Mill closures due to pine beetle not a surprise: forests minister

British Columbia’s forests minister says the closure of two sawmills in the province’s interior due to the pine beetle infestation is not unexpected.

Steve Thomson says the government has invested more than $880 million dollars to mitigate the impact of the beetle through diversification funding.

Thomson, who is on a trade mission to Japan and China, said from Beijing that he sympathizes with the workers who will lose their jobs when Canfor Corp., (TSX:CFP) closes operations in Quesnel and West Fraser shuts its mill in Houston, though both companies have announced provisions for their employees.

Lumber Soars to Six-Month High on British Columbia Beetle Damage

Lumber futures jumped to a six-month high as two producers plan to close mills in British Columbia, fueling supply concerns as a beetle infestation decimates forests in the region.

West Fraser Timber Co. said yesterday it plans to shut its mill in Houston, British Columbia, and Canfor Corp. will close its Quesnel site in the province. The Vancouver-based companies cited a timber shortage after forests were ravaged by the mountain pine beetle. Lumber futures have surged 22 percent since the end of May.

The shutdowns will aggravate supply concerns already heightened by low inventories, said Paul Jannke, an analyst at Forest Economic Advisors LLC, an industry consultant in Westford, Massachusetts. The announcements marked the first major closures linked to the beetle scourge, which has destroyed an estimated 710 million cubic meters of timber, he said.


Ideology-based decisions costly

Concern over the Harper government's disdain for evidencebased public policy has made international headlines.

Whether it's because the government doesn't believe it to be a threat or that it is a federal issue, Ottawa's refusal to take a leading role in the battle against the mountain pine beetle has put Saskatchewan on the front lines of what could be a very costly infestation.

The beetle, which already has wreaked havoc on British Columbia's forest, has been marching across Alberta for the past decade and cost that province more than a quarter of a billion as it tries to slow the beetles' progress. Ottawa was a minor partner in the war until 2009, but has since cut its funding.


Tiny Beetles Are Killing Off Huge Swaths Of Spruce Forests Because Of Drought, Too

A massive spruce beetle outbreak that’s been decimating coniferous forests in the northern Colorado mountains has been caused mainly by drought, according to a new study.

The study, published this week in the journal Ecology by University of Colorado scientists, found that drought is a better predictor of beetle outbreaks in the West than temperature. The drought is tied to long-term changes in sea surface temperature from the Northern Atlantic Ocean — a pattern known as the Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation (AMO), which warms sea surface temperatures about every 60 years. The most current AMO began in the late 1990s, so the University of Colorado’s finding is troubling: since sea surface temperatures are expected to continue to rise for the next several years, drought could continue to persist in the West, a scenario which means the spruce beetles will continue to thrive.

The researchers found that dry conditions weakened trees’ defenses against spruce beetles. The beetles kill trees by burrowing into a tree’s soft inner bark and feeding and laying eggs there, impeding the tree’s growth and eventually killing it.