BC government expands spruce beetle containment efforts near Mackenzie

Photo by Jacques Regad, University of Georgia and the USDA Forest Service/Wikimedia Commons

PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. – The provincial government has announced that it will be ramping up efforts to control the population of spruce beetles that have infested forests in Northern B.C.

After an inventory of spruce beetle-damaged forest was updated in the Prince George and Mackenzie districts, data shows that the number of hectares that have been affected compared to this time last year have increased, according to preliminary results of aerial surveys over the summer.

The total estimated spruce beetle attack in these areas is about 210,000 hectares, 137,000 hectares of which is in the Prince George district. In October 2015, the annual overview survey detected 156,000 hectares of spruce beetle-infested forest in the entire Omineca Region. The latest figures are based on preliminary data from the 2016 overview survey.

The spruce beetle is native to the province. Recorded outbreaks have occurred periodically since the 1940s, each one typically lasting six to eight years. Recent weather patterns, including warm springs, dry summers, warm winters and windstorms have all contributed to the increase in spruce beetle populations in the Omineca region.

While the current spruce beetle outbreak is a concern, the potential for damage is not on the same scale as the mountain pine beetle outbreak that has had a major effect on timber supply in B.C.’s Interior.

The updated information was released in advance of a two-day spruce beetle summit scheduled in Prince George on Wednesday and Thursday. This summit is expected to draw 100 academics, researchers, stakeholders and government staff to discuss best practices and the latest research on spruce beetle management.

Earlier this summer, the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations committed $480,000 for spruce beetle detection, in addition to the $1 million previously announced for the years 2016 and 2017.

Ongoing and aggressive control actions include a focus on logging spruce beetle-infested trees on the timber-harvesting land base and using “trap” trees in areas outside the timber-harvesting land base. Some licensees have also been actively harvesting infested trees in an effort to slow the beetle’s spread.

The Omineca region contains 9,018,763 hectares of forest, with 4,728,782 hectares available for logging. Spruce represents about 22% of the average annual timber harvest in B.C.’s Interior over the past five years.

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