The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development soon will begin the second year of helicopter logging operations to minimize the spread of Douglas fir beetles on Crown land in the Williams Lake area.
Douglas fir beetle populations are currently higher than normal in parts of the Cariboo. The insects normally attack small groups of trees and a significant infestation will weaken and eventually kill a tree over the period of about a year.
As part of the Williams Lake Beetle Management Unit 2017 Treatment Plan, helicopter harvesting will be done on steep slopes in the Williams Lake area to remove infested trees. It’s anticipated that the flights will begin in the next few weeks in the South Lakeside area. When that work is completed, operations will move to the Esler area, followed by Slater Mountain (above Mile 168 Road) and the Fox Mountain area. This heli-logging activity should be completed by the end of February 2018.
Residents can expect to see helicopters in the air as selective logging operations get underway. No flights will occur over residential buildings. The aircraft will be flying only during daylight hours and will not be in the air on the upcoming statutory holidays.
Owners of livestock and pets are advised to take precautions to protect their animals from injuring themselves. Horses, in particular, can be sensitive to helicopter noise and may run if startled.
For safety reasons, members of the public should stay away from active harvesting areas. They are reminded that unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) must not be operated anywhere near the harvesting areas, since doing so can endanger the safety of pilots and workers on the ground.
In addition to the direct harvesting of infested trees, the Williams Lake Beetle Management Unit 2017 Treatment Plan includes the following activities:
- The anti-aggregative pheromone methyl cyclo hexenone (MCH) will be used to prevent or disrupt Douglas fir beetle attacks on small infestation sites. This naturally occurring pheromone can successfully repel the beetles from vulnerable areas and also help protect small stands of trees near parks, protected areas, campgrounds, residential properties or old growth management areas. In some cases, the application of this pheromone has reduced Douglas fir beetle attacks by over 90%.
- “Trap trees” will be established by cutting down large, healthy Douglas fir trees in accessible areas. The trees will be left on the ground to attract adult beetles in the spring. Trap trees are more successful in attracting adult beetles than standing trees, and therefore can greatly reduce the number of attacks on healthy Douglas fir trees nearby. Once adult beetles and larvae are established within a trap tree, the tree will be taken to a mill where the beetles and larvae will be destroyed in the milling process.
- Where appropriate and if no other practical options are available, some infested trees may be cut down and burned on site to destroy the beetles present in the bark. Funnel traps will be deployed around mill yards and log-storage areas to capture adult beetles.
The ministry is committed to controlling the spread of Douglas fir beetles in the Cariboo-Chilcotin Natural Regional District and limiting their effects on the mid-term timber supply, wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities and wildfire management.
- The Williams Lake Timber Supply Area contains 3.24 million hectares of forest, with 1.83 million hectares considered to be available for timber harvesting.
- Douglas fir beetle infestations tend to be cyclical and the last major outbreak in the Cariboo-Chilcotin Natural Regional District peaked in 2008, covering about 68,550 hectares. The volume of timber killed by the Douglas fir beetle in the Williams Lake Timber Supply Area that year was about 172,534 cubic metres.
- The shallow tunnels etched into the underside of the bark (called “galleries”) are created by the beetle adults and larvae as they feed on the wood of an infested tree.
- When Douglas fir beetles attack, the needles of affected trees change colour in stages. The rate of colour change is highly variable, but a pale green or yellow colour indicates that the tree has been attacked recently. Bright red needles generally indicate that the tree was attacked the previous year and brown trees with sparse foliage generally indicate that the tree has been dead for two or three years. A grey tree has lost all its needles and this colour usually indicates that the tree has been dead for more than two years.
- According to the ministry's latest mapping data (based on aerial surveys conducted in the summer of 2017), Douglas fir beetles affected 45,862 hectares in 2017 and 53,311 hectares in 2016 within the Cariboo-Chilcotin Natural Regional District.
Read more about Douglas fir beetle management or read a guide for managing the beetles on private property: