jewels of the forest, Alberta’s iconic whitebark pines are on death watch.

Often hundreds of years old, they prefer the cooler climate of the mountains — and are found at higher elevations throughout the Rocky Mountain national parks and beyond. A keystone species in the high mountain ecosystems, their “pine nut” seeds are an important food for squirrels, bears and the Clark’s nutcracker bird.

Sadly, about 60 per cent of the spectacular trees are already either dead or infected with an exotic fungus called white pine blister rust, which arrived on eastern white pine seedlings imported from France into Vancouver in 1910.

Report defies conventional wisdom on pine beetles and wildfire

Steve Gage used to worry about his firefighters getting burned. Now the Type I incident commander wonders if they’ll be clubbed to death before they ever reach a forest fire.

The threat comes from the tiny mountain pine beetle, only not in the way most people think. Beetle-killed trees have undermined decades of fire behavior research – because before they burn, dead trees may silently topple. And an unburned falling tree will kill you just as surely as a burning one.

“Now my big concern is how do we approach the thing,” Gage said. “How do we get people into a fire that’s in the middle of beetle-kill safely? Hike them in? Fly them, or put heavy equipment in front of them? And if we can’t get people in safely, how do we engage when the fire comes out?”

2012-03-15

City should have been fire-guarded

The auditor general’s recent report stated that the forests of B.C. are in a deplorable condition because the Ministry of Forests has not been doing its job.

The pine beetle “epidemic” began 45 years ago. Beetle-killed trees were seen at Lignum’s Tatlayoko mill in the late ‘60s. Residents were told that these bugs “were part of the natural cycle.”

Now these beetles have swept through the province, into Alberta, and the U.S., virtually unstoppable. Origins of the MPB are uncertain, the accepted explanation being global warming. Regardless of origin, the attacked timber should have been burned. However, this was not done, and fire suppression crews controlled wildfires.

2012-03-11

Transforming forest management in B.C.

The recent auditor-general’s report on government mismanagement of our forests should serve as a wake-up call to the people of British Columbia to demand transformation of forest governance and management. Healthy forests provide us with clean water and clean air. They store three-quarters of the world’s above-ground carbon and are biodiversity hot spots. They are critical natural sinks for greenhouse gases, yet can become major sources for decades upon harvest.

We the people own 94 per cent of B.C. For over a century, our forests have paid for hospitals and schools. They have gifted us with one of the highest standards of living in the world. They have provided a healthy environment in which to raise our children, who are counting on inheriting healthy forests to provide for their children.

Keeping our forests healthy is critical for our survival. History has repeatedly shown that societies that steward their forests thrive, whereas societies that exploit their forests to the point of collapse soon follow suit. In B.C. we are on the latter path, and these fears have been verified in recent reports.

2012-03-09

Lessons learned from the mountain pine beetle epidemic

Stanford Blade’s name sounds better-suited to a superhero than an employee of the Government of Alberta. And for the people who work in Alberta’s forest products sector, Blade is a kind of superhero. As CEO of Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions Corporation, an agglomeration of government-funded research programs created on January 1, 2010, he is leading an effort to save the industry from the scourge of the mountain pine beetle.

Blade is looking for ways to help the industry diversify, both in terms of the products it produces and the strategies it uses to sell them. “We think about everything from sustainable production to ecosystem services and what the bio-economy turns into, now and in the next five to 10 years,” he says. Already, the industry has made considerable progress in adapting to its challenges. “If we would have said five years ago that Alberta-Pacific [a lumber company that once produced only two-by-fours] would have a green methanol production facility as part of its operation at Boyle, that just wouldn’t have been in the cards,” Blade says. “But people keep thinking more and more about how they can use that biomass in interesting and profitable ways.”

One of the best at that is Whitecourt’s Alberta Newsprint Company. In 2008, it was part of a $28-million research project that tested sensor technology and equipment modifications aimed at making beetle-kill wood usable in newsprint production. Other innovative applications of beetle-kill pine include burning it in order to produce energy and refining it to produce biochemicals and biofuels.

2012-03-07

King of the beetles

At the back of room 112 in the basement of Stone Hall, an unmarked door leads to a kind of beetle Narnia.

Behind the wooden door is one of forestry professor Diana Six's beetle labs. This one is dubbed the "dirty lab" because it's where bark beetles chomp on chunks of ponderosa and lodgepole pine, sawdust littering the window sill.

Careful observers may notice small, scattered beetle carcasses — ones that fled their bark nests for the light and failed to escape.

2012-03-06

Happy Creek provides additional results at Hawk property in BC

Happy Creek Minerals Limited announced that it has added several important new mineral claims and provides additional results from its Hawk copper and gold property BC Canada.

The Hawk property is located approximately 36 kilometers northeast of 100 Mile House, in south central British Columbia, Canada. The Company has 100% interest in approximately 22 square kilometres of mineral claims covering prospective geology and multiple copper, gold and silver mineralized zones in an area approximately 3.5 kilometers by 1.5 kilometers in dimension. Forests on the property are extensively affected by the pine beetle. Logging activity has developed excellent access and several new copper and gold bearing outcrops have been exposed.

During 2011, the Company collected rock samples from the property to determine the presence of platinum group elements. PGE's may occur in trace amounts within alkalic type porphyry deposits and during 2011, the first samples from the Hawk property confirmed the presence of PGE's with significant copper, gold and silver values. Results in the following table are for percent copper and grams per tonne silver, gold, palladium and platinum.

2012-03-02

Insect Outbreaks Kill Forests and Release Carbon

Insects are essential to a healthy forest environment, but bad bugs are bad news for forests. Throughout North America and the world, forests are experiencing some of the worst outbreaks of insects and diseases in recorded history.

As for the forests' future, researcher Jeffrey Hicke quips: "I'd rather be a beetle than a tree."

There are a cast of characters causing unprecedented levels of mortality to trees across millions of acres of North American forests, from the New Jersey Pine Barrens to the deserts of the Southwest.

2012-03-01

Is UBC’s new biomass power plant a looming biomess?

ON OCTOBER 9, 2011, South Carolina’s largest newspaper published a lengthy exposé on an alternative energy power plant at the University of South Carolina (USC).

The plant, which used biomass gasification technology, had been racked by explosions and malfunctions. In March 2011, only four years after opening, it had to be closed down completely. USC is now waiting to recoup its $20 million investment.

UBC is about to open a $27 million biomass power plant in partnership with Nexterra Systems Corp., the same company that supplied the technology to the USC power plant.