Imagine hiking through a dead forest, all the pine trees brown and scentless…
Unfortunately, this scary idea is a very real possibility due to growing infestations of mountain pine beetle. Since 2000, mountain pine beetles have moved into Alberta, as far south as the Crowsnest Pass and ranging north into the vast boreal forest. The province is undertaking active management / mitigation measures including selective harvesting of infected trees and controlled burns of infested areas.
The best natural control mechanism is EXTREME cold weather, by which I mean a temperature of -40C or lower for 2 or 3 days. Protacted periods of -35C temperatures can also be effective. Personally, I’d rather endure a few days of -40C than a 10 days or more at -35C. A mortality rate of 97.5% or higher is required to prevent the infestation from spreading each year. Early surveys confirm forestry models: the early cold snap this winter has achieved mortality rates of 80% or less.
So as I gaze out my ice-covered windows at one of the evergreen trees in the backyard, I say "Old Man Winter….bring it on! At least for a couple more days!"