Owners say mill destroyed by explosion in Burns Lake, B.C., will be rebuilt

A northern British Columbia sawmill that was flattened by a deadly explosion will be rebuilt with leading-edge safety measures, but deals must first be finalized to ensure a sufficient timber supply.

Mill owner Hampton Affiliates announced Monday it has decided to reinvest in the Burns Lake, B.C. operation gutted by fire last January, even as its president called lumber availability "precarious" due to the region's pine beetle scourge.

Negotiations with the province and local First Nations are well underway to secure lumber for at least 20 years, said CEO Steve Zika.


The pine-beetle flight is on in Black Hills, but not at Canadian proportions

The bugs are flying in a big way in the Black Hills.

But "big" is really relative when it comes to the rice-sized bugs with the hearty appetite for pine trees.

Huge swarms of tiny beetles carried high in the air have taken on gargantuan proportions in British Columbia, where they have even been confused with rain clouds on airport radar.

Province continues its fight against pesky pine beetles

From overhead, the forests just south of this city are a lush green blanket stretching west to the Rockies.

Poplars are beginning to show signs of fall as leaves turn to yellow. But for forestry workers, the only colour they are focused on is red. To them, the swaths of pine trees turned red is the sign of one thing: mountain pine beetle.

The pine beetle is a small, dark beetle that burrows beneath the bark of pine trees. The pests the tree with larvae and a blue fungus that it excretes when it feeds.

Grande Prairie Alberta’s battlefront in the war on pine beetles

From 4,000 feet above, the Alberta forest unfolds like a wild, undulating carpet.

The poplars are ablaze in autumn gold, rivers and ponds are shimmering, the canopy of trees is mostly a vibrant green. Off in the distance, snow covers Mount Ida, the 11,000-foot peak that is considered the Matterhorn of the northern Rockies.

But slowly, the lush healthy woods give way to patches of grey and red as strands of trees infested with mountain pine beetles come into view. Many of the trees are dying, others are already dead.

Alberta forests threatened by pine beetle infestation

The Alberta government is looking to a neighbour for lessons on how to fend off a pine beetle infestation, which threatens the province’s forests and even its forestry workers.

"They are pretty amazing... creatures. Hard to predict,” said Alberta Forest Health Officer Devin Letourneau. "We have been trying very hard to find and locate the beetle."

The pine beetle burrows into the bark of the pine trees, cutting off the plant’s nutrients and causing it to slowly die.


Pine beetles thick as rain clouds over British Columbia

If you thought the beetle-killed forests in Montana look bad, check out the Idaho-sized hole they’ve chewed in British Columbia.

Investigative reporter Andrew Nikiforuk brought some equally massive metaphors to describe the impact the insect “the size of a mouse turd” has had on Canadian ecology and politics. The combination of high-grade logging for spruce and fir and drought conditions has increased British Columbia’s lodgepole pine population from 17 percent to 53 percent of the provincial forest in the last few decades.

And that’s attracted swarms of mountain pine bark beetles so large, they get mistaken for rain clouds on airport radars in Prince George, B.C. The combined weight of beetles in the infestation over Homer, Alaska, equaled 3,300 killer whales, or half a million wolves flying over the forest.