BC Eco-Lodge Takes Different Approach to Winning Tough Battle with Mountain Pine Beetle 

BC Eco-Lodge Takes Different Approach to Winning Tough Battle with Mountain Pine Beetle 

The red and grey tree tops that dot the canopy of forest stands indicate a battle that’s long been raging across western Canada’s forests. If you’ve taken a drive through the mountains in the past few years, you’ve probably seen the damage first-hand as the mountain pine beetle epidemic has escalated and spread.

The mountain pine beetle is a species of bark beetle, native to the forests of western North America. Pine beetles attack primarily lodge pole pine trees by spreading spores of blue-staining fungi throughout the tree. This interrupts the flow of water to the crown and reduces the tree’s flow of pitch, thus supporting the beetles in overcoming the tree. The beetle infestation and fungi they carry causes the tree to die and the needles to change from green to yellowish green, then red and finally rusty brown.

The BC Ministry of Forests and Range estimates there were 8.5 million hectares of pine beetle red-attack in 2005. The most common approach to containing the pine beetle outbreak has been to clear-cut the affected area including species not affected by the beetle. Dead trees left standing or that pile up in brush, create the perfect condition for forest fires to start and rage out of control – devastating forests and threatening communities.

But one B.C. eco-lodge, Nipika Rocky Mountain Resort, is taking a unique approach to battling the beetle. Its goal has been to reduce beetle infestation while feeding the resort’s infrastructure demands in a manner that preserves the standing woodlot and doesn’t destroy the surrounding species and delicate eco-system.

Like most of B.C. and Alberta, the woodlot at the eco lodge Nipika Mountain Resort has become infested with the Mountain Pine Beetle. Knowing that the future of his resort and of the woodlot rests on him being proactive, Nipika owner Lyle Wilson, developed a strategy to combat the deadly outbreak – and he appears to be winning the fight.

“Through sound and selective forestry practices, it is Nipika’s goal to manage the mountain pine beetle infestation while enhancing the wildlife and recreational values of the area,” states Wilson.

“Unfortunately many managed forests have been clear cut and destroyed in an effort to snuff out this devastating pest. At Nipika, we’ve taken a strong, proactive stance against the pine beetle infestation – one that doesn’t involve eliminating adjacent species in addition to the affected pine trees but rather uses an ultra low impact solution.”

Wilson’s been successful in his approach to battling the beetle outbreak by selectively logging the lodge pole pine trees on his 1500 acre working woodlot using a horse logging operation.

“We’ve adopted some progressive practices that allow us to harvest the infected wood and still preserve the adjacent species, explains Wilson. “We identify the infected trees and then selectively log to remove the pines from the woodlot. We then use the harvested wood to build cabins and other structures at Nipika.”

They’ve also partnered with a larger forestry operation and supply some of the wood they harvest to them for processing and re-sale. Despite wood discoloration, pine that has been infected by the beetle remains as structurally sound as unattacked pine and can still be used for high-quality products.

The results of Wilson’s efforts have made a huge impact – if only for what you can’t see. There are very few red or grey tree tops and the areas that are harvested quickly return to looking as they did before Wilson’s crew did their work. Wilson believes it’s his responsibility to preserve and protect the forest stand while being proactive and innovative in snuffing out a pest that threatens his livelihood and the forests we enjoy. He knows it’s an ongoing battle – one that involves working with government, local forestry operations and neighboring property owners.

“We want to see our forests preserved for generations and believe it’s our responsibility to protect and maintain our woodlot in a sustainable way. In fact, we doubt you’ll even notice the work that’s been done,” states Wilson.

About Nipika 
Nipika is located on 1500 acres of woodlot between Radium Hot Springs, B.C. and Banff, Alberta. The eco lodge and resort is the result of Lyle and Dianne Wilson’s vision of creating a unique wilderness haven for outdoor enthusiasts that is in harmony with the Kootenay’s spectacular Rocky Mountain setting. As an eco-lodge, Nipika generates all its electricity via solar, micro-hydro, and takes pride that its beautiful cabins and lodge are energy self-sufficient.

Fast Facts – Pine Beetles 
* The life span of an individual mountain pine beetle is approximately one year
* It’s believed that damage caused by the beetle has no effect on the wood’s strength properties.
* The mountain pine beetle prefers mature lodge pole pine timber. After 80 years, these trees are generally classified as mature.
* Mountain pine beetle outbreaks appear in wildness areas, municipal parks, mountain subdivisions and backyards
* A hectare is considered infested if it contains more than 10 beetle-attacked trees.
* Cold weather kills mountain pine beetle larvae. Sustained temperatures of -25 Celsius in the early fall or late spring, and -40 Celsius in the winter are needed to control the pine beetle populations.
* Warmer, drier summers and fire suppression practices are believed to be contributors to the epidemic.
* In addition to B.C. and Alberta, the mountain pine beetle can be found in 12 western American states and Mexico.