Pine Beetle Recovery Dollars Still Needed
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.