Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Adapting to the Mountain Pine Beetle in Alberta

I met with a group of community leaders in Edson Alberta last night and conducted a workshop on the reality of the Mountain Pine Beetle infestation on Alberta’s forestry based communities. I am on the road this week and next in communities like Hinton, Jasper, Drayton Valley, Whitecourt and Grande Cache getting local input and insight.

I was impressed with the community spirit and realistic attitudes of the participants in Edson. The local Member of Parliament Rob Merrifield came and stayed for the evening. He was very helpful and knowledgeable and gave some of the science and public policy updates coming out of Natural Resources Canada. Nice to see another politician who "gets it" in terms of how quality representational politics should be done. I was impressed and I am no easy "sell" on politicians these days, as regular readers know.

It looks like on the Alberta side of the issue the early indications are an 80% kill rate above the snow level from this winter. The bad news is about a 50-60% survival rate under the snow - and we had lots of snow in the forest this year.

Prevention is not possible. Mitigation efforts can only buy us time to adapt. Adaptation is the key. The impact is going to be huge on the environment, the economy and the forest related communities. Complex and challenging are key concepts that people are grasping and what to do and how to do it are the big questions around adaptation.

This MPB adaptation planning and execution is going to be one of the largest ecological, economic and social issues facing Alberta in the next few years. It is going to impact and engage all orders of government, all aspects of business and industry, every possible environmental element of air, land, water, biodiversity, habitat, just to name a few. As for community and society, the changes there are going to be dramatic as well.

This challange is complex enough that it is going to demand a true collaboration that is top down and bottom up at the same time. We have time to adapt provided we don't squander it. Bickering over if the science of climate change is real or not is a waste of this precious time.

I will give some links in future postings if readers want to keep on top of the developments in mitigation and adaptation to the new climate change reality of the Mountain Pine Beetle in Alberta.