Region under attack by Spruce Beetle
Red spots on map show infestation in Omineca region, while purple shows where attacks have already turned forests grey – map courtesy BC Gov’t)
Prince George, B.C.- The latest threat to B.C.’s forests is the Spruce Beetle and it is an epidemic.
As the region continues to try and recover from the devastation of the mountain pine beetle, comes a new a threat. It is the Spruce Beetle.
An adult spruce beetle ranges from 4-7 mm in length, about the same length as a grain of rice.
(at right, a Spruce Beetle -image courtesy BC Government)
As of January 2016, the most serious spruce beetle infestation in the province is occurring in the eastern valleys of the Mackenzie Timber Supply Area and in the northern portions of the Prince George Timber Supply Area.
The current infestation has affected 156,000 hectares of forest in the Omineca region, specifically the eastern valleys of the Mackenzie timber supply area and northern portions of the Prince George timber supply area. This is a significant increase from the 7,653 hectares affected in 2013 and is the largest spruce beetle outbreak since the 1980s.
“My riding is significantly impacted by the Spruce beetle” says MLA Mike Morris “Mackenzie is totally reliant on the forest industry, Prince George is, a big part of our economy in Prince George is based on forestry as well. A lot of these trees are mid-term timber supply, so I think it’s important we do everything we can right now to nip this in the bud or as close as we can, so we can make sure our licensees can continue logging and supplying our local mills for years to come. Our forests are not only valuable for the timber, but trappers rely on a mature forest and ( so does) the hunting and guide outfitting business. There are a lot of other industries out there that are reliant on a healthy forest eco-system.”
The province has announced it has set aside $1 million dollars for the new fiscal year to deal with the infestation. Last year, the Province spent $850 thousand on this matter.
The infestation is the result of a perfect storm, with warmer winters, drier summers and wind storms which results in more blowdowns. “When the summer is dry, trees are not at their optimum health, they are more susceptible to infestations” says Heather Wiebe, resource manager in the Mackenzie Natural Resource District. She has been named as the spruce beetle manager to develop a regional spruce beetle management plan.
Wiebe will be forming a public advisory committee that will work with stakeholders, communities and First Nations to develop that regional plan.
There are already some mitigation efforts underway says Weibe, one method uses what are called ‘trap trees’ ” The Spruce Beetle’s favourite food is a very large spruce that’s been blown down in the forest, they are usually large in diameter and in the shade. Then the beetles populate that entire underside of that tree, and it gives them the best food source and best protection in the habitat. What we do is we mimic that natural blow down in the forest by cutting down a healthy tree and we’ll allow the beetles to populate in high amounts in those trees and those trees are then timely removed and milled quickly through a hot milling process, and through the milling process it will kill the adults and the larvae that are living in the log, and that will help bring down the population numbers”. There are more than 2,000 hectares of land right now where the ‘trap tree’ process is being used.
The Chief Forester is monitoring the situation to help ensure a balance between maintaining the mid-term timber supply, requirements of other resource values, such as wildlife habitat and the need for control of the spruce beetle.