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Spruce beetle outbreak continues to grow

The Ministry of Forests says the spruce beetle outbreak in the northern Omineca has grown rapidly over the past year.

It has now spread to 210,000 hectares, up from 156,000 the same time last year. The majority of the infected forest is around Mackenzie and east of Fort St James.

Considering the mild winter last year, Spruce Beetle manager Heather Wiebe says the growth isn’t all that surprising.

“We knew that the populations at the beginning start out small, and grow from there – so what is startling to see is that some of the area are quite large at this point in time, so they are highly visible from the air as red, dead trees.”

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Going into winter, Wiebe says a cold one would be a solid help for them, but they are not holding their breath. Work continues with trap trees, pheromones and salvage logging. (previous story)

Those salvage logging operations have required the industry to shift gears quite quickly.

“It’s a lot of land, we are going into areas that have not been harvested in a while, and spruce occur on very steep slopes…We haven’t done a lot of cable logging in the north for awhile so it’s bringing that back into the industry.”

A two day spruce beetle summit is being held Wednesday and Thursday in Prince George, bringing together more than 100 experts.

“The intent is that we want to make sure that we are combating this outbreak with best known science. It’s bringing all the people who are working on this together under one roof to make sure we are moving in the right direction.”

The province has committed just under $1.5M to the fight against the beetle.

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