Chainsaws and research key to winning pine beetle battle 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 one 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 earlier this week, cutting out “cookies” of bark and cambium layers from infected trees to count beetle larvae.


New technology helps B.C. mills manage post-beetle supply drop

Necessity has been the mother of invention for companies making good wood out of bad.

Sorting lumber at West Fraser’s Fraser Lake sawmill. New scanning technology has helped companies generate revenue out of previously worthless wood.

BC’s Interior forestry industry is counting on cutting-edge sawmill technologies to soften the blow of the heavily reduced annual allowable cut anticipated in the wake of the mountain pine beetle infestation.


Voracious mountain pine beetles on hold in forests northwest of Edmonton

Eyeing a stack of rough lumber, Stefan Demharter spots the telltale blue stain fungus spread by the Mountain Pine Beetle.

“It’s here, and there, and there ... there is quite of bit of it, but this is a good news story. It means we are cutting the trees before they’re dead,” said Demharter, Millar Western’s vice-president of wood products.

Fox Creek and its Millar Western sawmill is in the middle of Alberta’s largest lodgepole pine forests, and also in the centre of the province’s holding zone in the desperate war to stop the spread of the voracious beetles that will have eaten through 75 per cent of British Columbia’s pine forests by the time the infestation peters out in a few more years.