Saturday, June 21, 2008

What to do with pine on your property?

A reader submitted the following question to me by email:

Hello - we own a cabin in the Kootenays with lots of old pine trees not yet affected by the pine beetle. Should we take some of these down now and sell them? We assume the costs will be very high to have them removed once they are devasted by the beetle. Also do you happen to know if the BC govt. (or Canadian govt) is covering any of the costs for removal costs of these dead trees? Thank you for any comments / suggestions. - DT

There isn't one easy answer to this, but here are some points to consider that will help you make a decision.

1. How many pine trees are there and what kind are they? Lodgepole pine and White pine are readily attacked by the mountain pine beetle. Ponderosa pine are less susceptible to MPB, but still may be attacked; and there is another type of bark beetle that attacks ponderosa pine. Are there 10 trees or 100 trees? The more trees you have the more likely you can find a company to buy them for lumber, especially if they are easy to access. If there are fewer trees, you might be better off to use them for firewood, or to find a small outfit that can mill them for you if you want to use the wood yourself (could make for an interesting story, to use wood from your own property to build something). It will be cheaper for an outfit to come and deal with the trees in one shot, rather than multiple trips (e.g.: removing some this year, then again next year).

2. The cost to remove dead pine shouldn't be different than live pine, especially if they are removed soon after the beetle hits. Pine that are hit by beetle in summer 2008 will stay green until summer 2009, when the crown will start to turn red. After the beetle attacks a blue stain appears on the wood, and right now most mills don't want the blue stain wood, they prefer live pine wood that hasn't been attacked (and is more of a yellow/white color). So you would get a lower price for wood, or even have trouble selling, if you sell it after the beetle attacks (though markets could still change). The exception is that some artisans like the blue wood for their specialty products, there is a good article about this in the latest BC Business magazine.

3. As far as I know, there is no government aid to remove pine trees from private property. But it is worth looking into before you make a final decision. Right now Kamloops is in the middle of some heavy attack by pine beetle, so it might be worth contacting an official in Kamloops to see what they are doing for the public. If there is no assistance now, it could be worth waiting because the government may come up with some sort of program to help, but there is no guarantee of this.

4. If the trees add value to your property now, through qualities like shading and aesthetics, and you would keep them if there was no threat of beetle, then I would not remove them yet. Although the main wave of mountain pine beetle hasn't hit the Kootenays yet, I've read that 80 to 90% of all pine will be killed by the time the beetle has run its course. So there is a chance (however small) that your trees may not get attacked. But it's good to have a plan ready, ask around for a good tree removal or tree falling company that can handle the whole job for you. Find some leads on who might want to buy the wood, if you want to sell any. The beetles are starting to fly now, so have an experienced person check the trees in mid-July, and again after summer, to see if there has been any attack (you can do it yourself if you know what to look for - pitch holes). Luckily, it's easy to see the pitch holes in the trees after a beetle attack - they look like popcorn pieces made of tree resin. It's possible that some trees could get hit, and others not, in the same year. If you decide to remove some or all of the trees, it can likely be done in September or October. You don't want dead trees on your property, especially if they could fall and hit a person or a structure. If you have any non-pine trees on your property, you'll have to assess whether to keep those or not if you remove the pine. For example, will removing the pine make the other trees more susceptible to blow down?

I hope this has helped, the key will be to contact somebody in your area who has experience dealing with the beetle and tree removal.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Omineca Beetle Action Coalition receives funding

From news release of June 4.

The Province of BC is providing the Omineca Beetle Action Coalition with $870,000 to continue planning that will sustain mountain pine beetle-impacted communities into the future, Forests and Range Minister Rich Coleman announced today.

“The Omineca Beetle Action Coalition has made good progress identifying new ways to diversify and help stabilize beetle-impacted communities,” said Coleman. “The mining and alternative energy strategies recently completed by OBAC are prime examples of the excellent work the coalition is doing for the Omineca region.”

“The Province is investing in communities in a way that reflects local aspirations and economic prospects that will grow over time,” said Prince George North MLA Pat Bell. “The work being led by OBAC will help accelerate the development of other resource sectors such as agriculture, oil, gas, mining, tourism and recreation.”

OBAC has now received $2.57 million from the Province since September 2005 to plan for the future stability and diversification of affected communities such as Burns Lake, Fort St. James, Fraser Lake, Granisle, Houston, Mackenzie, McBride, Prince George, Smithers, Telkwa, Valemount, Vanderhoof and the regional districts of Bulkley-Nechako and Fraser-Fort George.

Link to news release:

Annual allowable cut decreased in Kamloops TSA

News release from the BC Ministry of Forests and Range (May 28). I think this is a good example of the effects the mountain pine beetle and fire are having on BC interior forests, in general.


VICTORIA – The allowable annual cut for the Kamloops timber supply area will be decreased by about eight per cent to four million cubic metres, chief forester Jim Snetsinger announced today.

The previous allowable annual cut (AAC) was 4.35 million cubic metres. Roughly 1.67 million cubic metres of that AAC was from temporary increases introduced in 2004 to help manage the mountain pine beetle and to salvage fire-damaged timber. The beetle has attacked a cumulative total of about 30 million cubic metres of lodgepole pine in the Kamloops timber supply area.

“Since the last AAC determination, most of the fire-damaged timber in the Kamloops timber supply area has now been harvested,” said Snetsinger. “The new AAC has provisions in place that will continue to focus harvesting in beetle-damaged stands while protecting non-pine timber for the future.”

The new allowable annual cut includes:

· 1.994 million cubic metres per year concentrated on harvesting pine, to help manage the beetle’s spread and support the salvage of attacked trees while they’re still merchantable.

· 200,000 cubic metres per year for harvesting in older cedar and hemlock-leading stands.

· 86,000 cubic metres per year for harvesting in pulpwood agreement area 16.

· 20,000 cubic metres per year for harvesting deciduous-leading stands outside pulpwood agreement area 16 in the Headwaters Forest District.

· A maximum of 1.7 million cubic metres per year for harvesting non-pine outside of the cedar and hemlock, pulpwood agreement, and deciduous partitions. This will be mostly Douglas-fir, spruce and balsam, giving licensees the flexibility to address customer demands. The maximum limit helps protect environmental sustainability and sufficient levels of non-pine stock for mid to long-term needs.

The Kamloops timber supply area covers approximately 2.77 million hectares in south central B.C. Administered by the Headwaters and Kamloops forest districts, it spans several communities, including Ashcroft, Barriere, Chase, Clearwater, Kamloops, Logan Lake, and Vavenby.

Link to news release: