Sharp Decline in Alberta’s Mountain Pine Beetle Population is No Reason to Let Guard Down

A sharp decline in Alberta’s mountain pine beetle population is a positive development for the province’s economy and its forests. But according to Bruce Alexander, general manager of Sundre Forest Products – West Fraser, neither the lumber industry nor the government can let down their guard.

Responding to questions (The Albertan, 1-13-23) about a provincial government press release issued late last year announcing that population surveys indicated for the fourth consecutive year a sharp decline in the number of trees killed by the bugs, Alexander said, “I don’t want to downplay the fact that overall, things could be a whole lot worse. That data is showing us a good news standpoint, provincially. But I don’t think we can assume that its behind us and we’re off to the next issue.”

Mountain pine beetles are said to be the most destructive pine insects in the province.

According to the government statement, “Beetle populations in Alberta have declined 94 percent from their most recent peak in 2019. Sustained periods of widespread, extreme cold increased beetle mortality and have helped to limit population growth.” Nevertheless, aerial surveys completed in August 2022 to identify lodgepole pine trees killed by the pest cover 6.88 million hectares, the government said, adding that those monitoring efforts were focused on areas where beetle populations continue to kill trees.

“To date, more than 2.4 million hectares of Alberta forestland have been affected by the spread of the mountain pine beetle, killing nearly all the pine trees in the most severely affected areas,” the statement added.

However, the government also tempered the positive development by recognizing the enduring looming threat of a resurging population boom in certain areas given the right conditions.

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