The mountain pine beetle infestation that ravaged British Columbia a decade ago killed 54% of all merchantable lodgepole pines in the province, the director of forest analysis for the B.C.'s Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations says, according to a Victoria, B.C., newspaper.

The Times Colonist said Albert Nussbaum reported to a conference in Vancouver, Wash., on Jan. 19 that parts of the province's central interior suffered losses of 80% to 90%. The result will be reduced timber cuts in the future, which in turn will force provincial mills to close.

According to its account of Nussbaum's presentation and follow-up comments:

With the decline in the availability of dead timber, the province's chief forester is now dropping the sustainable harvest rate, called the allowable annual cut (AAC), to reflect this new reality of the Interior forest. Base-case numbers for one of the hardest-hit timber supply areas, Quesnel, show annual AAC dropping to 1.6 million cubic metres from four million cubic metres. It will be up to the chief forester to determine how that happens and over what time period.

The decline has been expected for years, but it was always somewhere in the future, Hakan Ekstrom, of the Seattle forestry consulting firm Wood Resources International, said in an interview.

“Now it is actually going to happen,” said Ekstrom, whose firm is one of the event sponsors. “More sawmills will be shut down in British Columbia. The question is, will it be three, four, five or six sawmills? And will it be in the next three, four or five years?”

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