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Heli-logging operations help manage Douglas fir beetles near Williams Lake

A fourth year of helicopter logging in the Williams Lake area is expected to start next week to help minimize the spread of Douglas fir beetles on Crown land.

These native forest pests normally attack small groups of trees, and a significant infestation can weaken and eventually kill a tree over a period of about one year. However, helicopter logging that selectively removes infested trees and protects other trees nearby, and related containment treatments, have helped to slow the spread of the beetles in the Williams Lake area over the past three years.

These logging activities are being conducted under the direction of the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. Monitoring of Douglas fir beetle infestations in previously treated areas has identified fewer trees currently under attack, so the helicopter-logging project has been expanded to new sites around Williams Lake.

Helicopter-logging flights are expected to begin as early as Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020, in the Chimney Valley area southwest of Williams Lake. Once work at that site is completed, operations will move to the Anderson Road area and then to sites on Fox Mountain. Heli-logging activities should be completed by mid-March 2020.

Residents can expect to see helicopters in the air as selective logging operations get underway, but no flights will occur over residential buildings. The aircraft will be flying only during daylight hours.

Owners of livestock and pets are advised to take precautions to protect their animals from injuring themselves. Horses in particular can be sensitive to helicopter noise and may run if startled.

For safety reasons, members of the public should stay away from active harvesting areas. They are also reminded that unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) must not be operated anywhere near the harvesting areas, since doing so can endanger the safety of pilots and workers on the ground.

In addition to the direct harvesting of infested trees, the Williams Lake Beetle Management Unit 2020 Treatment Plan includes the following activities:

* The anti-aggregative pheromone methyl cyclo hexenone (MCH) will be used to prevent or disrupt Douglas fir beetle attacks on small infestation sites. This naturally occurring pheromone can successfully repel the beetles from vulnerable areas and also help protect small stands of trees near parks, protected areas, campgrounds, residential properties or old-growth management areas. In some cases, the application of this pheromone has reduced Douglas fir beetle attacks by over 90%.

* “Trap trees” will be established by cutting down large, healthy Douglas fir trees in accessible areas. The trees will be left on the ground to attract adult beetles in the spring. Trap trees are more successful in attracting adult beetles than standing trees and therefore can greatly reduce the number of attacks on healthy Douglas fir trees nearby. Once adult beetles and larvae are established within a trap tree, it will be taken to a mill where the beetles and larvae will be destroyed in the milling process.

* Where appropriate, and if no other practical options are available, some infested trees may be cut down and burned on site to destroy beetles that are in the bark.

* Funnel traps will also be deployed within mill yards and log storage areas to capture adult beetles.

The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development is committed to addressing the spread of Douglas fir beetles in the Cariboo-Chilcotin Natural Regional District and mitigating impacts on the mid-term timber supply, wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities and wildfire management.

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