“It’s an epidemic,” Mayor Brad Layton said at last Tuesday’s Telkwa Council meeting describing the spruce beetle outbreak. He wants more to be done to stop the infestation and said those in charge of it are doing a ‘piss-poor’ job.
The total estimated spruce beetle attack in the Omineca Region is approximately 341,000 hectares, most of which is in the Prince George Natural Resource District. This is up from approximately 210,000 hectares of spruce beetle-infested forest detected in 2016.
“Right now we are heading into the sixth or seventh year and if you look at a map around Mackenzie there is a big red blob,” Layton said. “It is starting to remind me of the early days of mountain pine beetle and we’ve lost a majority of our pine. Right now we have the spruce beetle and the ministry isn’t doing anything, they are just tracking it.”
The effect of spruce beetles differs from the pine beetle in that it is harder to identify trees that have been affected. It can take over a year for trees to display signs of stress after being attacked. During a mountain pine beetle infestation the colour of the needles change dramatically.
However, Layton said this beetle can be stopped easily.
“We are losing a resource for the future, we are seeing curtailments and the downturn in our industry. One of the big things is lack of fibre and here we are letting a beetle, which is easily controlled, run wild.”
He added the NDP government has not allocated nearly enough money to stop the problem.
“Spruce beetle live on a two-year cycle and don’t fly a great distance from the first year to the second,” he explained. “They are also very susceptible to trap trees which will suck them in and you can deal with them. In the past, for small epidemics that didn’t get to this size because they were dealt with, the government had things in place where trap trees programs were done on every road that had spruce trees. Within a couple of years, we knocked spruce beetle back.”
The provincial government’s website states that the government is closely monitoring the situation to minimize any impacts on timber supply, the forest industry and forestry jobs and will continue to work with forest licensees and other stakeholders to identify affected areas, evaluate population control methods and determine the most effective ways to limit the current outbreak.
A public advisory committee with representation from communities, First Nations and key stakeholders has been providing input into a regional spruce beetle plan.
Layton has asked Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations Doug Donaldson for a meeting during the upcoming UBCM convention which takes place September 23-27 to discuss the issue but he has not heard back.
“This is our future, it is our community’s future,” added Layton. “If we want to keep a timber industry, they need to start funding it appropriately.”