2012-10-28

Treeless golf? It’s par for this course

The founders did not foresee such a wide-open course when they carved the Prince George Golf & Curling Club here.

Lodgepole pines, not sand traps, were to be the greatest challenge.

But nature’s trajectory hooked, making the game a little easier and the highway noise a lot louder.

Southern Alberta’s air and ground war pays off

Helicopters swooped into the southern Canadian Rockies here almost as soon as mountain pine beetles landed.

Unlike to the north, where a freezing, continental "thermocline" until recently had blocked beetles from entering, this area north of Montana’s Glacier National Park had seen tree-killing outbreaks before, most recently in the early 1980s.

It started again in 2004.

Our Dying Forests: Dark days for whitebarks — and for birds, bears and fish

Gray birds with black-and-white wings slash through the forest canopy, squawking and shoving one another from treetop pine cones.

It’s a good cone crop this year in southwestern Canada, and the Clark’s nutcrackers are staging the kind of full-throated show that is rapidly fading from most of the West’s high country.

They’re heckling and buzzing, their gullets bulging like those of fish-hoarding pelicans. They’re hauling pine seeds that they’ll bury here and there for later. Cunning as they are, these cousins to crows and ravens will forget where they put some, and the whitebark pine’s plan for seed dispersal will be complete.

Beetle invasion threatens forests from coast to coast

Billions of tree-munching beetles rained on hayfields, bogs and forests here six years ago, tiny paratroopers riding strong winds and a warming climate to a new front in the age-old struggle between parasite and pine.

Here was virgin ground for the pests, and easy pickings.

After the Tic Tac-size beetles survived three of north-central Alberta’s now-milder winters and then caught a still-larger wave of reinforcements riding 300 miles on summer winds from British Columbia, scientists knew the game had changed.

2012-10-26

Beetle infestation drives up lumber prices

A new set of beetles is taking North America by storm. This time the casualty is lumber and lumber prices. The mountain pine beetle is taking a dramatic toll on Canadian forests which are critical for home building and other lumber needs here in the U.S.

A lumber-industry consultancy called the International Wood Markets Group has sounded the alarm in a recent report. Russell Taylor is the president, and he spoke to us from Vancouver, British Columbia, this morning.

"These very tiny beetles -- they're about the size of a grain of rice -- they basically flock to a tree and they burrow into it and lay their eggs," Taylor explained. "That basically kills the flow of water up and down the tree, and they kill everything in sight as they grow and grow and grow. It's been one of the largest natural disasters, we can think of, of all time."

2012-10-25

An Epic Bark Beetle Feeding Frenzy

One of the most visible and unintended consequences of global warming are bark beetles. Drought beget beetles. The U.S. is experiencing its worst drought in more than 50 years. The first 9 months of 2012 have been the warmest of any year on record in the contiguous U.S. These warm temperatures are fueling the largest tree-killing, bark beetle epidemic ever recorded throughout western North America.

Rising temperatures across western North America between 1.8 and 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit are having a deleterious affect on the conifer forests. These forests evolved to withstand temperatures in excess of minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and these frigid temperatures prevent bark beetle epidemics from occurring.

Global warming has effectively removed nature's cold-curtain enabling the indigenous mountain pine bark beetles to speed up their life cycles (formerly two years and now two generations within one year), and move-up into the high elevation forests throughout the western half of the continent.

2012-10-23

Saskatchewan hires B.C. firm in battle against pesky mountain pine beetle

Saskatchewan is trying to stop the spread of the mountain pine beetle by hiring a B.C. company to help cut, pile and burn infested trees in the province's southwest.

Duncan Henderson Contracting will get up to $240,000 over three years to remove infested lodgepole pine in Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park.

The Saskatchewan government says historically, outbreaks have been limited by the cold climate.

2012-10-10

NDP Sets Fire to Libs' Forest Industry Fix

The British Columbia government says it is acting on a series of recommendations to help the province's forest industry in the wake of the mountain pine beetle epidemic. Critics say it's a weak response to the issue that shows the government hasn't learned from the collapse of other natural resource industries.

"The action plan represents the next phase in our decade-long battle against the mountain pine beetle," said Steve Thomson, the minister of forests, lands and natural resource operations, talking to reporters on a conference call.

The 16-page plan is a response to an August report from the legislature's special committee on timber supply that held hearings throughout the province last spring and into the early summer.

2012-10-09

Logging of old-growth forest mulled by B.C. government

The B.C. government will examine the contentious possibility of opening old-growth forests to logging in parts of the province hardest hit by plummeting timber supplies.

It's an idea that both proponents and opponents say would require chopping protective measures that took years to create.

The government is now constructing ground rules so that by early 2013 it can begin revisiting the designation of some sensitive areas, mainly in the north-central triangle between Burns Lake, Prince George and Quesnel.

Critics pan B.C.’s forestry action plan

Now that the damage of the mountain pine beetle epidemic is mostly done, the B.C. government is poised to launch a 10-year action plan to figure out precisely what is left of its ravaged forests and what needs to be done to replant them.

Eight months after the province’s Auditor-General blasted the government for weak management of its forestry resources, Forests Minister Steve Thomson has secured no new money to address the problem; in fact, his budget is slated to decline over the next three years. But at a news conference on Tuesday, he promised a new strategy early next year to improve the province’s timber supply.

“The inventory work needs to be done now that the pine beetle has run its course,” Mr. Thomson said.

B.C. mulls 'limited' logging in old-growth forests

The British Columbia government will examine the contentious possibility of opening old-growth forests to logging in parts of the province hardest hit by plummeting timber supplies.

It's an idea that both proponents and opponents say would require chopping protective measures that took years to create.

The government is now constructing ground rules so that by early 2013 it can begin revisiting the designation of sensitive areas, mainly in the north-central triangle between Burns Lake, Prince George and Quesnel.

B.C. government responds to committee's timber supply report

Commitment to forest renewal through nine sustained and 11 new actions are contained in government's action plan to increase the mid-term timber supply, Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Minister Steve Thomson announced today.

Government's response to the Special Committee on Timber Supply's report signals the start of the final phase in its decade-long response to the mountain pine beetle infestation. Since 2001 the B.C. government has invested over $884 million on forest management and economic development in the mountain pine beetle-impacted areas, to assist forestry-dependent communities diversify their economic base.

'Beyond the Beetle: A Mid-Term Timber Supply Action Plan' puts a sharper focus on increasing the mid-term timber supply and better utilizing timber for bioenergy and other purposes, to complement the traditional focus on sawlogs.