Pine beetles contributing to forest smog, study shows

Anyone who has seen the damage caused by the mountain pine beetle infestation, which has devastated millions of hectares of forest in B.C., Alberta and parts of the U.S., doesn't need any more evidence of the destructive powers of this pest.

In B.C. alone, 18.1 million hectares, or about five Vancouver Islands' worth, of pine forest have been attacked by the beetle since the current epidemic began in 1996. The province expects the infestation to eliminate 80 per cent of its mature lodgepole pine trees by 2013.

The infestation has spread to Alberta and Saskatchewan, and in the western U.S. it has affected more than 17 million hectares of forest, with the U.S. Forest Service estimating that 100,000 infested trees fall to the ground daily just in southern Wyoming and northern Colorado.

Pine beetle populations declining

Populations of a tiny beetle that has devastated many forests in the West may finally be on the decline.

The mountain pine beetle infestation is showing signs of finally abating after about 10 years of attacks throughout the west that have killed millions of trees from British Columbia to Colorado.

“Like previous outbreaks, the current MPB outbreak is naturally declining in many areas,” said Carl Jorgensen, entomologist with the U.S. Forest Service, Forest Health Protection office in Boise.


Beetle-killed trees blamed in B.C. mill explosions

The mountain pine beetle epidemic worrying Montana’s timber industry has literally turned explosive in Canada.

Extra-dry sawdust from milling beetle-killed logs is the prime suspect in two fatal British Columbia sawmill explosions this year.

Mills there now face whopping insurance rate increases, prompting at least one closure last month. And that’s on top of B.C. governmental predictions that beetle-killed timber may soon become unharvestable, eliminating upward of 14,000 jobs in the next five years.


Bark Beetle May Impact Air Quality, Climate

If you've traveled to a forested national park out West in recent years, you may have noticed two things. First, a growing number of lodgepole pine trees are dying, victims of the bark beetle. And secondly, atmospheric haze, caused in part by tiny solid particles suspended in the air, is becoming a problem.

A study by a researcher at Southern Illinois University Carbondale shows these two phenomena may be related, tied together by chemistry and climate change factors.

Kara Huff Hartz, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry in the College of Science, has authored a study appearing May 23 in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, a division of the American Chemical Society. The study, which Huff Hartz conducted by collecting gas specimens from bark beetle-infested and non-infested lodgepole pines, shows a large increase in the gases given off by the beetle infestations, which could enhance airborne particulate matter problems and haze in the area.


Troublesome beetles spotted close to Yukon border

The Yukon Government continues to monitor the Mountain Pine Beetle as it moves north through B.C.

The beetle has been spotted as close as 50 kilometres from the border, putting Yukon's pine forest at risk.

Territorial officials will soon host a meeting on the issue as the government prepares for the infestation.


Timber supply review launched by B.C. government

British Columbia's dwindling timber supply will be evaluated by a special government committee, after a leaked report warned about thousands of job losses due to a declining amount of wood caused by the ravages of the pine beetle epidemic.

Forests Minister Steve Thomson says the committee will hold public meetings to look for new ways to expand timber supplies, including possible changes to harvest rates, forest tenures and land use policies.

"Time is of the essence and this is about finding options to increase the timber supply," he said.


Pine beetle attack is taxing Kelowna's finances

Kelowna is looking for financial assistance from the province, through the Union of B.C. Municipalities, to help it fight the mountain pine beetle.

According to Blair Stewart, the city’s urban forestry supervisor, with 24 per cent of the trees in the city ponderosa pines and 60 to 80 per cent expected to be infected by 2018, the potential for serious damage here is high.

“It’s not a question of if, but rather when,” Stewart told council Monday.


Salvage logging raises risk of big Fraser flood: expert

The Fraser River is at risk of much more frequent and devastating floods because of the rapid pace of logging in the B.C. Interior to salvage vast stands of beetle-killed timber, according to a UBC researcher.

Younes Alila, an associate professor of forest hydrology, says the provincial government must take a hard look at the downstream threat from the high rate of logging.

"The public needs to know how much they're at risk so they are prepared," he said. "People's lives are at stake. Economic disruption is at stake."

Pine beetles' red surge continues

Urban Kelowna forests are experiencing increasing attacks from two pests.

Activities of both the Mountain and Western pine beetle have been noticed in several urban forests, on public and private property.

The attacks have been particularly heavy in the northern and southeast sectors of the city.


B.C. flood risk rising: expert

Aggressive salvage logging of beetle-killed lodgepole pine forests in the B.C. Interior has significantly increased the risk of flooding and sediment discharge, a University of B.C. expert warned Thursday.

“In my mind, there is no doubt the government decision to aggressively salvage logs will increase the flood risk big time,” said Younes Alila, associate professor in the University of B.C.’s department of forest resources management. “We should brace ourselves for the worst.”

Alila’s warning comes as the province’s River Forecast Centre announced there is “an elevated flood risk present through the entire length of the mainstem” of the Fraser River from the Robson Valley to the Fraser Valley.


WorkSafe BC has few answers 3 months after mill blast

A little more than three months after two men were killed in a sawmill explosion in Burns Lake, WorkSafe BC says that dust levels and processing of low quality beetle-killed wood are both possible factors in the blast.

The workplace safety body released an update on its investigation into the fatal blaze on Wednesday and said that since the Jan. 20 incident, investigators have interviewed more than 80 witnesses, including people who came forward as early as last week. While the probe is not yet complete, WorkSafe BC says it released the update to clear up any "misinformation" spreading in the wake of a second fatal sawmill blast that happened last week in Prince George.

Apart from sawdust accumulation and the type of wood being milled, the team says that production levels, ventilation and recent cold temperatures reaching as low as -41 C at the Babine Forest Products mill in Burns Lake are also being considered as possible factors.

Pine beetles, fires, storms hike B.C. flood risk

Recent forest fires and the mountain pine beetle infestation are amplifying flooding in the southern interior, says a B.C. hydrologist.

That, combined with an above average snowpack, warm temperatures and heavy rain has created a perfect storm of conditions for flooding, said hydrologist Don Dobson.

At the end of April dozens of homes were flooded in Kimberley, Tulameen, West Kelowna and Kelowna and hundreds remain on evacuation alert, as water levels stay high.


Sawmill explosions add urgency to B.C. forest crisis

Safety inspectors will be checking B.C. sawmills this week for dangerous levels of combustible dust after two deadly mill explosions, while the provincial government is poised to address the other crisis facing the forest industry – a dwindling supply of wood because of the mountain pine beetle.

Tensions are mounting about the government’s proposal to free up protected forests to logging, a plan conceived to respond to the first explosion in Burns Lake three months ago.

The unprecedented safety inspections were ordered based on suspicions that processing dry wood killed by pine beetles is creating a more combustible dust in sawmills, putting workers at risk across B.C.’s northern and Interior communities. The cause of the explosions at Burns Lake in January and last week at the Lakeland Mill in Prince George has not been determined, but both were cutting large amounts of beetle-killed logs.

Climate Change Creating Vicious Cycle in Western Forests

Climate change in the US west is creating a vicious cycle.

Maybe you've heard that insects are chewing away at massive forests, which are then easily sparked by wildfires. Instead of being carbon sinks, they are spewing carbon into the atmosphere, fueling more climate change.

It's warm enough there for mountain pine beetles to reproduce twice a year, dramatically increasing their population and chewing ability, according to researchers at University of Colorado at Boulder.