The provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta continue to collaborate in the fight against the mountain pine beetle.
Since 2011 the provinces have worked together as Dr. Rory McIntosh, Forest insect and disease expert for forest services with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment explains.
Since 2011 we've worked with the province of Alberta to slow the spread east and the spread of beetles in Alberta. We feel the best approach is to prevent the beetle from reaching Saskatchewan rather than try to manage it in a northern forest.
The mountain pine beetle is a small beetle that typically attacks older pine trees. Dr. McIntosh adds that in the early 2000s a massive outbreak in British Columbia resulted in the mortality of almost 55% of the growing pine stock. In addition, the beetles spread in two huge dispersal events in 2006 and 2009 scattering beetles halfway across Alberta.
According to Dr. McIntosh detection systems have been set up in Saskatchewan's northern forests and to date, no beetles have been found here.
The provinces are embarking on the third year of a three-year agreement and Dr. McIntosh details the importance of the collaboration.
Our initiative here with the province of Alberta is being held up as the gold standard of how to approach pests of mutual concern between multiple jurisdictions. The way we are doing this in the west is being considered the gold standard for right the way across Canada.
Dr. McIntosh adds that supported research done in 2010 and 2011 confirmed that the beetle can colonize jack pine trees. So the concern is that jack pine can be found across Canada, now making this not just a western issue but a Canadian issue.
It is not possible to tell where the beetle is this year from the air so according to Dr. McIntosh, air surveys are done to find red trees which are used as markers to do more intensive ground surveys. These ground surveys then find the current year attacked trees and these are marked, cut, and burnt.
The funding received will be going towards surveying and identifying pockets of the beetle in Alberta that pose the greatest risk to Saskatchewan and controlling these.
Dr. McIntosh adds that residents can also help prevent the spread of the mountain pine beetle by avoiding bringing any pine firewood into the province from Alberta, the US, or British Columbia as this is illegal. There is currently a restriction order on the importing, transporting, and storing of pine forest products with bark attached from any of these areas.