Beetles beg attention in Bike Park

By Andru McCracken


People are impatient for logging to end on 5 Mile Road, a popular toboggan and ski area just a stone’s throw from Valemount. Signs of logging and stacks of wood remain in the area, and the Valemount Community Forest’s General Manager Craig Pryor said he is planning to take action to finish up in the area, possibly hauling the logs to the Valemount Industrial Park.

Pryor said the logging is done, but the wood still needs to be removed. A lack of logging trucks throughout the interior is preventing skiers and tobogganers from taking over the area again. The roads can still be used, after a fashion, but plowing makes it a bit of an icy grind down.

The logging is the consequence of a forest health issue: a fir beetle outbreak. The fir beetle is endemic in our forests, meaning it is always present at some level in the forest, but good conditions and too much dead and dying fir have helped the beetle grow in number.

Lessons learned
Pryor said the community forest learned lessons from its slow response to the beetle in the bike park.

“We can’t leave dead fir there; it attracts bugs,” he said.

He said even smaller diameter dead fir helps the beetle multiply.

“With warm summers and easy winters the beetles are starting to grow in numbers,” he said. “We learned a good lesson there.”

He said the community forest will enter the site again in June to remove ‘trap trees,’ but he expects the next treatment to have a lighter touch.

“We have a beetle trap tree and bait tree program there. Hopefully we can pull all the beetles out of the park into these trap trees,” he said.

Pryor is also considering removing the attacked fir in the watershed on the northside of the bike park to Swift Creek.

“We’re not going to allow the bugs to blow up and take out the whole hillside,” he said.

A good thing
Andreas Thoni, a local trail builder and the visionary behind the development of the Valemount Bike Park welcomes the logging. He calls it a massive favour from the community forest.

“Imagine the volunteer time it would take to deal with each of those trees as they fall down one at a time over the next 10 to 20 years,” said Thoni.

There are many fir trees in prominent places in the bike park, Thoni said that this is because they are awesome features to build around. He said seven or eight of these prominent trees needed to be removed.

Next level
Pryor said the Valemount Community Forest is supporting the next round of development of the bike park on Swift Mountain and they are incorporating forest health management from the get go in the new area.

“We see the success of the current bike park, so we are for it,” said Pryor. “We just have to make sure to take care of the forest.”

They’ll be doing some forest health work in the area in advance of the new trail builds.

Beetle Background:
According to the Ministry of Forests, the Douglas-fir beetle (Dendroctonus pseudotsugae) is the principal killer of mature Douglas-fir in B.C. It usually attacks weakened or dying trees, but occasionally its populations increase to the extent that it infests and kills large numbers of healthy trees.

The beetle attacks its host in early summer. The beetle usually attacks weakened trees (e.g., drought or wildfire damage) or trees blown down by windstorms. When it attacks healthy trees, it targets the largest and oldest first — those most valued as wildlife habitat, particularly for mule deer winter range.

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