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A northern forest industry group is putting together an aggressive strategy to combat the spread of mountain pine beetles…

A northern forest industry group is putting together an aggressive strategy to combat the spread of mountain pine beetles, which includes storing infested timber in lakes.

The Northern Forest Products Association hopes to have the plan — which is still in draft stage — ready to present to the next premier of B.C. following an election which must be called by the end of June. The strategy — which includes an aggressive treeplanting plan — would also require natural disaster funding from the federal government.

“Essentially, I want to put a plan together that we can look back on and say industry and government did everything humanly possible to address the beetle expansion,” NFPA president Greg Jadrzyk said this week following a presentation to the Yellowhead Rotary club. “And this is not the case. We’ve made some tremendous gains and we’re trying to catch up, but the point is there’s still numerous things we could have done.”

About $79 million was to be spent in the Central Interior this winter to log more than 250,000 truck loads of beetle-infested timber, building roads and tracking the beetle.

But that’s considered a holding action.

The lake storage would allow an increase in logging to combat the devastating spread of the beetles because the timber could be turned into lumber later, which in turn will help to mitigate the economic impact of the epidemic. Other parts of the strategy include getting the B.C. government to declare the beetle-infested area an emergency management zone, where necessary action is not held up by paperwork, said Jadrzyk.

Four years after the lodgepole pine are attacked, the trees are only good for turning into pulp. It means less revenue for the province and less value for the timber for forest companies. The industry estimates $3.4 billion in timber is at risk.

The latest B.C. Forest Service data on the beetle epidemic — largest ever in B.C. or Canada — shows a doubling or tripling in the infestation. Despite the fact the beetles didn’t lay as many eggs because of a wet summer, the survival rate is expected to be strong because of the mild winter. The beetles kill lodgepole pine by eating out the inner bark to lay their eggs and introducing a fungus which impedes the tree’s flow of water. Experts say exceptionally warm, dry springs and summers in 1997 and 1998 allowed the infestation to spread rapidly. The beetles have also been helped by back-to-back mild winters.