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$25M more for fight to contain pine beetles

The Alberta and federal governments hope another $25 million will helpcontain a massive swarm of tree-killing mountain pine beetles beforethey spread farther east.

The Alberta and federal governments hope another $25 million will help contain a massive swarm of tree-killing mountain pine beetles before they spread farther east.

Another wave of the tiny bugs, which have already destroyed about one-half of British Columbia’s marketable pine timber, flew deep into Alberta this summer. Some are now within an hour’s drive west of Edmonton.

There are worries the insect scourge could also devastate forests in Alberta, where small communities that depend on forestry are already suffering from the economic downturn.

“Many children in British Columbia in the forest communities won’t see a mature pine forest — if they’re 10 today — they won’t see it until they are 45 or 50 years old,” said Ted Morton, Alberta’s minister of sustainable resource development. “We don’t want that to happen in Alberta.”

The bug money will be used to hire crews to detect, cut and burn infested trees, which turn red and die from a fungus the beetles carry.

Yesterday’s announcement includes $10 million in federal cash and brings Alberta’s total anti-beetle budget to $35 million. That’s down about 10 per cent from last year.

Morton said money is tight because of the recession, so Alberta has to focus its spending on the leading edge of the infestation, mainly north of the Yellowhead Highway west of Edmonton, near such communities as Grande Cache and Whitecourt.

Experts warn that if the infested lodgepole pine trees aren’t removed, new beetle swarms could fly ever eastward and possibly jump species, infecting jack pine forests that run across the country.

“This is no longer just an Alberta issue. It is a national issue,” Morton said. “We want to keep it out of the boreal forest.”