2012-08-30

Building materials: Wooden skyscrapers

WHEN life hands you lemons, goes the old saw, make lemonade. But what if life should hand you 18m hectares (44m acres) of dead trees? That is the problem faced by the province of British Columbia in Canada, which could lose over half its pine trees to the depredations of the fearsome mountain pine beetle. The beetle, no bigger than a grain of rice, is native to the forests of Western North America, where it kills trees by releasing a blue stain fungus that prevents the flow of water and nutrients. While the insect was historically kept in check by spells of cold weather, years of mild winters have unleashed an outbreak whose spread and severity is unlike anything seen previously.

As a result, the province is peppered with billions of dead, grey trees. If they are simply left standing, they will eventually either decay or burn in forest fires. In either case, they will release the carbon dioxide they stored while growing, swelling Canada's total carbon footprint from 2000 to 2020 by 2%.

So, to deal with the problem, in 2009 British Columbia's parliament passed a Wood First Act that requires wood to be considered as the primary construction material in all new buildings erected with public money. The striking Richmond Olympic Oval for example, used for ice-skating events during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, features 1m board feet (2,360 cubic metres) of beetle-affected wood. But harvesting trees for traditional purposes will make barely a dent in the massive wood pile, especially while one of Canada's main outlets for wood, the American residential-housing market, remains depressed.

2012-08-22

MLAs Blow Chance to Help Us See BC's Next Forest Industry

The Special Legislative Committee on Timber Supply has completed their report intended to help the forest sector and communities impacted by the Mountain Pine Beetle and more specifically address the issues related to possible re-building the Burns Lake sawmill destroyed by fire in January. The Committee positioned the report as the answer to the future of B.C.'s forest and forest dependent communities. However, they chose to limit their comments on the issues specific to their narrow Terms of Reference while not taking the opportunity to provide leadership and innovation on key issues affecting the overall management of B.C.'s forests. The Committee grossly missed the point of what is needed for the future of B.C. forests.

This is an opportunity lost!

The report recommends increasing timber supply to help Burns Lake even as it acknowledges that timber supply will drop dramatically in the coming years due to pine beetle devastation and speaks vaguely of consulting communities and First Nations in figuring out a way forward. But the report had no surprises and nothing new regarding the issues identified through the consultation process. The issues were consistent with the 2011 results arising from the Healthy Forest-Healthy Communities' community dialogue sessions and those from forest management experts. The issues and recommendations are generally known within Government or the bureaucracy for some time. There is a fear Government will position the Committee report with the Roundtable on Forestry report as the blueprint to revitalize the forest sector. This would be totally incorrect as key issues are not addressed in either report. A comprehensive strategic action plan is required rather than piece meal short-term economic actions as recommended by the Committee.

2012-08-21

MLAs aren't facing the truth: B.C. forests are tapped out

Since May, when a special committee of the legislature was appointed to address a looming "timber supply" crisis, questions have arisen about what the committee would say about one community in particular.

That community is Burns Lake, where an explosion and fire in January levelled the local sawmill — the village's major employer — killing two workers and putting another 250 out of work.

Well, the wait is over, and if the unanimous recommendations of the committee's Liberal and NDP MLAs are an indication, our forests and many rural communities are headed for even harder times than previously thought.

2012-08-18

B.C. declares victory in softwood lumber ruling on pine beetle wood

Even as Canada declares victory in a major softwood lumber dispute with the United States, the organization representing British Columbia's forest industry doesn't expect the persistent American lumber lobby to reduce its competitive tactics.

An international tribunal convened under the 2006 softwood lumber agreement ruled Wednesday that Canada did not circumvent the deal by shipping large quantities of pine beetle-infested lumber south of the border.

The United States government argued that B.C. mills had an unfair advantage in softwood sales because they've been selling logs made from the destroyed trees at lower prices.

2012-08-17

WorkSafeBC cautions mills to be 'vigilant'

British Columbia sawmills were warned Thursday that dust from both green wood and beetle-killed pine poses a high risk of explosion under the right conditions.

WorkSafeBC officials said it was already known that dust from beetle-killed timber had an explosive capacity, but recent test results from a U.S. lab showed dust from trees that were alive when they were felled also posed an explosion risk.

The findings are part of WorkSafeBC's investigation into two sawmill explosions in northern B.C. that killed four workers and injured dozens of others.

2012-08-16

B.C.'s ravaged forests need action

The B.C. timber industry is at stake and the provincial government and forestry companies are going to have to make changes to stave off a dramatic drop that will come sooner or later, says a new government report released Wednesday.

The report says the pine beetle will decimate up to 70 per cent of the central Interior's marketable timber by 2021 if the report's 22 recommendations aren't implemented.

"There are some very challenging decisions that companies are going to have to make in terms of what their expectations will be in the future of forest markets and fibre supply," said MLA John Rustad, who chaired the report.

Beetle-kill and green wood dust explosive: WorkSafeBC

Dust from green wood, as well as pine beetle wood, could have contributed to two fatal explosions at the Burns Lake and Prince George sawmills earlier this year, according to a scientific analysis commissioned by WorkSafeBC.

WorkSafeBC said that tests results from samples sent to a U.S. laboratory show that both types of wood dust pose a high risk of explosion under very dry conditions.

The tests were done following speculation that beetle-kill wood dust was a potential fuel source in one or both of the the explosions.

2012-08-15

Seek out new timber in marginal areas, report urges B.C. industry

A new report on the dwindling timber supply in British Columbia’s central Interior recommends tapping into “marginally economic forest types,” such as areas with fewer trees that have been significantly affected by fire or the pine beetle, or are harder to access.

The report, prepared by the Special Committee on Timber Supply and tabled Wednesday, comes after a month of research and public hearings in central B.C. and Vancouver. As the province anticipates a dramatic drop in timber supply in the wake of the mountain pine beetle outbreak, the report calls for a thorough inventory of such marginal areas – something NDP opposition forestry critic and committee deputy chair Norm Macdonald says the Liberal government did not adequately address in the past.

“The lack of proper care of the land means they have neither the information nor the capacity to make informed decisions,” he said. “We don’t actually know, accurately, what’s happening on the land base. It’s inexcusable, really.”

Province prepared to battle pine beetle

The provincial government is planning to spend $800,000 this year to battle the mountain pine beetle.

"This poses a massive threat to us, as well as to the rest of Canadian pine forests," said Rory McIntosh, provincial forest entomologist and pathologist for the forest services branch of the Environment Ministry.

"The key is early detection and a rapid and aggressive response," he said. "There are some significant values at risk here."

Cut more B.C. timber to fight pine beetle, says report

A B.C. government report recommends increasing logging in the province's central Interior, a region hit hard by the pine beetle epidemic and an explosion that demolished the Burns Lake sawmill.

The report from the Special Committee on Timber Supply indicates the pine beetle epidemic has killed 53 per cent of the total pine volume on the timber harvesting land base.

The report makes 22 recommendations, including advising the B.C. government to increase the timber supply and value of pine beetle wood, improve forest management, engage local communities and First Nations in future forests plans and find more ways to grow more wood.

BC Timber Supply To Drop By 20% Over Next 10-15 Years

According to the report of the Special committee on timber supply in the province of BC , released today, this province faces a 20% drop of supply in the next 10-15 years.

Since the mountain pine beetle (MPB) infestation became an epidemic in 1999, an estimated 18.1 million hectares of forest land in British Columbia have been affected.

The latest projections indicatethat the MPB will have killed between 53 and 70 percent of merchantable pine by 2021.

B.C. report calls to cut more timber to fight pine beetle and help Burns Lake

The B.C. timber industry is at stake and the provincial government and forestry companies are going to have to make changes to stave off a dramatic drop that will come sooner or later, says a new government report released Wednesday.

The report says the pine beetle will decimate up to 70 per cent of the central Interior's marketable timber by 2021 if the report's 22 recommendations aren't implemented.

"There are some very challenging decisions that companies are going to have to make in terms of what their expectations will be in the future of forest markets and fibre supply," said MLA John Rustad, who chaired the report.

2012-08-14

Province steps up fight against mountain pine beetle

The provincial government is stepping up efforts to ensure that a bad little bug doesn’t wipe out our forests.

Nearly half a million dollars are being contributed to help with mountain pine beetle control efforts in Alberta.

The mountain pine beetle has destroyed 60 per cent of BC's lode pole pine forests, and has made its way halfway across Alberta.

Pesky beetle in Alberta gets extra attention from Saskatchewan

The fight against the spread of the mountain pine beetle has been taken up a notch as Saskatchewan plans to provide more money to help Alberta's effort to control the pest.

Saskatchewan is spending $800,000 to battle the creature that has ravaged timber lands in B.C. and parts of Alberta.

The money includes $450,000 Saskatchewan will pay Alberta to help stop the eastward spread of the mountain pine beetle through boreal forests.

2012-08-13

Pine beetle populations remain a problem

Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development has completed the annual mountain pine beetle survey and although results indicate the number of new beetle infested trees is expected to decline in some areas of the province, for other areas, including Whitecourt, high survival levels were found.

The beetle population surveys were conducted this year between May and June at 179 sites and included 1,091 trees.

Surveys involved cutting core samples from trees and comparing the number of dead versus live beetle larvae under the bark.

2012-08-06

Annual mountain pine beetle AB survey numbers 'patchy'

Alberta Sustainable Resource Development has finished the annual mountain pine beetle survey and numbers appear to be slightly lower than in previous years.

Survey results from Slave Lake west to Grande Prairie and Grande Cache have shown that beetle populations have decreased over the winter. Beetle populations in central Alberta and areas of north of Peace River have remained the same or have slightly increased.

The best way to describe beetle populations in our area is 'patchy.'

2012-08-02

Pine beetle population under control in Alberta

Alberta says it won’t let up in its fight against the mountain pine beetle despite a spring survey showing it gained some ground after a cold winter.

Each spring, Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development does a mortality survey to determine how many pine beetle larvae survived the winter.

This year’s survey, released Thursday, shows an increase in parts of central Alberta and areas north of Peace River, while the numbers declined from Slave Lake west to Grande Cache.

2012-08-01

Forestry report expected August 15

Columbia River Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald has been travelling the province this spring and summer as part of a Special Committee on Timber Supply. The role of the committee is to examine and make recommendations about mid-term timber supply in British Columbia, as a result of the mountain pine beetle infestation.

The committee is specifically looking at recommendations that could increase the timber supply, including direction on the potential scope of changes to land-use objectives, rate of harvest and conversion of volume-based tenures to area-based tenures.

Recommendations from the committee are expected on August 15, 2012.