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FEATURED COMMENT – Where all the Lorax’s when pine beetle exploded?

Reading this, I begin to wonder where the voices of the people were when the forests in North Central B.C. needed protecting from the Pine Beetle.

The great lie in this province is that the current state of beetle infestation was ‘unavoidable’ and that the beetle’s rise was from many pockets from around B.C. This is simply untrue.

The Pine Beetle had a great incubator: Tweedsmuir Park. Tweedsmuir Park was home to the largest and oldest pine forest in North America, and it is also the biggest provincial park in B.C. that happens to sit right near the heart.

Pine Beetle was first discovered there (by my dad, no less) in around 1994-1996. I was young, but I remember my dad, who worked for the Ministry of Forests, being granted a permit from the Parks branch in 1994 to do a massive controlled burn of a huge area of blown down trees that was making it difficult for wildlife to move and survive.

t was soon after this burn that my dad, flying in a helicopter, discovered a patch of beetle kill pine trees. Winters were getting warmer already, this we knew and the trees were old growth and very susceptible to infestation.

With the warmer winters, the area wasn’t getting the cold snaps needed to control the beetles, not only that, but the Province was mandated by the Parks branch to protect such areas from forest fires, so if and when a fire would start, it would be immediately put out.

My dad was a Lorax, he fought for the future of our forests, however, there were many people who scoffed at him. He wanted to try at first a bit of heli-logging, to remove this small patch of infected trees to protect the larger mass. But when the Parks branch made its voice known, it and the people told him no.

When the mass grew so big as to make any attempt at removal impossible, he asked for permission to burn; he was told no. Years later he was given permission to burn, but by then the climate had changed and the summers were far too wet.

He tried two years in a row, but the fires never took. So, the inevitable happened, the great incubator inside Tweedsmuir park burst its seams and billions upon billions of pine beetles descended upon our forests like a plague of the Bible.

Where were your voices back in 1994-1996 when this devastation could have been avoided? The voices were against all reason. They opted to ‘Protect the sanctity of Tweedsmuir Park’ and, in the meantime, devastated not only the park, but a massive swath of forest in the heart of our province.

You think clear cutting is particularly devastating? Tell that to the trees who succumbed to the beetle in an area that few people ever tread. And when I say devastated, I mean DEVASTATED; nothing compares to the sight of a plantation of 4-inch diameter trees being completely wiped out because the beetles are starving for a place to nest. Or the sound of a forest where the only creature stirring is a wood pecker because all squirrels and other sorts of creatures have moved on for lack of food.

Where were your “Lorax’s”? Sitting at home shouting “protect our forests!!” while the very protection you sought, brought their destruction.

GREGORY MURRAY

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About Mel Rothenburger (4703 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

2 Comments on FEATURED COMMENT – Where all the Lorax’s when pine beetle exploded?

  1. I understand that the pine beetle has now adjusted itself to invading young trees. Then of course, we have the Spruce Bud Worm north of Prince George and the Fir beetle down in the area, Guess that we will not have to many evergreen trees left.

  2. tony brumell // April 11, 2017 at 12:00 PM // Reply

    Thank you Mr Murray for your article.
    You are absolutely correct in stating that the beetle started in Tweedsmuir and got out of control through the shortsightedness of the parks branch.But that is not the whole story. Huge clearcuts and mono culture forrests allowed the beatle to quadruple it’s normal distance of spread, which would have been (without heavy winds) around 100 meters.With these massive clearcuts the beatle was able to move the entire length of the clearcut and infest the forest beyond.When the winter proved to warm to control it, it spread further into the forest where it was eventually logged (ie clearcut) and due to the logging and long distance transportation to centralized mills the beattle was spread to almost every corner of the province by the logging trucks and the equipment that was also moved around.The early maps of infestation showed fingers of infestation following the roads and highways throughout the province.The trees were unpeeled whole logs and carried them far and wide.Maybe even into Alberta.
    Had the forest industry simply cut the whole logs into square “deals” (ie. a squared timber with no bark.This was a historic practice and cut down on the amount of unusable wood that had to be moved out of the forest)The bug may have been less invasive and less damaging.
    Having said that ,”presession is a normal part of forest ecology.This was not the only or even the first pine beattle attack in BC.The country was equally devastated back around the turn of the last century and it will happen again if we continue the same practices and do nothing about global warming.
    I was most upset when I saw industry ,With the help of the forestbranch continue to cut “DENUM” pine.They didn’t know or care that even a dead forest has enough value to maintain much of the wild life within it’s limits.That value runs about 65% of a living forest.Through refugia shade,(to keep the soil cooler) thus maintaing much of the biota of the forest floor alive
    and ready for new growth.
    I went to the Cannum lake forest surround a few years ago and found a living ,vibrant forest,a mixed forest even with all the pine dead.There was no better argument for mixed forest and selective,light mechanical logging practices.Even horse logging on a large scale would benefit the forests ,employ more loggers here and fewer equipment companies in China or Japan.
    I would be happy to go on but you get the idea.IT was to a large extant “our fault”

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