Trucks piled high with logs will be rolling in and out of Naramata again this year.
West Kelowna-based Gorman Bros. Lumber Ltd. plans to harvest more Mountain Pine Beetle infested timber in the Chute Creek and Robinson Creek areas above the small community starting in June.
“Basically once the beetle gets in, it has a shelf life, so our objective is to get as much value out of the timber that we can,” said Kerry Rouck, operations forester for Gorman.
The way it works with the beetle is the wind blows them in, or they get there by other means, said Rouck.
One beetle can produce up to 25 to 50 offspring, so seeing one red tree means there are as many as 50 newly attacked trees in the area.
“Hundreds of trees are impacted if conditions are right,” said Rouck. “We hope what we are doing helps diminish the spread."
According to Heather Rice, forest health officer with the Okanagan Shuswap District, Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, the beetle has been moving through the Okanagan for years. The first areas targeted were west of Salmon Arm in 2003.
Over the past 10 years it has spread in a southerly direction and began to attack susceptible Lodgepole pine stands above Naramata in 2007. The attack has continued to spread in this area. Her understanding is Gorman is focused on these stands.
Gorman does a helicopter flight each spring to monitor forest health conditions. Ground crews confirm the attack level and determine the next course of action, be it harvesting or monitoring for another year depending on the beetle population.
Over the last 10 years the logging company has been harvesting the infested timber on the west side of Okanagan Lake, in Trout Creek and the Sunset interchange area.
More recently, the company, which produces pine and spruce boards for shelving, identified more infested trees around Naramata and Chute creeks.
Logging began two years ago by Naramata Creek, above Naramata, an area that can be viewed from across the lake in Summerland.
The next area the logging operation will focus on is Chute and Robinson Creeks.
Eighty percent of the harvest in those areas will be directed at beetle infested trees, said Rouck .
The work will begin in June and possibly last until Christmas.
There are some, however, who see clear cutting the forests as the worst possible response to the infestation.
Tom Anderson, a Summerland resident who has taken photos of Naramata for years, does not agree with the logging activity.
“Pine beetles are a natural part of forest ecology and play a vital role in the health of the stands which attract them,” he said. “We’ve had unusually low precipitation for more than 30 years which has increased beetle activity throughout the BC Interior, but the worst response is clear cutting the forests and further drying them out.
The amount of deforestation above Naramata is massive, yet it continues. It’s all about money, of course, it always has been.”
Rouck says they have been open about the company’s activity. And there will be ongoing educational field trips to inform the public about what is being done.
“Our corporate philosophy is to foster our social license, which is informing the community and allowing them to get involved in the planning process, because we view our harvest as we have a legal right to do it," he said. "But we want social endorsement as well when we are working in people’s backyards and watersheds."
Similar field trips have been offered in Naramata in the past. There is one focused on tree planting tentatively planned for May.
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