Mountain Pine Beetle Backgrounder
From 1994 to 2002, the City worked with the BC Ministry of Forests to eradicate 100% of the beetle infested trees to keep ahead of the growing mountain pine beetle infestation. This removal of infested trees was seen as a way of reducing the rate of spread of the mountain pine beetle. However, by 2002 with sustained warmer winters, the infestation of the mountain pine beetle overwhelmed the interior of BC and Prince George. By the winter of 2002/2003, 80 logging trucks of beetle attacked trees were removed from City and school sites. The infestation continued its severe and aggressive spread, so that by the 2004/2005 winter over 220 truckloads of dead pine were removed.
By 2004, the City focused more attention to addressing the growing wildfire hazards stemming from the dead pine trees, and began securing grant funding through the Union of BC Municipalities’ (UBCM) newly established Fire Fuel Treatment Funding program, funded by Federal mountain pine beetle grant funds transferred to the Province. A Wildland/Urban Interface Wildfire Management Strategy (also known as the City’s Community Wildfire Protection Plan) was completed for the City by June 2005 and the City’s Mountain Pine Beetle and Community Wildfire Protection programs were launched.
The plan provided the guidance to identify the highest priority areas for focusing the resources of the wildfire hazard reduction work. The highest priority areas were those that had the highest amounts of pine, were operationally feasible and posed the greatest hazard for public safety, property, infrastructure, and livelihoods. The initial highest priority sites were also estimated, collectively, to be of a reasonable scale that could be addressed within a 5-6 year time frame. By November 2006, a 5-year Probationary Community Forest Agreement (CFA) was put in place to streamline the removal of dead pine and reduce wildfire hazards on Crown land within the City. The overall community wildfire protection program has successfully reduced wildfire hazards in the interface zones between urban and forested areas as well as in parks, greenbelts and in the Community Forest within the City.
In 2005, Council began approving City funds annually to lever Federal funds through a partnership with Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC) assisting city residents in removing the abundant slash and woody debris from dead pines on their private properties. This program, which evolved into the Job Creation Program, through Service Canada, has assisted 1,368 residential properties with beetle tree debris removal and completed debris removal and wildfire reduction projects in a number of City parks, greenbelts and alleys.
As of March 2010, staff reported that since 2005 the City had leveraged $6.73 million in grant funding from the combined $1.2 million of City funds committed by Council to operate the Mountain Pine Beetle and Community Wildfire Protection programs. Since then, staff have secured and spent an additional $1.59 million in grant funding through the 2010 year and up to May 2011.
Grant funding from the Provincial and the Federal governments have been necessary to undertake the mountain pine beetle and wildfire hazard mitigation work within the city. The focus on dead pine removal and the low market value of the dead pine means low revenues from selling the logs. In addition, operational costs for wildfire hazard mitigation within the city are many times more expensive that conventional harvesting due to:
1. Chipping and grinding slash and woody debris onsite rather than burning in order to address air quality concerns;
2. Higher level of public and neighborhood consultation and communication;
3. Added public safety management with operations close to homes and in parks and recreation sites;
4. Favouring selective harvesting and partial cutting to maintain aesthetic quality;
5. Use of small equipment and hand-work to have a “light on the ground” impact, and;
6. Addressing access constraints, utilities, steep slopes, and numerous small sites.
By 2011, the City’s Mountain Pine Beetle and Community Wildfire Protection programs have achieved the following hazard tree and wildfire hazard treatments:
Ø 154 small municipal site tree removals;
Ø 37 larger municipal sites (about 227 Ha. of parks and greenbelts);
Ø 9 major Community Forest sites;
Ø The Cranbrookhill Greenway;
Ø The UNBC Connector Trail;