Some things just need to be said...

Monday, July 04, 2005

Mountain Pine Beetle in the Cariboo

Mountain Pine Beetle in the Cariboo

The Mountain Pine Beetle problem has been around for many years. During the 2005 BC Election, I heard Mike De Jong, them BC Forest Minister state that the problem was NDP mismanagement that led to a missed opportunity to control the epidemic facing lodgepole Pine forests in BC.

The minister was only partly right. The NDP could have taken a few steps to address the problem. A problem that has grown progressively worse over the years. My first real job was with the BC Forest Service in 1978. I was hired on a youth crew and kept on that fall to do surveys of mountain pine beetle infestations in the forests in the Likely Ranger District.

Likely is located approximately 100 km east of Williams Lake, on Quesnel Lake, one of the deepest fresh water lakes in the world. At the time the Mountain Pine Beetle had already created thousands of hectares of red trees, trees that were dying due to the beetle.

My job and my three co-workers was to survey the extent of damage, look for live beetles and the information gathered was to assist the BC Forest Service with logging plans.

Williams Lake benefited a lot from the beetle harvest from 1979 to 1990. Milling capacity was more than doubled leading more jobs and bigger appetite for hungry sawmills. Local MLA, Alex Fraser had told companies not to gear up, that the harvest would be short term. One of the problems became evident early on, mills were still cutting other wood, no one was willing to stop harvesting spruce and fir. The mill owners saw an opportunity to increase the amount of wood they could cut and did not back down.

The government though suggesting mill owners not gear up, to focus on pine, did gear up. After about five years a large dent had been put in the pine that needed to be harvested and Mills were threatening to lay workers off. The workers were part of the "geared up " effort of mills. The social credit government caved in as the most certainly did when the Captains of the Forest Industry spoke. Annual Allowable cuts increased.

The pine that was harvested was almost always considered "poor" wood. The result was that Pine sold by the government went for 25 cents per cubic metre. Think about that, a logging truck of wood would go for less than $10.00 per load. The industry cleaned up big time. Pine sold for slightly less than Fire or Spruce. The cost to the industry however was much less.

I worked for most of the 1980's identifying and or approving forest company surveys of timber volume and beetle infestation. Pine almost never went above 25 cents per cubic metre.
Today's beetle problem has been ongoing for years. Changes to the Forest Act by the BC Liberals have meant that it is harder to redirect forest activity to beetle killed wood or to get ahead of the infestation and take out "good Pine".

The Tyee has a good article for this. Lets hope the BC Liberal government will be investing the money into northern Communities as they promised in the budget. Just for clarification, the NDP budget plan was for a minimum $10 million more than the Liberals plan. Bob Simpson, MLA of the hardest hit area in Quesnel and west of that city is very much aware of the problem. As the Forest critic for the NDP, the new Forest Minister would be wise to listen to Mr. Simpson.

Some resources ...

Home Owners Guide to the Mountain Pine Beetle
Mountain Pine Beetles in British Columbia - BC Ministry of Forests
Natural Resources Canada - Mountain Pine Beetle Initiative
Mountain Pine Beetle Task Force - Action Timeline or check out their Infestation Map
The David Suzuki Foundation - BC Forests & the Mountain Pine Beetle
Denim Pine Marketing Association - The Wood That Nature Colors
Pacific Forestry Centre - Entomology - Mountain Pine Beetle site

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