Five years after the Mountain Pine Beetle epidemic erupted, causing damage so extensive it can be seen from space, timber and lumber industry experts say it's still too early to estimate exactly how harmful the bug has been to the timber industry.

Uncertainty prevails largely because we don't know yet how much of the beetle-killed wood can be salvaged. According to Paul Jannke, a lumber economist at Forest Economic Advisors, the pine beetle is expected to have killed 900 million cubic meters of Canadian timber by 2020. The wood can still be cut for 10 years after infestation, but at present only 40 million to 50 million cubic meters of timber are harvested in Canada each year. Even if all of that wood was the beetle-killed variety, that still would leave half the trees untouched.

Then there's the question of what to do with the wood that gets harvested. Some industry figures think a possible market for the wood is China, which has imported huge amounts of lower-quality logs for use as concrete forms in construction projects.