Tree planters urge immediate action on beetle-killed forests

VANCOUVER – Members of the Western Silvicultural Contractors’ Association (WSCA) are calling for immediate action to revitalize tree planting efforts in British Columbia in the wake of an alarming study by the Canadian Forest Services (CFS) pointing to beetle-killed forests in the province as a major source of greenhouse gas emissions.

The report, released today, is the first to examine the impact on greenhouse gas emissions from the 11 million hectares (an area the size of England) of dead or dying forests killed off by the mountain pine beetle.

The report stated the beetle-killed trees, as they decay, can spew a billion tonnes of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere which is five times the amount of greenhouse gases emitted annually by the entire Canadian transportation sector. The report called for the removal of the dead trees for use in bio-energy operations or for lumber and prompt reforestation of those stands.

WSCA Executive Director John Betts said in response to the study’s findings that “it is unfortunate this wake-up call comes at a time when planting is actually in decline in our province. We are anticipating planting levels of about 190 million trees in 2009, which is down from an average of 250 million trees annually.”

“We have been advocating for some time that planting must be accelerated to help deal with the impact of the mountain pine beetle at a time when we have the capacity to deal with the problem,” noted Betts.

“But we also recognize that the beetle plague is a global problem and that our province cannot deal on its own with an event of this magnitude” he said. “Other levels of government must step up to the plate and actively participate in restoring our forests to health.”

Meanwhile, Betts warned that both the planting and nursery industries are at risk of failing if the current downward trend in planting goes on for much longer. “If we were called on today, we have the capacity to produce and plant 400 million trees a year. If we lose that capacity over the next two years due to the downturn in the forest industry, B.C. will not be in a position to plant at the previous levels.”

Besides the degraded forests pouring greenhouse gases into the atmosphere over the next decades Betts pointed out that massive wildfires will do the same thing, but over a much shortertime frame. “We must first deal with the growing wildfire threat to protect the immediate forest values that make up our watersheds, precious wildlife habitat and our own communities,” he said.

The WSCA represents 60 B.C. member companies and has been supporting policies and developing initiatives dedicated to maintaining healthy forests, a clean environment and responsible practices for 27 years.

For additional information please contact:

John Betts
Executive Director
Western Silvicultural Contractors’ Association
Phone: 250-229-4380
hotpulp@netidea.com

For additional contacts or information call:

Bill McIntyre
250-706-0215