Mountain pine beetle in the Hinton region. Photo contributed

Budget to fight mountain pine needles gets a boost

The provincial government included an additional $5 million in the budget to fight mountain pine beetle infestations in the province.

The province says beetle activity increased significantly in 2018 in the Calgary, Rocky Mountain House, Whitecourt and Edson forest areas.

The government is delivering on a campaign province to increase funding for the next four years. The extra funding will increase the management program’s annual budget to $30 million through 2022-2023.

The money will go toward additional ground survey and control work on more than 83,000 hectares.

“The cost of doing nothing is not acceptable,” said Forestry Minister Devin Dreeshen on Thursday.

“We campaigned on this promise and we are reversing four years of the previous government’s cuts. The federal government needs to step up and protect Western Canada’s forests.

“Alberta and Saskatchewan are both funding mountain pine beetle programming and we will continue to press Ottawa to take this seriously.”

The Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA said Canadians only need to look west to B.C. to see the damage done by the mountain pine beetle.

It is a small, black insect about the size of a grain of rice. Beetles fly in search of new trees in July and August.

Once a beetle has found a suitable tree, it will live there for the remainder of its life and lay eggs.

The new generation of beetles will not emerge from the tree for at least a year. Trees attacked by mountain pine beetles usually die within one year.

The value of pine trees susceptible to the beetle is estimated at more than $11 billion.

Since 2006, Alberta has spent more than $500 million controlling mountain pine beetle.

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