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Pest Control

The Maritime Lumber Bureau�s annual meeting included discussions on how to deal with a new and potentially devastating forest pest.

By Harold Hatheway

The fight to contain and eliminate a potentially devastating new forest pest became the focus of the Maritime Lumber Bureau's annual general meeting, held in June at St. Andrews, New Brunswick. About 600 delegates and others from the lumber industry heard a report from a panel of scientists updating them on the threat posed by the brown spruce beetle.

Illustrating the broad regional membership of the MLB was incoming chairman Neil Woolfrey of A L Stuckless & Sons Ltd., the first Newfoundlander in that position. The AGM also drew significant numbers from Quebec, reflecting traditional ties, particularly with New Brunswick.

The lineup of speakers included Elizabeth Beale, President and CEO of the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council (APEC), the long-established and highly respected independent economic voice for the region. Using data from APEC, Stats Canada and provincial and industry sources, she painted a picture of the ongoing economic importance of primary and processing forestry in the region, both by provinces and in relation to Canada as a whole.

Mike Apsey, chair of the National Forest Strategy coalition.

While the industry has actually grown, its percentage of national GDP declined from 1984 to 1998, going from approximately 3.8 per cent to 3.3 per cent, and in the Maritimes from 4.7 per cent to 4.2 per cent. The national drop occurred in a steady slide between 1987 and 1992, while the regional figure rose during 198788 and then fell quickly in 1990 to the present level.

Outgoing president Greg Shay of Comeau Lumber Co picked up the conference theme Can You Imagine Life Without Wood? to emphasize the need for the industry to use rapidly developing technology to ensure quality control and market access. "Without market access, there is no market penetration for any products-quality or inferior. And without quality, 'free market access' are just words. We must continue to produce standardized quality for consumers to continue to specify wood as their building material of choice ."

He noted that among the highlights of the past year was the bureau's ongoing work with provincial and federal government representatives to maintain the US-Canada agreements which have permitted unrestricted market access for regional softwood to the US-agreements under never-ending attack by some US forestry interests.

As well, MLB staff worked with the Canadian Lumber Standards Accreditation Board with the aim of enabling the CLSAB to expand inspection services in areas of quality control and have assisted in developing a kiln drying standard. Both are expected to improve market access by ensuring products meet necessary requirements.

Peter Garrahan of Forintek Canada Corp, with 24 years of experience in wood drying through research, teaching and technical services to the industry, addressed the issue of reducing drying degrade losses in SPF lumber. After impressive estimates of degrade losses due to a lack of knowledge and lack of care with drying, he provided answers. Manufacturers were more than happy to provide detailed information on equipment potential, he said, with specific product, under specific conditions-but unless operators applied this free information, results could be well below what was possible.

Identifying a major operational problem that operators could easily correct, Garrahan stressed that major factors in a consistent dry were uniform material and proper placement. It is not possible to have a totally uniform load unless the individual pieces of lumber are of the same dimensions. With this approach, there are no sags, no gaps and no blocking of air passages. "If you pull significant amounts of sub-grade out of each load, you are losing money. Sort and load properly, and that money will be in your pocket ."

Then came the session everyone had been waiting for-a status report from the scientists on the front line of the newest insect threat to hit this part of the world- the Eurasian Brown Spruce Longhorn Beetle (Tetropium fuscum).

The European insect apparently jumped ship in downtown Halifax about ten years ago, settled in the red spruce of the beautiful and beloved Point Pleasant Park. There was a consensus that-one way or another-it was essential to eliminate the beetle as quickly and completely as possible.

Panel members were: entomologist Ed Hurley, Forest Health Unit Leader, Canadian Forest Service (CFS), Fredericton; Jarvis Mawhinney, Program Network Director for Plant Products, Canadian Food and Inspection Agency; Gregg Cunningham of the same agency, heading the on-the-ground team; and Eric Georgeson, Provincial Entomologist, Forest Protection, Nova Scotia Natural Resources.

The European insect apparently jumped ship in downtown Halifax about ten years ago, settled in the red spruce of the beautiful and beloved Point Pleasant Park and quietly built up a population. The beetle stage of this one-year cycle insect sees it boring small holes in the bark to lay some 80 eggs, which results in excessive resin running down the trunk. The larvae tunnel under the bark, cutting sap flow and eventually killing the tree.

There has been an increasing awareness of and concern about dying red spruce in the park but, because insects found there were only microscopically different from a common Nova Scotia species, identification took time.

In the summer of 1998, CFS researchers spotted dying red spruce in the park and agreed with the municipality to investigate. That winter, sections from stressed trees were sent to the CFS Atlantic Centre in Fredericton. Insects were hatched there and forwarded to Ottawa for verification, which was confirmed in September, 1999.

In February 2000, a reexamination of the insects found there in 1990- which resembled the common Nova Scotia species-were found to be the Brown Spruce Longhorn and the link was established.

With identification certain and the implications all too clear, Nova Scotia called for "immediate eradication" in the park. A team involving all levels of government swung into action to determine if the infestation had spread outside the park-at the outermost end of the Halifax peninsula-and to develop a method of eradication and get it underway as quickly as possible.

Panel members were very open about the process, explaining that not only was identifying a new insect far from simple, but that predicting the long-range outcome of steps taken to contain and eradicate it was even more complex and time consuming. There was a consensus that-one way or another-it was essential to eliminate the beetle as quickly and completely as possible. Nothing else would remove the potential threat to the forest industry. (For more details, see sidebar story).

The AGM also included a North American Market Update panel, which essentially reported on the slow increase in exports, primarily to the US, over the past year. The panel, while optimistic about prospects for a continuing regional quota-free softwood flow in the year ahead, was very much aware of US industry efforts to stifle competition by any means and the concerns of producers in the rest of Canada.

Dr David Cohen of the University of BC's Faculty of Forestry used his extensive background in interdisciplinary wood products and science studies to give delegates an in-depth and extremely timely picture of what the global shift to value added means to regional producers.

Major developments are taking place in equipment, marketing, product research, alternative raw materials and overall cost-effectiveness and, unless regional producers move quickly and adequately, they will not be able to compete. However, well-known consultant and speaker Mike Apsey, chair of the National Forest Strategy Coalition and executive director of FORCAST, made a presentation that assured the gathering that with science and technology, the future for the industry can be bright. Apsey gave delegates a detailed outline of how FORCAST will concentrate on the available and future scientific knowledge base to ensure that the objective of Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) can and will be met. Emphasizing that this was clearly and undeniably "our" responsibility- the forest industry's-he insisted that SFM must be a top priority, and that governments must be firmly encouraged to join in making SFM central to the industry's planning, objectives and strategies.

The Plan of Bug Attack in Nova Scotia

An intensive scientific and all-level government project has been established to examine all aspects of the recent beetle infestation in Nova Scotia and develop and assess potential eradication measures. However, because the pest is completely new, the process has been time-consuming and complex. Expanding "circles" were established around Halifax's Point Pleasant Park and intensive searches were carried out to determine where and to what extent the beetle might have spread. Shortly afterwards, an infested site was found outside the park. 

Presumably an adult had flown across the Northwest Arm, a distance of some 300 metres. By the end of June more than twenty instances of infestation had been identified close to, but outside, the park. Several eradication methods were considered but after studying the implications, it has been determined that up to 10,000 infected red spruce in the park (and, by implication, anywhere the insect is detected) must be cut down and destroyed in such a way that survival of the insect is minimized. In reality that appears to mean burning, at least the bark and outer parts of the trees. Because the park is much beloved and surrounded by prime real estate, the prospect of big fires is hardly welcome-but there appears to be no alternative. 

In New Brunswick, there is no evidence of the insect having arrived. Brian Carter, responsible for pest management for the province's Ministry of Natural Resources and Energy, explained that their concern was concentrated on insects which might have come in on softwood logs imported from the Nova Scotia "risk area" since 1985. Traps-lengths of stovepipe baited with a turpentine-like substance-have been installed in wooded areas near mills that import such logs. When the flying season is over in August, the traps will be collected and examined for possible invaders. Suspected infestations can be reported to a toll-free hotline at 18778680662 and further information is available on the Internet at http://atl.cfs.nrcan.gc.ca

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