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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Forestry Issues and the Mountain Pine Beetle Update

As a follow up on the ForestEthics taking on West Fraser Timber over the woodland caribou, I have come across a new blog that caught my eye. ForestWisdom gives long and detailed history of some Environmental Non-Government Organizations activities in the forestry policy area in Alberta. There is lots of history obviously. The question I have is more about the future of the forest as we face the Mountain Pine Beetle infestation.

I have just returned from Grande Cache today where I was meeting local community, regional and business leaders about how to sustain their communities after the Mountain Pine Beetle infestation ravages the pine forest in Alberta. My firm is working for the Grande Alberta Economic Region in helping the local forestry related communities in the region come to grips with the implications, for them and their towns, of the Beetle infestation. It is not pretty.

These are somber and sobering times for those communities and many of them are going to need to be particularly innovative and adaptive to deal with these new threats. I don’t think there are any climate change deniers amongst the people I have spoken to in these region communities. The MPB never reached so far north because our cold winters killed them off. But now with the much milder winters, the Beetles are thriving in new areas throughout northern BC and now well into Alberta.

The most recent data I have seen shows the MPB infected over 3 million trees last year and is now as far east as the Slave Lake area. It can’t be prevented and all human efforts right now are on mitigation by burning, harvesting and salvage activities. This activity is only buying time, and the anticipated bill for MPB mitigation this year, by Alberta alone, is budgeted at $55m up from a mere $5m spent last year.

All this mitigation activity underscores that we can’t beat it. It demands that we must find new ways to adapt to life with the MPB and all its implications. Not easy. Not simple…but very necessary. The economic, ecological and social well-being consequences for humans and the impacts on wildlife are enormous. The MPB may well spread throughout the entire boreal forest across the entire country before it is done.