Jack pine budworm action plan unveiled Open houses slated to seek public input

Nearly 90,000 hectares in parts of Rainy River District were hit by an infestation of jack pine budworm this past summer, which caused severe defoliation and ignited concern that many jack pine trees could be in danger.
A large amount of dead merchantable trees could reduce substantially a supply of pines to mills, resulting in economic loss to businesses and communities.
Large areas of dead trees also become a serious potential fire hazard.
As such, the Ministry of Natural Resources has been keeping its eye on the situation—trying to determine whether the pesky moth population will increase to higher-than-normal levels in 2006.
Due to the severity of the infestation in the area, the MNR has a project planning team addressing the issues and investigating possible actions that might be taken to reduce the impact.
The MNR also will be hosting a series of public information centres throughout the region next month, including at the Adventure Inn here in Fort Frances on Jan. 25.
Other locations include the Nestor Falls Community Centre (Jan. 24), the Best Western in Dryden (Jan. 24), the North Woods Motor Inn in Ignace (Jan. 25), the Legion Hall in Atikokan (Jan. 26), and the Best Western Lakeside Inn in Kenora (Jan. 27).
All sessions will run from 2-8 p.m.
The purpose of the information centres, says the MNR, is to provide an opportunity to the public to review and comment on the management options, the proposed operations, and the Insect Pest Management Program for the area of infestation.
The information also will be available at the MNR’s district offices in Fort Frances, Dryden, and Kenora, as well as at the Atikokan area office, during regular business hours.
The management options the project planning team has considered are:
•No treatment (relying on either the weather or the many species of birds, spiders, and other predators that feed on the tiny insect to keep the budworm population in check);
•Accelerated harvest (moving quickly to harvest the jack pines that otherwise might be decimated by the budworm infestations);
•Re-directed harvest (changing harvesting schedules to deal with infested areas first, putting off the harvest of other areas for a later date);
•Salvage harvest (specifically harvesting only the trees that have died or are in danger of dying as a result of the budworm outbreak);
•Use of insecticides (controlling the population levels of insects with the use of the biological insecticide Bacillus Thuringiensis, commonly known as Bt); or
•A combination of the options.
The many values, products, and uses provided by the forests were taken into consideration when evaluating the management options.
The team has determined a combination of options will be required, including an aerial spray of Bt combined with directed harvest.
Bt is approved for use in Canada by the Pest Management Regulatory Agency of Health Canada and is commonly used on food crops.
This option was considered the most appropriate, the MNR stated.
When this story was first reported in the Times back in July, MNR forest health technician Mike Francis had noted the damage in the Fort Frances District was most severe near Lake Despair, and near Harris Lake and Entwine Lake (north of Fort Frances).
Small pockets of infestation also occurred in the Dryden and Kenora districts.
According to the MNR, the jack pine budworm is a moth commonly found in our forests. The larvae stage feeds primarily on jack pine, but also will feed on red and white pine.
The jack pine budworm has always been present in the forest but, at times, the population increases to numbers that are much higher than normal.
Northwestern Ontario’s last outbreak of the jack pine budworm occurred nearly 15-20 years ago in the Kenora area.
After the January information displays, the final formal public involvement opportunity for the Insect Pest Management Program will be from March 13-April 2.