Management of a Spruce Beetle Outbreak near Prince George
Monitoring response to spruce beetle outbreak needs improvement
VICTORIA – An investigation of a public complaint about a spruce bark beetle outbreak in north-central B.C. has found that the forest industry is making progress in recovering beetle-damaged timber.
The Forest Practices Board recommends that government improve monitoring of industry’s response and report to the public about how the outbreak is being managed.
A spruce bark beetle infestation has been killing spruce trees in the Omineca region since approximately 2014. In March 2021, the board received a complaint from members of the public about Canfor’s and BC Timber Sales’ (BCTS) response in the Prince George Natural Resource District. The complainants are concerned that the licensees are favouring lightly attacked and healthy forests, rather than harvesting the most severely infested trees, and that this has implications for the region’s future timber supply.
“Our investigation found that Canfor and BCTS are making progress in harvesting infested and dead spruce trees, but the complainant’s concerns are still valid,” said Gerry Grant, board member, Forest Practices Board. “Responding to the outbreak is challenging because some severely affected areas are deferred or reserved from harvest to address other forest values, like wildlife habitat. Many are in remote and steep terrain, and some are not economic to recover.”
The investigation also looked at government’s efforts in managing the infestation and found that while the Ministry of Forests has provided guidance to licensees to focus their harvesting on severely infested stands, the ministry has not consistently monitored licensee activities to see if the direction is being followed and has not reported to the public on the status of the response.
“The board is recommending that the ministry implement a monitoring process and publicly report on licensees’ efforts to manage the infestation, “said Grant. “It’s important for the public to know how the outbreak is being handled and how public forests are being managed in the affected area.”
The outbreak is primarily in the Omineca Natural Resource Region, which is approximately nine million hectares and includes the Prince George, Mackenzie and Stuart Nechako natural resource districts. It overlaps the territories of more than a dozen First Nations.
Spruce beetles occur in patches dotted across the landscape, rather than being concentrated in a specific area, and do not usually kill all the spruce trees in affected forests. Beetles feed on the inner bark of weakened trees, but may also affect healthy trees if the infestation becomes significant. Spruce beetle infestations occur naturally and typically last seven or eight years, but the current outbreak has been made worse by the warming climate.
The Forest Practices Board is B.C.’s independent watchdog for sound forest and range practices, reporting its findings and recommendations directly to the public and government. The board investigates public complaints about forest and range practices on public lands and the appropriateness of government enforcement. It can also make recommendations for improvement to practices and legislation.
Forest Practices Board
Phone: 250 480-8594 / 1 800 994-5899
Manager of Audits and Investigations
Forest Practices Board
Phone: 250 213 4731