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Government Pine Beetle Management Distorts the Science and Threatens Watersheds

  • Published on Aug 07 2007 |
  • This article is tagged as: alberta

Alberta Sustainable Resource Development (SRD) seems to be manipulating the science regarding mountain pine beetle (MPB) and logging effects on watersheds. Worse yet, SRD continues to ignore conservation and watershed groups who are attempting to provide the government with the correct information. If government proceeds with their misguided plans communities will face increased flooding risk and reduction in long term water flows to meet their annual needs.

"Dr. Morton, Minister of SRD, continues to mislead his fellow Albertan\'s by promoting the wrong interpretation of a scientific report," says Helene Walsh, of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society- Northern Alberta Chapter. "Based on his interpretation of the report Dr. Morton suggests that block clear-cut logging in a pine beetle infestation is better for watersheds than a pine beetle infestation with no logging, and therefore it is important that logging take place in pine beetle prone areas.

The report being referred to was based on modeling done in British Columbia and concluded that a MPB outbreak would increase stream flow by 60 per cent while clear-cut salvage logging of beetle-infested trees could result in as much as a 92 per cent increase in stream flow. According to projections, flood events that used to occur at 20-year intervals could in the future take place every three to five years. "This clearly indicates that watersheds are better off with just pine beetle than both logging and pine beetle," says Walsh.

"Alberta\'s plan of logging to stop or slow this natural insect infestation, which failed in BC, will do far more damage to Alberta\'s watersheds than the pine beetle could ever do alone," says Eric Lloyd of the Bragg Creek Environmental Coalition. Lloyd suggests that this planned logging be cancelled and that nature be left to manage the pine beetle, as has been done successfully for over 10,000 years.

Dr. Ralph Cartar, an ecologist at the University of Calgary says, "To date, the media have largely lacked any critical analysis of the threat of pine beetles to Alberta\'s pine forests, and if anything have exaggerated the threat. It seems likely that pine trees in Alberta are generally smaller and of lower quality to beetles than those in BC and also our climate is colder, so beetles are unlikely to have the same impacts on Alberta forests as in BC. Past experience with mountain pine beetles in Banff National Park in the 1940s and Waterton National Park in the 1980s provide us with helpful insight into these reduced impacts. The critical data that are lacking to the public in this debate are of tree sizes and weather in Alberta."

" Pine beetles are a native species to Alberta and are a natural and important part of Alberta\'s forests in that they create diversity in forest structure. In addition to the impacts of clear-cut logging on watersheds we need to be aware that if we log now we are simply continuing to manage the forest in a way that has gotten us into this trouble in the first place; mainly, generating large swaths of forest of the same age which are susceptible to a pine beetle outbreak," says Dr. Mark Boyce, Alberta Conservation Chair in Fisheries and Wildlife at the University of Alberta.

In spite of letters and phone calls to Morton\'s department the misinterpretation of the report has not been corrected. "Investing in watershed protection by providing much needed financial support to Alberta\'s Water for Life Strategy should be the priority for the Alberta Government, not clear-cut logging, which will damage our Eastern Slope watersheds," says Eric Lloyd.

Helene Walsh, 780 922 0908
Eric Lloyd, 403 949 2696
Ralph Cartar, 403 949 3307
Mark Boyce, 780 492 0081