The Province


Paul Luke

Life after pine beetles planned

Incomes in Interior B.C. communities are expected to plunge by at least 25 per cent as the mountain pine beetle ravages the province's forests, B.C.'s Forests Ministry says.

The income fall-off in forestry-dependent communities is projected to take place over the next 15 to 20 years as the supply of harvestable wood shrinks, the ministry said in releasing an updated beetle action plan.

"Forestry is at least 30 per cent of the direct and indirect income in many of the affected communities, and much higher in some," the plan says. "The projected future decline in annual timber-harvest levels will result in less conventional forestry-based incomes in the impacted region."

But Forests Minister Rich Coleman said the rise of other economic

drivers should offset anticipated shortfalls in community income.

As part of its $500-million beetle plan, the government is trying to nurture other industries such as agriculture, tourism, mining and energy and value-added wood applications, Coleman said in an interview.

"I don't think the economic loss is going to be as big as some people would like to doomsday it at," he said.

And in the short term, communities may benefit as logging accelerates before dead trees lose commercial value, the beetle plan said.

An estimated 80 per cent of merchantable Interior pine could be killed by 2013, with more than half of it dead by next summer, the beetle plan said.

The beetle has killed more than 400 million cubic metres of merchantable timber, up 45 per cent from last year.