Liberals, NDP agree that counting trees tops to-do list

After almost a decade in the doldrums, the forest industry is steaming back into the B.C. economy, with companies clamouring for more wood from forests that have been devastated by the mountain pine beetle.

Two forces — one economic, the other environmental — define the issues facing British Columbia’s forests: The beetle destroyed so much timber that the province stopped trying to keep an inventory of what’s left until the epidemic died down; and now that the industry is recovering, those areas that still have healthy, green timber are coming under increasing pressure to supply wood to mills that are now starved. There are no feel-good solutions.

“The writing is clearly on the wall: The Interior has a lot less fibre to work with,” said Ben Parfitt, resources analyst at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.


Beetle-killed trees create widespread fire hazard

Fat pellets of snow are dusting a 130-year-old forest of pine and spruce as John Betts leads a small group through the woods. The elevation is 1,100 metres and spring has not reached here, the fresh coat of white making a pretty picture. But this is Mr. Betts’s tour of doom, and he sees instead a powderkeg that threatens the nearby communities of Kamloops, Merritt and Quilchena.

The mountain pine beetle bored through this forest south of Kamloops seven years ago. The government inventory, conducted in 1991 and updated in 2007, shows little reason for alarm: On paper, about a third of the trees here have suffered beetle kill. But Mr. Betts, head of the Western Silvicultural Contractors’ Association, wants to show that on the ground, the state of this forest is far worse.

Where the dead trees have fallen, they form a tangle chest-high in places.


Researchers Help Unlock Pine Beetle's Pandora's Box

Twenty researchers -- more than half of them Simon Fraser University graduates and/or faculty -- could become eastern Canada's knights in shining white lab coats.

A paper detailing their newly created sequencing of the mountain pine beetle's (MPB) genome will be gold in the hands of scientists trying to stem the beetle's invasion into eastern forests. The journal Genome Biology has published the paper.

"We know a lot about how beetle infestations can devastate forests, just as the mountain pine beetle has been doing to B.C.'s lodgepole pines," says Christopher Keeling, the paper's lead author.

Mountain pine beetle poised to ravage Eastern Canada

Billions of mountain pine beetles from B.C. are expected to devastate forests in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritime provinces as they munch their way east over the next two decades, scientists predict in a new documentary.

"Most every scientist studying the beetle feels that it's inevitable," said David York, the filmmaker behind The Beetles Are Coming, which airs on CBC TV's The Nature of Things Thursday.

"It's going to happen and we're going to have to adapt."