The Mountain Pine Beetle and Impact on Economy

Paying Attention is paying attention to something that is being largely ignored both by British Columbians and by Ottawa.

The Mountain Pine Beetle epidemic is a slow moving disaster that will decimate this province. The treehuggers in Vancouver and Victoria would like nothing more than to see the Forestry industry vanish in this province, and it looks like they will get their wish. The trees are vanishing – turning red and falling down.

This little blighter is causing the ruckus. He bores under the bark of the tree and separates the bark from the wood. This cuts off water and nutrient flow in the tree, resulting in the needles turning red from lack of water. Then the tree dies.

This is what the forests in some areas of the interior look like right now.Most isn’t this bad… yet, but this shot is from Williams Lake 2 years ago. Keep in mind that now those trees are red. In a couple years the needles fall off and they look like standing dead. In a year or two after that they begin to fall, and then all you have is a pile of sticks. In the meantime you have really an immense fire hazard. It will make the forest fires of last summer look like a little campfire when this tinder box goes up, endangering lives and communities at an unprecendented scale.

The Mountain Pine Beetle attack really got its start about 10 years ago now – while I was in forestry school in Alberta (mid-90s), we were already hearing about Tweedsmuir Provincial Park and the outbreak there that had spread to neighbouring commercial forest. The reason the event happened was because forestry knew the beetles were breeding in the park but were not allowed to get special permission to go into the park and cut out the infected trees. The sanctity of the park meant that hundreds of thousands of hectares had to die, screwing up years of planning and work by forest engineers, jeopardizing jobs and communities, because the parks service couldn’t bear to have a couple of stumps scattered in the remote trackless depths of a park with maybe a couple thousand visitors a year.

But back to the point. This needs to be dealt with. British Columbians might like to think they would get along fine without the forest industry, but even now, after being maligned and ignored for years, it amounts to over 1/3 the economy of the province. How well do you think ANYONE in this province will be doing when 1/3 of the economy evaporates?

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