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Public Statement of Environmental Effects: Federal Mountain Pine Beetle Program

Description

British Columbia (BC) is currently experiencing a mountain pine beetle outbreak beyond any in recorded history. The infestation has short and long-term consequences for communities located in affected areas. The Federal Mountain Pine Beetle (MPB) Program provides federal assistance to address short-term consequences - such as reducing the threat of eastward beetle spread and implementing mitigating measures - as well as medium to long-term consequences including assisting communities located in MPB-affected areas to diversify their economy through economic development and infrastructure projects.

The Federal MPB Program, announced January 12th, 2007, includes forestry measures, delivered by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), a Community Economic Diversification Initiative and an Airport Improvements Initiative, led by Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD) and transportation infrastructure projects, delivered by Transport Canada (TC). This public statement addresses the NRCan component only.

Summary of SEA Results

In accordance with the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals, a Detailed Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) was undertaken for this initiative. The SEA concluded that important environmental impacts are likely to result from the Federal MPB Program to control the MPB infestation in BC. However, these effects will be mitigated and enhanced through the implementation of sustainable forestry management practices, through Canada’s ongoing research and technology development initiatives, and through due diligence processes, such as compliance with environmental assessment requirements.

Environmental Effects

Measures aimed at controlling the eastward spread of the infestation will likely have positive impacts on the environment. For example, the removal of trees, particularly in active beetle population areas, will contribute to reduce the rate of spread, resulting in reduced timber mortality levels and habitat disturbance. In areas of high beetle timber mortality, controlled burning measures will also be used to reduce the threat from wildfires by reducing increases of dead wood in forest stands. These benefits are expected to more than offset the minimal negative environmental impact associated with the removal of dead pine trees.

Old and over-mature pine stands, which are the preferred target of the MPB, can be net contributors to the carbon balance. Control measures aimed at replacing old stands with young trees with higher growth rates will help to sequester carbon, which will in turn have a positive effect on the environment.

Timber harvesting and/or controlled burn have the potential to impact negatively aquatic and terrestrial habitats. However in the absence of beetle control measures, the area of forest killed by MPB would likely be larger, which has the potential to have a greater negative impact on terrestrial habitat. Active and completed work under NRCan's Mountain Pine Beetle Initiative (2002-2006) has provided information and direction on habitat changes and mitigation measures to address potential negative impacts.

Enhancement, Mitigation and Follow-up Measures

Projects arising from this proposal will be assessed according to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and any other applicable environmental legislation at the appropriate level prior to final decisions being made.

Most harvesting activities that will directly control beetle populations will happen on provincial forestlands currently scheduled for commercial harvesting. Given that harvesting activities will continue to be subject to provincial environmental regulations and standards, mitigation measures already in place will contribute to reducing negative impacts. For example, forest harvest plans require detailed provisions for species habitat, riparian zones and regeneration.

Beetle control activity on federal lands (parks, First Nations reserves) is also subject to mitigation measures given that it is subject to federal environmental review, regulations and reporting. NRCan has considerable experience in ensuring that environmental assessment requirements are met for these activities.

In addition, the potential environmental impacts will continue to be monitored and assessed on an ongoing basis throughout the duration of the program.

Results of Consultations

NRCan has drawn upon the input produced through similar forest-related activities completed under the Mountain Pine Beetle Initiative. This included extensive interdepartmental and stakeholder input with respect to areas of potential concern.

Relevant Links

For more information on the Federal Mountain Pine Beetle (MPB) program, please visit:
http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/forests/insects-diseases/13399

For more information on MPB publications and research, please visit:
http://cfs.nrcan.gc.ca/publications/search?query=%22mountain+pine+beetle%22

For more information on the Community Economic Diversification Initiative, delivered by WD, please visit:
http://www.wed.gc.ca/eng/9622.asp

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