OTTAWA – The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has asked for immediate federal funding to stop the spread of the destructive mountain pine beetle as it threatens to spread across the country.
Chamber CEO Perrin Beatty says in a letter sent to Natural Resource Minister Amarjeet Sohi that warmer winters have allowed the beetle to spread east and that the threat is at a critical juncture.
“The infestation will soon be in reach of the forests that border Alberta and Saskatchewan. If this forest becomes infested, there will be a clear path for the beetle to spread across the rest of Canada,” wrote Beatty.
Alberta has been largely left to fund efforts to keep the beetle at bay, spending more than $500 million since 2004 to control the beetle’s population, he said.
The federal government should recognize that the infestation is of national significance and to provide funding to match the threat, starting with $100 million to help fund Alberta’s efforts, he said.
“Without support, the impacts of the pine beetle on our forestry sector and the public safety of rural communities will be significant and long lasting.”
A spokeswoman for Sohi said the minister thanks the chamber for its input, but did not commit to specific funding.
“We understand the threats that forest pests pose to Canada’s forests and we remain committed to supporting healthy forest ecosystems and good middle class jobs,” said Vanessa Adams by email.
“While provinces manage their own Mountain Pine Beetle detection and control programs, we are working closely with provinces, industry, and universities to find real solutions.”
According to a report to the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers, British Columbia lost more than half of its salable pine timber between 1995 and 2015 due to the beetle, which will cause the provincial economy to lose out on tens of billions of dollars in the coming decades.
Beetle-ravaged trees also burn at higher temperatures, making forest fires more severe and harder to control.