Spruce Beetle Strategy for Region
Prince George, B.C.- The newest threat to forests in B.C. is the Spruce Beetle, and various stakeholders have worked with the Province in the development of a strategy to minimize its impact.
The new strategy lays out five areas on how stakeholders will approach the outbreak across the Omineca region:
- co-ordinate effective planning and implementation of mitigation measures
- safeguard non-timber values
- prevent or reduce damage to ecosystems in areas that are susceptible to (but not yet experiencing) spruce beetle outbreaks
- recover the greatest value from dead spruce timber before it decays or is damaged by wildfires
- restore forest resources in areas affected by spruce beetle outbreak.
The most recent mapping of the Omineca region ( which includes Prince George and Mackenzie) indicates about 210 thousand hectares of forest have been impacted by spruce beetles but there is progress being made says Spruce Beetle Manager Heather Weibe “We have a couple of things that are working for us right now. We have an excellent mapping process that shows us where we are. The aerial overview flights , all the heli-work we’ve done, we’ve done almost 80 hours of helicopter work in Mackenzie, and all the ground surface information , we are able to put all of that information in one location. So that’s fantastic.”
While there may be 210 thousand hectares infested with spruce beetle, not all of that forest is part of the timber harvest land base, or in specific wildlife habitat areas. Weibe says she is very encouraged by the fact licensees are doing detailed planning on the areas that will be the focus of harvesting “They really understand where they need to go, and are able to describe to decision makers where they’re going, when they’re going and how they are going to treat those areas.” says Weibe, “We are really getting a fine focus on where efforts should be concentrated in an effort to be the most successful”.
At risk is the mid term timber supply that is crucial to the forest industry in the wake of the mountain pine beetle epidemic, but the “fine focus” is not just about merchantable timber adds Weibe “A priority forest is not only the dollars and cents that come out of the forest, but the other values (such as ecosystems) we are trying to protect and mitigate during this outbreak”.
Spruce beetle outbreaks are not new in B.C. but the current situation has been exacerbated by climate change, as warmer winters allow the beetle to have multiple life cycles and that means more areas of the province will see spruce beetle and bark beetle outbreaks.
One of the methods to mitigate the spread of the spruce beetle is the use of trap trees, where a fallen spruce ( a preferred host for the beetle) is left to collect as many beetles as possible. It’s a method Weibe says has produced positive results “They are working fantastic. This summer (2016) we had really good results in Mackenzie where you were able to see the trap trees were full of spruce beetle, and the spruce trees standing beside the trap tree were absolutely healthy and repelling any attacks that were there. So trap trees are working really well.”
She says this is the time of year when licensees are planning on where trap trees will be placed for the upcoming year. “All this information will help put them ( trap trees) down in the most useful places.”
But even with a clear strategy Weibe says there is a long road ahead “We are in the middle of it now, there’s places in the Province where the numbers are just starting to rise, the Pine Pass has some spruce beetle (numbers) rising in it, down in Burns Lake they’re seeing some small pockets rise as well. These are the places where trap trees will work well because those populations are just starting to emerge.”
Still, she is optimistic “We’ve got the right way forward, we’ve got the right processes that will be able to benefit across the Province from what we’ve learned here in Omineca and Omineca is well focused to mitigate impacts.”