Chamber of Commerce calls for federal funding to stop pine beetle spread

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OTTAWA — The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has asked for immediate federal funding to stop the spread of the destructive mountain pine beetle as it threatens to spread across the country.

Chamber CEO Perrin Beatty says in a letter sent to Natural Resource Minister Amarjeet Sohi that warmer winters have allowed the beetle to spread east and that the threat is at a critical juncture.

Beatty says the pine beetle will have a clear path to spread across the rest of Canada if it breaches the forests that border Alberta and Saskatchewan.

He calls on the federal government to recognize that the infestation is of national significance and to provide funding to match the threat, starting with $100 million to help fund Alberta’s efforts.

He says, in recent years, Alberta has been largely left to fund efforts to keep the beetle at bay, so far spending more than $500 million to control the beetle’s population.

According to a report to the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers, British Columbia lost more than half of its salable pine timber between 1995 and 2015 due to the beetle, which will cause the provincial economy to lose out on tens of billions of dollars in the coming decades.

Beetle-ravaged trees also burn at higher temperatures, making forest fires more severe and harder to control.

“Without support, the impacts of the pine beetle on our forestry sector and the public safety of rural communities will be significant and long lasting,” says Beatty in the letter.

The Canadian Press