Houston, B.C., is next pine-beetle victim

Over the past 12 years, the mountain pine-beetle epidemic in B.C. has prompted a series of action plans, action coalitions, task forces, investment strategies and emergency response teams. In the time it has taken to destroy more than half of the province’s commercially valuable pine timber, the beetle has also consumed more than $1-billion in government funds.

Now, as the community of Houston, in the province’s northern Interior, grapples with the closing of the town’s lumber mill, the mayor says his community is unprepared for its post-beetle future. “A lot of money was spent on action plans,” Mayor Bill Holmberg said in an interview Monday. “We haven’t really seen the rubber hit the road.”

The money has gone to airport expansions, highway repaving, bio-energy research projects and what critics say is routine reforestation. A trio of community-based Beetle Action Coalitions handed out provincial grant money. The Anahim Lake Airport got $515,000 to build a terminal. The village of McBridge received $52,000 to develop and promote walking trails. In Houston, there was $10,050 for a “geo-exchange energy-system monitoring plan.”