Researchers, loggers battle with pine beetle in Alberta

On the front lines of Alberta's war against the mountain pine beetle, the weapons are chainsaws and biological data.

The soldiers in this battle focus their attention only on areas in which they have a good chance of preventing the beetles from spreading - the so-called Level 1 control sites where forestry staff cut and burn infected trees. In other areas, staff simply monitor the beetle-infected trees each spring, using information from hundreds of sites to plan next winter's campaign and help companies log specific areas to control the beetle's spread.

The so-called pine islands south of Slave Lake - groves of pines surrounded by aspen - are among these areas that can't be saved, and that is where provincial forest health officer Dale Thomas and technician Jenn MacCormick were last week, cutting out "cookies" of bark and cambium layers from infected trees to count beetle larvae.