Tuesday, 20 December 2011 13:32

Cypress Hills Alberta officials continue to monitor mountain pine beetle activity

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By Rose Sanchez — This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

This past fall, officials on the Alberta side of Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park undertook work to identify trees infested by mountain pine beetle.

Last week, those trees — about 32 — which had been felled and piled in October, were burned.

“We work in conjunction with Sustainable Resource Development staff to monitor forest health,” says Peter Swain, district manager of Cypress Hills Alberta.

The objective of parks’ personnel is to keep mountain pine beetle activity at an acceptable level.

“We do want a natural process to govern what we are doing, but there is a concern with mountain pine beetle about their (spread).”

He added it is acceptable if a few trees across the area of the park are dying because of mountain pine beetle.

In the fall, officials flew over the park to identify trees that were dying and turning red. Once their locations are noted, individuals hike in to the forest and physically examine the tree to determine if it is dying because of mountain pine beetle or some other pest.

This year, 32 trees were found with mountain pine beetle. The trees were slated for cutting and burning this winter. That is the only way to get rid of the mountain pine beetle, other than with a sustained cold weather event.

Last year, there were 130 trees found to be infested with mountain pine beetle.

The trees are cut in the fall when the beetles are dormant and then burned. Otherwise once they awaken in the spring, they could just fly to the next susceptible tree.

Mountain pine beetles can kill a tree and it turns the tree red, but so can spruce budworm and even the drying winds of a chinook, producing a red belt of trees.

“Forest pests are the natural part of a forest cycle. We are trying to avoid the scale getting tipped too far over one edge,” says Swain.

He adds in fact, the scale is already tipped to one side because of forest fire suppression, so it is more about controlling mountain pine beetle with help from other government ministries.

“We have a really good working relationship with Sustainable Resource Development and Saskatchewan Parks and the (Saskatchewan) Ministry of Environment,” says Swain.

Officials with Cypress Hills Alberta ensure they are working with Cypress Hills Saskatchewan so the beetles are controlled across the border.

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