From: Reuters
Published May 5, 2008 06:41 PM

Alberta puts C$55 million into pine beetle fight

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Alberta will spend C$55 million ($54 million) this year to stem the spread of pine beetles, which have ravaged forests in neighboring British Columbia, the Alberta government said on Monday.

The money will help remove trees already attacked by the tiny beetles or are considered at high risk, with the goal of having the infested trees removed before July when insects take flight.

The insects lay their eggs in ponderosa and lodgepole pines and the larvae kill the trees by destroying their ability to take in water and nutrients. The beetles also carry a fungus that stains some of the wood blue.

The decade-old infestation was expected to begin to ebb in British Columbia as the supply of older pines dwindles, but it has long been feared the insects will be able to make it east over the Rocky Mountains and into Alberta.

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According to Alberta officials, mountain pine beetles pose a threat to about 15 percent of the western province's forest. Once beetles infest a tree it cannot be saved, though younger trees are able to use their sap to fight off infestation.

A report published last month warned the infestation was now so large it might be contributing to climate change, with the rotting trees releasing carbon dioxide at an equivalent rate to major forest fires.

($1=$1.01 Canadian)

(Reporting Allan Dowd, editing by Rob Wilson)

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