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Alberta’s War on Pine Forest Misguided and Destructive


The Alberta government's all-out war on mountain pine beetle (MPB) will seriously harm our forests and wildlife, will cost over $20 million of taxpayers' money, and is destined to fail.  CPAWS and AWA are calling for a more rational approach to deal with MPB including, preserving caribou habitat, investing in a value-added wood products industry, re-evaluating fire suppression strategies, and combating climate change.

"The pine beetles have invaded Alberta for one simple reason --the climate is now warm enough to support them," says Rick Schneider, Conservation Director with the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.  "We know from B.C.'s experience that stopping the beetle is impossible.  The Canadian Forest Service has confirmed that intervention to bring the epidemic under control is NOT feasible. So instead of wasteful and destructive efforts to the stop the beetle we need to develop plans for living with it," says Schneider.

"The strategies planned by government and industry in Alberta to stop the pine beetle are the same strategies that failed in B.C., and the public is not being presented with alternative approaches," says David Samson, Conservation Specialist with Alberta Wilderness Association. "They are wasting the taxpayers' money with a frantic, undisciplined approach.  Our forests and wildlife − woodland caribou in particular − will be the casualties of those strategies."

Caribou and other species associated with old-growth forests are of particular concern because their habitat is targeted for early liquidation.  Recovery teams for caribou herds in the Eastern Slopes have been designing strategies to maintain or increase caribou habitat.  Under the new MPB policy, the forestry companies are now being forced to log in caribou habitat, threatening to wipe out the caribou and the work of these government-initiated teams.

"Forests and wildlife have evolved with natural disturbances such as fire and insect outbreaks, and can cope with them," says Schneider. "What they can't deal with are massive clear-cuts and extensive road networks built to low standards."

Some adjustment to existing harvest plans in order to salvage wood that is likely to be lost to the beetle is reasonable; however, the overall amount of cut should not be increased and state-of-the-art forestry practices, such as leaving residual structure and residual islands, should be used.  Moreover, when selecting harvest sites, areas of high conservation value, such as caribou habitat, should be avoided.

AWA & CPAWS believes taxpayer dollars would be better allocated to addressing root causes of MPB epidemics, like climate change and fire suppression policies, rather than on strategies that have failed elsewhere.

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Contacts:
Richard Schneider, Conservation Director, CPAWS Edmonton - 780-662-4233
David Samson, Conservation Specialist, AWA - 403-283-2025

For an MPB fact sheet, visit:<a href="http://www.cpaws-edmonton.org"> http://www.cpaws-edmonton.org</a> or <a href="http://www.albertawilderness.ca/">www.albertawilderness.ca</a>.