Understanding and Assessing Impacts
The mountain pine beetle is an insect that infects lodgepole pine trees and is the cause of severe infestations affecting the health of forests in British Columbia and Alberta. While mountain pine beetles can cause significant damage to forests, they are also increasing wildfire severity. Rapid growth of beetle populations in Western Canada has been caused by the changing climate. Temperatures in winter months have not been cold enough to prevent the spread of these insects, which has led to larger areas being infested. In British Columbia alone, the outbreak of the mountain pine beetle has affected over 18 million hectares of forest. This threat required a new approach to fire management. According to Bob Simpson, Mayor of the City of Quesnel, the mountain pine beetle epidemic gave an early indication that wildfire risk faced by municipalities like Quesnel was going to become fundamentally different than what had been experienced before. Mayor Simpson’s background in forestry made him very well aware of the wildfire risk faced by Quesnel when he was elected for his first term in 2014. He made it a priority to address this growing threat by engaging his municipal government in discussions about fire risk management strategies. The Mayor and his team convinced members of the municipal council that one of the community’s priorities should be to better manage the forests and that this work would have to start at the municipal level as there were limited provincial supports at that time. This led to the establishment of a think tank process where an overall strategy to reduce wildfire risk was developed by the City.