The mountain pine beetle is an insect that attacks pine trees and has killed about 50% of the commercial lodgepole pine population in British Columbia.
There was a huge outbreak in the province, which has since propelled the migration of the population into Alberta - and in particular, into the Fort McMurray region. So why is the pine beetle such a big deal?
Well, they attack and kill trees by laying eggs underneath the bark and they also carry a fungus that causes dehydration and inhibits a trees natural defense against beetle attacks. And when their eggs hatch, the larvae mine underneath the bark and eventually cut off the trees supply of nutrients. And obviously dead trees provide dry material to fuel wildfires.
In Alberta, it’s estimated that the mountain pine beetle will kill 40% to 70% of the pine tree population in the Grande Prairie to Slave Lake region will die as a result of the infestation in that region. As we know, the NDP cut the wildfire budget by $15 million, but here’s what else was cut – the budget to keep the pine beetle population under control. NDP MLA Eric Rosendahl confirmed that $2 million was taken from that project.
The NDP are responsible for significant cuts to the wildfire budget, even though they were fully aware that they were an issue, especially since they partially blamed overspending by $300 million on wildfires last year for not being able to balance the budget.