Mountain pine beetle infestation has done its damage across much of B.C.

Mountain pine beetle infestation has done its damage across much of B.C.

Forestry industry calls for more study of forest conditions

The Association of BC Forest Professionals say that almost half of the government's forest inventories are over 20 years old.

Professional foresters holding their annual convention in Victoria have added their voices to concerns raised by B.C.’s auditor general about the state of the province’s forests.

The Association of B.C. Forest Professionals released their latest report on forest inventory, and concurred with Auditor General John Doyle’s report last week that knowledge of forest conditions has fallen behind in an era of rapid change.

“In recent years, the mountain pine beetle epidemic, as well as several severe fire seasons, has had tremendous impact on the forests,” said Sharon Glover, CEO of the foresters’ association. “Yet due to cutbacks, the scale of the provincial inventory program has been reduced.”

The association’s report says 42 per cent of the province is represented by inventories completed prior to 1990, and 30 per cent of forest records date back to before 1980. The report’s top recommendation is “stable and adequate funding” for inventory work, which it estimates at $15 million per year.

The report says the budget for forest inventory research was $13.3 million four years ago, and has declined to $8.4 million for the fiscal year ending this March. Forester staff positions have gone from 40 full-time equivalents in 2006 to 27 in 2011.

Finance Minister Kevin Falcon released an austerity budget Tuesday. It shows total spending for the recently consolidated Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations is to rise from $590 million in the current fiscal year to $602 million in 2012-13, then drop again to $555 million in 2013-14.

The foresters’ report notes that new technology is being developed to check the state of B.C.’s vast forests, which cover three quarters of the province. Satellite imagery has been used to measure the extent of mountain pine beetle-affected forests, and a low-elevation digital camera system is also being used to identify recovery in beetle-affected stands.

Forests Minister Steve Thomson says $6 million has been allocated to improve B.C.’s forest inventory, with emphasis on regions affected by beetle kill and wildfires.