10/23/2012 02:32 EDT | Updated 12/23/2012 05:12 EST

Saskatchewan Mountain Pine Beetle: Province Hires B.C. Firm In Battle Against Pesky Infestation


REGINA - Saskatchewan is trying to stop the spread of the mountain pine beetle by hiring a B.C. company to help cut, pile and burn infested trees in the province's southwest.

Duncan Henderson Contracting will get up to $240,000 over three years to remove infested lodgepole pine in Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park.

The Saskatchewan government says historically, outbreaks have been limited by the cold climate.

But the winter of 2011 was mild, so more of the beetle larva survived and that's threatening lodgepole pine forests around the park.

The numbers of infested trees in Saskatchewan increased from two in 2006 to 433 trees this year.

Scientists fear if the beetles continue spreading east, they could jump to jack pine trees and gradually spread across Canada through the boreal forest.

The beetles have ruined billions of dollars worth of lodgepole pine in British Columbia and ravaged its future timber supply. A report last spring estimated up to 12,000 jobs could be lost in the B.C. forest sector within five years because of the bugs.

Alberta estimates up to six million hectares of pine is susceptible to attack, threatening the timber supply that 50 communities depend on. Forestry is a $4 billion industry in the province. Alberta has earmarked $30 million this year for pine beetle control work and another $10 million to reforest areas that have been cut to thwart the spread of the insects.

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