An infestation of Douglas-fir bark beetles, like the one seen here, has been stopped near Nelson. But a local forest expert says the provincial infestation is growing out of control. File photo

Douglas-fir beetle infestation is a provincial crisis: B.C. expert

Gerald Cordeiro says a local infestation near Nelson is only the start

The infestation of Douglas-fir bark beetles that took over 90 hectares of forest just outside Nelson is a sign of what one local expert calls an impending provincial catastrophe.

Gerald Cordeiro, a forest development manager with Kalesnikoff Lumber, first alerted Nelson city council to the infestation in October 2017. On Monday he returned to say the infestation had been mostly been removed, but the entire region is vulnerable.

“I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to call it a crisis,” said Cordeiro. “It’s not on the scale of the mountain pine beetle, but fir forests are generally not on the scale of pine forests in B.C., or what we used to have as a pine forest.

“We have some really heavily fir-dominated forests [in the Kootenays], especially on our south and west aspects. We’re going to see some pretty devastating effects.”

Cordeiro said a cutting permit was granted by the forest ministry to remove infested trees. Trap trees, which are fallen healthy trees, were also used to attract beetles. Those trees were in turn taken to a mill and destroyed along with the beetles inside.

Although the majority of the infestation was removed, Cordeiro said beetles still likely exist at the Ward Creek and Wee Selous Creek sites because those locations were not accessible.

He also warned the infestation could return to Selous Creek, which serves as a secondary water source for Nelson that is used in the summer to support the main source at Five Mile Creek.

“You have to continually monitor it because the bugs are very mobile, they fly. We could reduce to an endemic population in one area and they could fly in from a neighbouring watershed in a very short period of time.”

Douglas-fir bark beetles kill trees within one to two years, after which the infested wood cannot be salvaged.

A 2018 report by the provincial government found 78,471 hectares of forest infested by the beetle.

Cordeiro pointed to developing infestations on the North Shore and around Kokaneee Creek, and added some beetles have already been found on private properties within city limits.

“I would say it’s almost becoming ubiquitous in the fir forests around Nelson.”

Fire break proposed

As the infestation grows, so too does the possibility of previously green trees becoming more likely to burn.

Cordeiro said Kalesnikoff has begun a planning process in partnership with the Regional District of Central Kootenay that would build an estimated 150-hectare fire break in the Selous Creek area.

“It involves a sort of light touch, selective cut to remove the most flammable, most at-risk, what we would call climate change loser trees, unfortunately,” he said.

“Those being cedar and hemlock that carry that really scary Crown fire. So the idea is to reduce the amounts of those trees, open the canopy up a little bit, [and] promote more broad leaf species and brush.”

Cordeiro added the company will engage in public consultation as part of the planning.

He also said he’s exploring how agroecology, which is the study of how ecological processes can be applied to agricultural production, might be used to find new uses for land undergoing fuel mitigation.

As forests are thinned and canopies opened up, Cordeiro said, the space can still be used to provide for societal needs such as food security.

“I don’t have all the answers right now but I feel the concept is good, that we can get back some other benefits from those forests so we’re not just managing them for timber or aesthetics,” he said.

“We’re going to be managing them for fire hazard so let’s take advantage of whatever opportunity that throws at us.”

Related: Forester’s video animation helps explain Nelson’s wildfire risks



tyler.harper@nelsonstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

West Kootenay couple escapes Spain – safe, sound, and in self-isolation

BC couple Garrett Kucher and Tory Apostoliuk make it home after almost a week of lockdown in Spain

Hospital’s Chief of Staff asks residents for help containing COVID-19

Invermere & District Hospital Chief of Staff says COVID-19 cases here, caution and care needed

Social media a blessing and a curse during time of crisis: B.C. communication expert

‘In moments of crisis, fear is very real and palpable,’ says SFU’s Peter Chow-White

Interior Health officials outline pandemic response in virtual town hall

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick moderates digital discussion, Q&A with Interior Health leadership

MP Morrison touts non-partisan effort to provide relief amid COVID-19 pandemic

The federal government has announced a slew of economic initiatives for those impacted by the pandemic

B.C. records first at-home death from COVID-19, but 70+ hospital patients have recovered

Total of 970 novel coronavirus cases in B.C., with the majority in the Lower Mainland area

District reports case of COVID-19 in Elkford

Owner Ahmed El-Maddah requests any customer who visited pharmacy on March 17 self-isolate

BC Ferries able to restrict travel for sick passengers

Ferries working on schedule shifts to keep workers safe

Canada expands 75% wage subsidy to COVID-19 affected businesses of all sizes: Trudeau

Program will provide up to $847 per week for each worker

Pay parking suspended at B.C. hospitals due to COVID-19

Temporary free parking reduces need for keypads, contact

Helping those at risk, one piece of paper at a time through ‘isolation communication’

Simple paper tool during pandemic making its way across Canada thanks to social media.

‘Back to school, in a virtual way’ for B.C. students in COVID-19 pandemic

Province adds online resources to help parents at home

Canadian COVID-19 round-up: Air Canada cuts 15,000 jobs, 90% of flights

Comprehensive Canadian news update as of 2:30 p.m., Monday, March 30.

Most Read