Forest fires suggested to fight pine beetles

Alberta’s forest industry wants Ottawa to use large, controlled fires to keep the mountain pine beetle from spreading east into the rest of Canada.

EDMONTON — Alberta’s forest industry wants Ottawa to use large, controlled fires to keep the mountain pine beetle from spreading east into the rest of Canada.

Crews have reported that swarms of the tree-killing insects flew into Alberta this summer from British Columbia and the mountain parks. The province warns that the new infestation threatens the boreal forest, the forest industry, jobs and the environment.

The Alberta Forest Products Association says it’s time for the federal government to shift the fight against the beetles from B.C. — where the bugs have already destroyed one-quarter of mature lodgepole pine trees — to Alberta, where they have penetrated as far east as the Slave Lake area.

“It is my position that the federal government needs to focus on the leading edge of the beetle attack,” Brady Whittaker, the association’s executive director, said Friday.

“We want to ensure that the federal government plays an active roll in monitoring and trying to stay ahead of the beetle so it is minimized as it moves into Saskatchewan.”

Whittaker said the industry would like Ottawa to pledge at least $50 million in the first year of a five-year beetle fight in Alberta and develop a joint control strategy.

One proposal being considered is that the federal government would take responsibility for preventing the tiny insects from spreading into the boreal, which runs across much of northern Canada. Some scientists believe the beetles could start attacking jack pine forests.

Whittaker said the strategy could include using controlled fires to burn away belts of pine timber in the beetles’ path.

“It might be burning to ensure that the leading edge doesn’t migrate east. By doing prescribed burns you will minimize the flight of the beetle as it moves east.”

Alberta would deal with infected pine and would let companies cut entire stands of timber instead of removing single infested trees, Whittaker said.

Burned and harvested areas would then be replanted with lodgepole pine.

Whittaker said the Prime Minister’s Office has told the industry that Environment Canada and Natural Resources Canada are working with Alberta on a new beetle plan.

“What really needs to be done is to ensure that we have long-term funding, not a one-off thing,” he said. “This is not just a provincial issue; this is a national issue. These bugs will move east.”

Allan Carroll, a University of British Columbia forestry professor, has called the new beetle migration into Alberta a “worst-case scenario” and predicts the bugs will show up in jack pine forests much sooner than expected.

Carroll said earlier this week that it would makes sense for Ottawa to shift its efforts to Alberta.

Natural Resources Canada officials were not immediately available for comment. There is no word on how much money in total the province wants from the federal government.

Conservative MP Rob Merrifield, whose Yellowhead riding in northwest Alberta is ground zero for the infestation, said Ottawa is aware of the problem and has already spent millions of dollars to try to slow the spread of the bugs.

In 2007, the government announced it would spend $200 million over three years, but most of that cash went to British Columbia.

Merrifield said Ottawa is helping to fund projects in Alberta that would allow companies to burn beetle-killed wood for electricity or use wood fibre in newsprint or other products. But he said stopping the spread of the insects is the top priority and there is no question the Harper government understands the problem.

“Now is the time to attack it aggressively. Let’s attack this like we have a forest fire.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The interchange at Highway 2 and McKenzie Road at the south end of Gasoline Alley is being redesigned with two roundabouts. Detours will be in place at either end of the overpass during construction, which is expected to begin this month and finish in October. (Graphic from Red Deer County)
Roudabouts coming to McKenzie Road overpass at Gasoline Alley

Project expected to improve traffic flow at busy intersections

A federal strategy to preserve threatened trout could conflict with provincial coal leases in the Eastern Slopes of the Rockies. (Contributed photo by Jeff Lund).
Federal regulations could save Alberta’s bull trout by shutting down mining plans, says biologist

Ottawa’s new strategy identifies a 30-metre protected area along rivers and streams

(Contributed image)
Wolf Creek Public Schools will not participate in curriculum pilot

Central Alberta school jurisdiction joins others across Alberta

Jennifer Lopez, left, and Alex Rodriguez take a selfie as they arrive at the 26th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in January 2020. VAX Live: The Concert to Reunite the World will showcase Lopez. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP, File)
Selena Gomez and J.Lo headline vax concert for poor nations

NEW YORK — Backed by an international concert hosted by Selena Gomez… Continue reading

A vial of the vaccine by Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a company owned by Johnson & Johnson. Federal health officials in the U.S. said early Tuesday they were urging a pause in the use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine after reports of six serious blood clots, and officials in Washington state and around the country quickly complied. (Aristide Economopoulos/NJ Advance Media)
How J&J and AstraZeneca differ from the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna

Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine has hit a stumbling block in… Continue reading

An emergency response worker carries an air monitoring device at the site of a crude oil spill at a Trans Mountain Pipeline pump station in Abbotsford, on Sunday, June 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Failed fitting caused 190,000-litre spill at Trans Mountain site in B.C.: TSB

VANCOUVER — A Transportation Safety Board report says the failure of a… Continue reading

Ottawa
Indigenous leaders, experts urge Ottawa to quickly pass UNDRIP bill before election

OTTAWA — Indigenous leaders and legal experts are pushing federal lawmakers to… Continue reading

Visitors to a roadside memorial pay their respects in Portapique, N.S., on Friday, April 24, 2020. The Canadian Red Cross confirmed today it has collected $6.2 million in donations to help the families in rural Nova Scotia affected by the mass shooting last spring that claimed 22 lives. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Red Cross collects $6.2 million for families affected by Nova Scotia mass shooting

HALIFAX — Canadians and people from around the world donated $6.2 million… Continue reading

Hindu devotees wearing face masks as a precautionary measure against the coronavirus stand in a queue to offer prayers inside a temple dedicated to goddess Kali in Jammu, India, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. New infections have surged in the past month and India has now reported over 13.6 million cases — pushing its toll past Brazil, and making it second only to the United States. In the past 24 hours, over 160,000 new infections have been detected and experts fear that the worst is yet to come. (AP Photo/Channi Anand)
Johnson & Johnson delays shot rollout in Europe

BERLIN — Johnson & Johnson says it is delaying the rollout of… Continue reading

Restaurant workers and restaurant delivery workers wait in line to sign up for Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine at a mobile vaccine site, Wednesday, April 7, 2021, in the Sunset Park neighborhood of New York. The mobile vaccination effort includes two buses equipped with four to six vaccinators each, delivering the COVID-19 vaccine directly to communities most in need. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
US recommends ‘pause’ for J&J vaccine over clot reports

WASHINGTON — The U.S. is recommending a “pause” in using the single-dose… Continue reading

FILE-Team Canada’s Meaghan Mikkelson fights for control of the puck with U.S.A.’s Hayley Scamurra during third period of Women’s Rivalry Series hockey action in Vancouver, Wednesday, February 5, 2020. Gina Kingsbury, Hockey Canada’s director of women’s national teams, hopes a Rivalry Series against the United States can happen this winter.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michael Dwyer
Canadian women’s hockey team to open selection camp in Nova Scotia

Six goaltenders, 15 defenders and 26 forwards will vie for spots on Canada’s 23-player roster

Most Read