VICTORIA Forests Minister Pat Bell begs to differ with the report from Central 1 Credit Union that projects more than 11,000 jobs will be lost by the time the pine beetle infestation runs its course in B.C.
Bell says the credit union economists used data from 2005-06 for their calculations, which led to the conclusion that B.C. will have lost 68 per cent of its mature pine forests by the time the beetle kill subsides in 2024.
Bell says there have been a couple of updates that have changed estimates of how much timber supply is going to drop off due to the worst infestation ever recorded in B.C. One is that the shelf life of beetle-killed trees has been longer than initially calculated, allowing for increasing salvage of the dead wood.
The other is that the level of destruction isn’t as high in some areas as it was in the central Interior, where lodgepole pine is most dominant and where the infestation peaked around 2005.
“The total kill appears to be dropping, particularly in the Kootenay region,” Bell said. “We’re not seeing the level of expansion that we thought may take place. That could be as a result of the mix of species in the area.”
The beetle kill peaked in 2005 in the Prince George, Quesnel and Vanderhoof areas, and in 2006 in the Cariboo and Kamloops regions.
It has spread to the east and south and is expected to peak this year in the Robson Valley, southeast of Prince George. Infestation is expected to peak in 2011 in the Dawson Creek and Merritt timber management areas, followed by the Arrow, Bulkley and Fort St. John areas in 2012.
The peak reaches Boundary, Invermere, Kootenay Lake, Okanagan and Cassiar areas in 2013, and the Cranbrook and Golden region in 2014.
One unpleasant surprise has been the westward movement into the Smithers area, running against the prevailing winds that have mainly carried the infestation eastward into Alberta.
Faced with projections of a steep drop in harvestable wood, the forests ministry is also changing the way it calculates timber supply. In the Prince George region, it has been assumed that logs can be economically trucked to a mill with a cycle time of seven and a half hours, including loading, unloading and return trip.
By extending that maximum cycle time by an hour, and also taking in areas with 10 per cent less merchantable timber per hectare than the historic minimum, the Prince George region can make up all the allowable cut lost to beetle infestation, Bell said.