Column: Local forests showing effects of changing climate

Shuswap Outdoors by Hank Shelley

There is a war in the woods. And it sure as hell ain’t pretty.

Especially to the environment.

The enemy is another tiny critter affecting vast areas of fir trees in the Interior of our province.

Unlike the mountain pine beetle that ravaged lodge pole stands by 1.5 billion board feet of lumber per year, this beetle bores into both mature and immature stands of fir. The Malakwa and Wap regions have been hit hardest. It is estimated that around 34,000 truck loads of logs will be hauled from these areas to try and eradicate or stop the spread into adjoining stands.

Camped at Wap lake south of Three Valley last week, the army of logging trucks heading to loading sites, and the buzz of wood processors starting at 3 a.m. echoed throughout the narrow valley.

Mountainsides are being torn apart by clear-cuts as contractors build roads to infected timber. It’s a huge boon to the mills, to stockpile all that wood, but at what ecological cost to the remaining timber of cedar, hemlock and spruce. Road building and run off in spring affecting creek and river flows and warming temperatures. And yes, therein is the problem: climate change.

Read more: Salmon Arm politicians urged to declare climate emergency, create action plan

Read more: Eligible B.C. families to receive Climate Credit cash boost

Read more: Letter: Climate emergency needs Salmon Arm’s commitment

There always has been an era of insets attacking our forests, but thanks to a variety of woodpeckers and cold winter temperatures minimizing the risk of beetle attacks, there was a balance in nature. However, starting back to Tweedsmuir Park in 1999, when the first red top pines were discovered, to the vast clear-cuts of the Chilcotin and Interior mountains, our climate has changed to the point where our forests’ trees are vulnerable as they become stressed because of dryer, hotter conditions.

In its peak, the pine beetle came in waves over huge areas of the Interior, then it flew over mountains (seen by pilots in planes) in prevailing winds, landing in Alberta to ravage lodge pole pine there. It also attacked immature pine in plantations as new generation growth for forest companies.

The big question is, will replanting plugs (baby trees, both fir and pine) in clear-cuts survive pine rust and insect attack in the future?

A drive out to Malakwa, or through the Wap to Kingfisher from Three Valley will make a person realize just how devastating the situation is.

Another attacker of domestic trees is an invasion of tussock worms in the Notch Hill area.

On a brighter note, there is a bumper-crop of blueberries and huckleberries for the picking!

Heavens to Murgatroyd, the beetles are winning, but at what cost? It’s a changed world out there.


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