Beetle and Provincial Protected Areas
Frequently Asked Questions
British Columbia is
currently experiencing a mountain pine beetle epidemic throughout the
range of lodgepole pine forests in the province. This epidemic is the
result of a number of factors including natural beetle population cycles,
continuous mild winters, and an abundance of uniformly mature pine forest
The following set of
questions addresses some of the more common inquiries regarding the management
of mountain pine beetle in provincial protected areas. For more general
information regarding the management of mountain pine beetle in the province,
please visit the Ministry
of Forests bark beetle web site or the Canadian
Forest Service mountain pine beetle web site.
Below are common questions
regarding the beetle and provincial protected areas:
Q. I have
heard that the current beetle epidemic all started in Tweedsmuir Park. Is
Q. Why weren't the beetles stopped when first discovered?
Q. Why do we have this epidemic and will the forests
Q. When will this epidemic end?
Q. What management options are there for mountain
pine beetle in protected areas?
Q. Are beetle control treatments in parks effective?
Q. If this epidemic is a naturally occurring event,
why is BC Parks trying to "manage" it?
Q. Will the effects of the mountain pine beetle
harm the animals living in the forests?
Q. BC Parks advocates the use of prescribed fire.
Doesn't fire damage the forests?
Q. Will logging and road building be allowed in
infested stands in protected areas?
Q. I understand there are other bark beetle infestations
now occurring in the province?
I have heard that the current beetle epidemic all
started in Tweedsmuir Park. Is this true?
While it is true
that portions of Tweedsmuir Park were centres of beetle population
expansion, it is not true that this was the only centre of population
expansion. To understand this, it is important to remember that mountain
pine beetle naturally occurs in all pine forests in British Columbia
at all times. Usually, population expansion is kept in check by cold
temperatures. Current conditions (mild winters and abundant habitat)
are such that beetles have been able to flourish and multiply rapidly.
Beetles also generally
move in a west to east and northwest to southeast direction on prevailing
winds and therefore the expansion has been progressing east and south.
This has lead some to conclude that the most westerly beetle population
centre is the "source". In truth, multiple centres of population
expansion and movement to the east and south have occurred.
The epidemic in Tweedsmuir
was only one of the many places that this epidemic started. There are
epicenters (mountain pine beetle hot spots) south of Quesnel, near
Fort St. James, south of Williams Lake, near Princeton and in the East
Kootenays. Mountain pine beetle spreads fastest in old growth lodgepole
pine stands. While many parks have old growth forest types, many other
areas outside of parks have old growth lodgepole pine stands. The Ministry
of Forests undertakes mountain
pine beetle surveys across British Columbia each year and posts
maps of the areas of infection.
Why weren't the beetles stopped when first discovered?
Upon discovery, the
first large mountain pine beetle outbreaks were managed to the best
of agencies abilities. The outbreak in Tweedsmuir Park was assessed
by BC Parks and Ministry of Forests in 1994 and managed within the
provisions of legislation. Management actions included the use of prescribed
fire and fall and burn treatments. Other outbreaks outside of protected
areas were also discovered and management activities were undertaken.
Despite these management tactics, beetle populations have expanded
by three or four times each year.
and entomologists agree that you can't "stop" a beetle expansion
such as we now see across British Columbia. Only nature can do this
through two consecutive very cold winters. However, management activities
are planned and implemented to try to slow the rate of expansion until
cold winters can stem the rapid expansion of beetle populations.
Why do we have this epidemic and will the forests be destroyed?
The epidemic is largely
occurring because of favourable climatic conditions and favourable
stands of pine. The west-central portion of British Columbia has not
had a severely cold winter for many years. Mild winters result in high
survival rates of beetles and therefore population increases occur.
As well, British
Columbia has abundant amounts of mature lodgepole pine forests. These
forests would normally be comprised of more tree variety and a more
varied composition of tree ages. However, due to many decades of forest
fire suppression, the stands are very uniform in age and species resulting
in an expansive landscape of prime beetle habitat.
This epidemic is
not the first epidemic of mountain pine beetle in British Columbia.
Its size is comparable to the epidemic of the early 1980s that occurred
in the Cariboo-Chilcotin area. Epidemics also do not "destroy" the
forests. True, large amounts of trees die as a result of beetles, but
new growth rapidly appears below the dead stands. This is nature's
way of breaking up uniform stands into ones that are more varied in
composition, structure and age - a more natural forest condition.
When will this epidemic end?
cold weather or a loss of host trees is the only way to stop the spread
of mountain pine beetle. In the Cariboo-Chilcotin, the infestation
in the early 1980s continued for ten years, before this weather pattern
reduced the spread of mountain pine beetle.
What management options are there for mountain pine beetle in protected
Parks Conservation Policies outline a number of strategies to
manage for mountain pine beetle. These include:
- Allowing natural
processes to prevail (i.e. do nothing);
- Pheromone baits
- Individual tree
fall and burn on-site;
- Large-scale prescribed
- Skid pile and
burn on-site with low impact machinery.
Selection of a management
option depends on both a technical and ecological evaluation and is
also dependent on protected area size and relation of the infestation
to neighbouring forestlands. Treatment method is determined through
joint decision-making with the Ministry of Forests that takes into
consideration protected area values.
Are beetle control treatments in parks effective?
When beetle populations
are small, treatments such as fall and burn are highly effective in
controlling populations, although treatments must be applied consistently
over the course of several years to be effective.
In the case of Tweedsmuir
Park, the infestation has become so large that comprehensive treatments
are not cost effective. However, in other protected areas, BC Parks
has been successfully keeping pine beetle infestations in check for
the last four years using fall and burn techniques. By keeping beetle
populations controlled in protected areas, impacts of beetle spread
into commercial forests can be minimized.
If this epidemic is a naturally occurring event, why is BC Parks
trying to "manage" it?
BC Parks recognizes
that natural processes often extend beyond park boundaries. The agency
also recognizes that we must take a perspective on the beetle that
encompasses the entire landbase, both within and outside protected
areas. As such, BC Parks works in co-operation with the Ministry of
Forests for overall beetle management objectives and is doing its part
to minimize the impact of this naturally occurring epidemic.
activities in protected areas only occur in conjunction with activities
outside of protected area boundaries and only in areas where government
has determined the most effective results will occur.
As well, it is important
to note that other land management decisions are respected and taken
into consideration as part of any beetle management strategy. For example,
protected areas have a primary purpose, often directed through a Land
and Resource Management Plan. These purposes, and the associated values,
must be considered and protected when undertaking beetle management
Will the effects of the mountain pine beetle harm the animals living
in the forests?
Mountain pine beetles
kill trees, and the effect of this can impact wildlife in the forests
as well. But these effects can be beneficial.
When natural processes
that change forests are prevented (such as insects, disease and wildfire),
the result can be a much more uniform and static ecosystem. If this
occurs, the variety of habitats for wildlife are reduced from what
may have been originally occurring and fewer species may result.
such as wildfire, insects, disease and wind break up the forests and
create areas with different habitats. These varied habitats can attract
a wider variety of wildlife and benefit the overall diversity and health
of the forest ecosystems. For example, the caribou of the Tweedsmuir
and Entiako areas depend on lichens as a key food source. Beetle killed
trees lose their foliage and more light can reach down through the
forest. This results in increased lichen growth and a better chance
of survival for the caribou.
BC Parks advocates the use of prescribed fire. Doesn't fire damage
Fire has been part
of the forests of British Columbia for thousands of years. In fact,
there are species that have evolved with fire to the point of depending
on it for continued existence. An example of this includes both lodgepole
pine and jack pine cones that are "sealed" by a resin. Heat
from fires melts this resin and releases the seeds of the cones.
Fire is also one
of the natural processes that continually breaks up habitats that results
in a more varied landscape. The higher the variety of habitats, the
higher the biodiversity of the landscape.
Fire also stimulates
new forest growth by releasing the nutrients into the soil which provides
the base for new vegetation. New growth is often extremely important
for some species as a food source.
In recent years,
there has been a tremendous interest in the ecological role of fire
and nature. For more information on the role that wildfire and prescribed
fire plays in the ecosystem, visit the Canadian
Forest Service Fire Research web site and the Parks
Canada Fire in Canada's National Parks web site.
Will logging and road building be allowed in infested stands in protected
and road building is strictly prohibited in protected areas as directed
through the Park Act. Further, there are also strong environmental,
social and economic reasons to prohibit logging in parks.
From an environmental
perspective, the provision of natural processes is paramount. Individual
fall and burn, pheromone baits and prescribed burns best reflect these
natural processes. This is why management is limited to these options.
Ecologically, dead trees play a significant role in the ecosystem by
providing habitat for animals, plants and insects and as a source of
nutrients for soil structure and development.
are interested in maintaining park values and ensuring that these areas
remain in a natural state. Protected areas are the cornerstone of "Supernatural
BC" and play a significant role in the identity of the province.
Protected areas also
form a key component to industrial development outside of protected
area boundaries. Sustainable forestry practices depend on natural areas
that are protected for biodiversity and conservation values and therefore
help forest companies meet sustainability goals.
including forest companies, continue to support means other than logging
to manage for mountain pine beetles in protected areas. Government
is also committed to ensuring that protected areas continue to play
a critical role in sustainable development in British Columbia.
I understand there are other bark beetle infestations now occurring
in the province?
That is correct.
Spruce beetle and balsam bark beetle are at epidemic proportions in
many areas throughout BC. Control of these infestations is causing
significant concern for foresters as well. More information on the
various bark beetles in British Columbia is available at the Ministry
of Forests bark beetle web site and at the Canadian
Forest Service entomology web site.