Mountain Pine Beetle
Published by the David Suzuki Foundation
Nov 20, 2003
1. Clearcutting will not stop the spread of the mountain pine beetle. In
fact, more logging will actually make forests prone to future and more
devastating beetle outbreaks.
In their original state, BC’s (and Alberta's) forests contain many tree species –
and this is one of the ways nature fights outbreaks like the current
pine beetle epidemic.
The current and planned approach of the Ministry of Forests is to
clearcut and replant with one type of tree, which creates a
monoculture. The ministry’s approach creates forests that do not have
the diversity in age and species of trees needed to fight insect
Adult bark beetle image from an electron microscope
Photo by Leslie Manning, Canadian Forest Service
2. Beetles occur naturally in our forests, but we currently have an
epidemic because we have upset the balance of nature through fire
suppression, logging methods, and global warming.
Fire suppression: Controlling forest fires has created the
perfect conditions for major insect outbreaks. Fires occur naturally in
forests and when we don’t allow this to happen, the perfect conditions
are set for major insect epidemics. Natural fires also prevent the
accumulation of dead wood that can result in abnormally large and
uncontrollable fires. Because fire suppression is a key part of BC
forest management, our forests are giant tinderboxes as we saw with
recent disasters in interior forests.
Forest Management: Overwhelmingly, clearcutting is the most
common method of forest management in BC. This, along with replanting
the same age and species of trees, has removed the necessary diversity
in our forests making them more susceptible to beetles infestations and
Climate Change: Normally, beetle populations are controlled by
winter cold snaps that kill off beetle larvae. Global warming has
resulted in mild winters and such cold snaps have not occurred for
several years. We can expect our lives to be further impacted if the
planet continues to heat up.
Forest fire disasters in British Columbia in summer 2003 and the
interior mountain pine beetle epidemic are proof that we must take a
more holistic approach to forest management. Government and industry’s
usual reaction to such disasters is to hastily decide to log, including
logging in parks, which is a short-term and ineffective solution.
Long-term solutions can be found if we use more environmentally
responsible logging methods and replant forests with mixed species of
trees that more closely resemble their natural state.
3. Increasing logging rates to stop the spread of the mountain pine
beetle is an economic – not an ecological – solution
Clearcut logging has never stopped a mountain pine beetle
outbreak, so cutting huge swaths of forest doesn’t mean beetles will be
obliterated and that future outbreaks won’t occur. The Chilcotin area,
in BC’s interior, experienced a massive pine beetle outbreak in the
1970s and ‘80s, and the government responded by allowing huge clearcuts
in an effort to solve the problem. Not only did this not stop the beetle
from spreading through area forests, the social, economic and ecological
problems this caused are still being felt in the region.
In order to encourage healthy forests for the future, forest
managers should employ methods that mimic natural disturbances. These
include thinning the forest, partial cutting or selective logging, and
prescribed burns, which would re-establish mixed-species forests. These
forests would be less prone to insect outbreaks and more resilient to
fight future epidemics.
All of the salvage logging allowed to date has done nothing to
prevent the spread of the mountain pine beetle.
4. Why no logging in parks?
Not only will more logging make the problem worse, but it jeopardizes
the integrity of the small amount of parks in British Columbia.
Currently, only 12 per cent of the province’s land base is protected in
parks, but two-thirds of this is rock and ice and sub-alpine,
lower-quality forest. Very little old-growth forest is under protection.
Parks are created to preserve the ecological blueprint of natural
ecosystems. Over time, they are needed to protect species and to show
how natural systems work, such as how they fight disease like the
current pine beetle outbreak.
Here's an article that hits a little closer to home
Keeping the Bugs at Bay, from the June, 2006 edition of Alberta Venture magazine