Saskatchewan ups funding to help Alberta stop mountain pine beetle spread

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REGINA - Saskatchewan is spending $800,000 to battle a pest that has ravaged British Columbia and parts of Alberta.

Part of the money includes $450,000 Saskatchewan will pay Alberta to help stop the eastward spread of the mountain pine beetle through boreal forests.

The effort to detect and remove infested trees will focus on northeast Alberta and areas near the provincial boundary.

This money is on top of $150,000 Saskatchewan announced last December to help Alberta fight the beetle.

Saskatchewan is also spending $350,000 to have Great Western Forestry Ltd. survey forests in the province's northwest and in the Cypress Hills and to mark infested trees for removal.

Scientists fear if the beetles continue spreading east, they could jump to jack pine trees and gradually spread across Canada through the boreal forest.

The beetles have ruined billions of dollars worth of lodgepole pine in British Columbia and ravaged its future timber supply. A report last spring estimated up to 12,000 jobs could be lost in the B.C. forest sector within five years because of the bugs.

Alberta estimates up to six million hectares of pine is susceptible to attack, threatening the timber supply that 50 communities depend on. Forestry is a $4 billion industry in the province. Alberta has earmarked $30 million this year for pine beetle control work and another $10 million to reforest areas that have been cut to thwart the spread of the insects.

Saskatchewan could be hit hard if the beetle moves in.

Saskatchewan Environment Minister Ken Cheveldayoff says jack pine makes up 40 per cent of the province's softwood volume, which is a significant portion of the forest industry. He says the industry accounts for more than 2,600 direct jobs and $400 million in annual product sales.

Organizations: Great Western Forestry

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia Canada B.C. forest

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