Jody Christensen pilots a Kaman K-MAX 1200 as part of efforts to remove Douglas-fir beetle-infested trees from the city forests in 2016. The K-MAX is a rare and specialized helicopter designed for lifting heavy loads. Angie Mindus file photo

Jody Christensen pilots a Kaman K-MAX 1200 as part of efforts to remove Douglas-fir beetle-infested trees from the city forests in 2016. The K-MAX is a rare and specialized helicopter designed for lifting heavy loads. Angie Mindus file photo

Ministry to target Douglas-fir beetle infestation with heli-logging again

Douglas-fir beetles affected 48,584 hectares within the Cariboo-Chilcotin Natural Resource District in 2018

The ministry is once again employing the use of heli-logging contractors to target Douglas-fir bettle infestations around the lakecity.

A third year of helicopter logging operations in the Williams Lake area is expected to start this week to help minimize the spread of Douglas-fir beetles on Crown land.

Helicopter logging flights are expected to begin as early as Dec. 20, 2018, in the Esler area. Once work at that site is completed, operations will move to the South Lakeside area and then to a site further south off Anderson Road. All of these helicopter logging activities should be completed by mid-March 2019.

Residents can expect to see helicopters in the air as selective logging operations get underway, but no flights will occur over residential buildings. The aircraft will only be flying during daylight hours and will not be in the air on the upcoming statutory holidays.

These natural forest pests normally attack small groups of trees. A significant infestation can weaken and eventually kill a tree over a period of about one year. However, helicopter logging (to selectively remove infested trees and protect other trees nearby) and related containment treatments have helped slow the spread of the beetles in the Williams Lake area over the past two years.

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These logging activities are being conducted under the direction of the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. Monitoring of Douglas-fir beetle infestations within previous treatment areas has identified fewer trees currently under attack, so the helicopter logging project is being expanded to new sites.

Owners of livestock and pets are advised to take precautions to protect their animals from injuring themselves. Horses in particular can be sensitive to helicopter noise and may run if startled.

For safety reasons, members of the public should stay away from active harvesting areas. They are also reminded that unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) must not be operated anywhere near the harvesting areas, since doing so can endanger the safety of pilots and workers on the ground.

In addition to directly harvesting infested trees, the Williams Lake Beetle Management Unit 2018 Treatment Plan includes the following activities:

* The anti-aggregative pheromone methyl cyclohexenone will be used to prevent or disrupt Douglas-fir beetle attacks on small infestation sites. This naturally occurring pheromone can successfully repel the beetles from vulnerable areas and also help protect small stands of trees near parks, protected areas, campgrounds, residential properties or old growth management areas. In some cases, the application of this pheromone has reduced Douglas-fir beetle attacks by over 90%.

* “Trap trees” will be established by cutting down large, healthy Douglas-fir trees in accessible areas. The trees will be left on the ground to attract adult beetles in the spring. Trap trees are more successful in attracting adult beetles than standing trees and therefore can greatly reduce the number of attacks on healthy Douglas-fir trees nearby. Once adult beetles and larvae are established within a trap tree, it will be taken to a mill where the beetles and larvae will be destroyed in the milling process.

* Where appropriate, and if no other practical options are available, some infested trees may be cut down and burned on-site to destroy the beetles present in the bark.

* Funnel traps will also be deployed within mill yards and log storage areas to capture adult beetles.

The ministry is committed to addressing the spread of Douglas-fir beetles in the Cariboo-Chilcotin Natural Regional District and mitigating impacts on the mid-term timber supply, wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities and wildfire management.

The Williams Lake Timber Supply Area contains 3.24 million hectares of forest, with 1.83 million hectares considered available for timber harvesting.

Douglas-fir beetle infestations tend to be cyclical. The last major outbreak in the Cariboo-Chilcotin Natural Regional District (prior to the current outbreak) peaked in 2008, covering about 68,550 hectares.

According to the ministry’s latest mapping data (based on aerial surveys conducted in the summer of 2018), Douglas-fir beetles affected 48,584 hectares within the Cariboo-Chilcotin Natural Resource District in 2018. About 45,862 hectares were affected in the same region in 2017, with 53,311 hectares affected in 2016.


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