The Pine Beetle Cometh

While the Interior of BC has been ravaged by the Pine Beetle, folks in the Peace have seemed a little?smug. With a continental divide separating here from there, the prevailing attitude has been one of ?we?ll never see it here.?

Think again. In just a few short months, the Peace Region has become ground zero for the next Pine Beetle infestation. Both Canfor and West Fraser have declared Emergency Timber Harvesting areas to try and combat the infestation, and ground zero for this war in the woods is the forests west of Tumbler Ridge.

The area around Monkman Park seems to be the hardest hit, as both Canfor and West Fraser are moving into the area. Fortunately, the poor weather we?ve had this spring has had a negative effect on the pine beetle, too. ?We?re find that the beetles mostly died off in April and May,? says Brian Pate, XXX with West Fraser. ?We might find one tree out of ten that still has live beetles, and even then, there?s only about a 10% survival rate.

The areas hardest hit are Club Creek, along the Murray River Valley to about Kinuseo Creek, and a few kilometres up Bulley Creek. Surprisingly, the areas on the west side of the Murray are relatively unaffected. Says Pate: ?You don?t see many beetles on the far side of the river. They only go a stone?s throw up the river; you won?t find them more than a mile up Imperial or Hook Creeks.?

Neither Canfor nor West Fraser expects to be be operating in the Monkman area this summer, but plan to go in the winter, when the beetles are dormant. ?If you log now, you?ll just spread them? says Pate.

Right now, says Pate, the area here looks like the forest has a case of the measles, with patches of red trees dotting the landscape. This is a far cry from the interior, where thousands of acres of trees stand dead. Pate says that, while the Peace District may have dodged the bullet this season, he doesn?t know what the next few years will bring. The beetles travel on the wind, and if they catch a good current, who knows how far into this area they?ll come?

Even so, Pate is cautiously optimistic: ?Our climate is different here than in the interior, so they might not be able to become as established here.?