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October 28, 2017 4:33 am

Pine Beetle Recovery Dollars Still Needed

Thursday, April 30, 2015 @ 4:00 AM

Prince George, B.C. – It’s been  a decade since the  Pine Beetle Recovery Account administered by Northern Development Initiative Trust  received $30 million dollars.  The money  was to be used to help  forest dependent communities through the  impact of the infestation.

Over the years, the Pine Beetle Recovery account has provided about $19 million dollars  for  215 projects  that included everything from  research projects to tourism, to airport improvements,  anything that could help a community diversify its economy. Last year alone about $1.4 million was  provided for a variety of projects.

The account has a balance of about $23 million dollars.

So with the  merchantable  pine beetle kill  fibre nearly gone,  is the fund still relevant?  NDIT’s  CEO Janine North says it  is  needed  just as much now as it was when it was first established  “I think it is going to become more top of mind as we see harvest levels decrease.  When we see harvest levels decrease, and there are consequences like mill closures, then again it’s going to be top of mind for us and that’s going to be where things the communities  wanted to be supported like dual credit trades training in the high schools ensuring  that  program is expanded  so the Trust can be a catalyst  for that.”

Prince George’s diversified  economy has  cushioned it from the worst of the blow  from the  beetle epidemic and the  downturn in the economy in 2008. While there have been  jobs lost,  the impact on this city has not been as severe as it has been, or might still be, in  neighbouring communities. “It’s really keenly felt still in Quesnel, in Vanderhoof, Burns Lake, in Houston, Williams  Lake” says North “Those are the communities that  are  kind of feeling the impending harvest level decreases more than anyone else.”

At a recent meeting with  the  Beetle Action Coalitions  and the four regional advisory committees the NDIT was  given a strong message about the Pine Beetle Recovery Account “They all agreed that the account should be  managed sustainably” says North.  She says  the recommendation to the NDIT Board was to  increase the outflow of funds from 7% to  about 9% and for projects that  are  considered “extraordinarily  strong” the amount could be higher.

It was also recommend the  Board  consider making additional funds from the account available to support highly strategic or impactful pine beetle recovery projects as they’re proposed. Such projects might  include commercialization and community forest support, support for trades and technical education and small business and entrepreneurial training and mentorship.

The recommendations have been forwarded to the Board, and staff are now working on policy updates for the account that will be forwarded to the Board for approval at its July meeting.



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