There is $800 million that needs to come to northern B.C.
That was the message recently sent by Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen and Cariboo-Prince George MP Todd Doherty. The MPs joined Omineca Beetle Action Coalition (OBAC) chair Bill Miller in a press conference to demand the federal funds on Nov. 18, 2016.
Although the last federal government promised $1 billion, only $200 million has been paid to mitigate damage caused by the mountain pine beetle outbreak.
Due to the outbreak, which has killed about 50 per cent of the total volume of commercial lodge-pole pine in the province, the provincial annual allowable cut is expected to decline by more than 13 million cubic metres per year over the next decade.
The Lakes District has been largely affected by the outbreak, which has killed 76 per cent of the pine volume available for harvest in the Lakes timber supply area.
“We’re at the tail end of the largest insect infestation in North American history that has cost thousands of forestry jobs, and will soon reduce annual allowable cuts by millions of cubic metres,” said Cullen. “The devastating economic, public safety and social aftermath of the 10-year beetle plague is now in full swing and our communities need the federal help promised.”
Miller noted that local governments have “a number of solid project proposals” aimed at rebuilding beetle-affected communities that could be activated soon after Ottawa gives a green light to pine beetle programs.
“We’ve got ideas on the table ranging from investment in silviculture innovations and adaptations to climate change, increased wildfire mitigation, and agriculture support and research, to name just a few,” said Miller.
OBAC, an organization created in 2005 to deal with the impacts of the mountain pine beetle outbreak, is set to lose its provincial funding at the end of March.
“As local governments, we’re doing our best to support a collaborative approach to helping our communities survive and thrive in the aftermath of the beetle epidemic,” said Miller. “The next five years are critical to our communities’ economic and social adaptation; it is absolutely essential that we have committed and secure federal funding in place to help support this continued transition.”
Cullen and Doherty stressed the importance of rural B.C. and Canada to get through to the Liberal government, that has less representatives outside of urban areas.
“Our job is to play translators or ambassadors, to help bring them to that reality and know that their lives and constituents in the city deeply rely on the health of what happens here,” said Cullen.
– With files from Chris Gareau