Madam Chair, I welcome the opportunity to share with the House the Government of Canada's response to challenges faced by the citizens of British Columbia and indeed many western Canadians in dealing with the mountain pine beetle infestation. It is an infestation of the mature pine forests, that can only be described as massive, approaching an estimated 10 million hectares, and expected to increase.
The effects are direct and expensive. Many British Columbians draw their income from the forest or from activities related to the forest. When I speak of these activities, I am speaking of private woodlots, commercial forestry firms, mills and other operations across the country that contribute some $40 billion to Canada's export earnings.
I wish we could bring this infestation under complete control. Due to the scale of infestation and the abundance of the mature lodgepole pine, which is the insect's food source complete, control is not feasible. I wish we could change the weather because the only measure we know that would bring this blight under control would be prolonged winter cold with temperatures of minus 40° for a number of days, or a dramatic drop in temperature during a fall or spring cold snap.
The Canadian Forest Service of Natural Resources Canada, or as we call it the CFS, is responding to this epidemic in a way that is designed to complement provincial activities to combat the outbreak. For more than 100 years, the CFS has worked diligently to sustain Canada's forest resources for the benefit of all Canadians, from coast to coast to coast, today, tomorrow and long into the future. I want to add that much if not all of the province's strategy is based on CFS science data.
May I remind the House of our government's activities dealing with the mountain pine beetle. The Government of Canada has invested $40 million in the mountain pine beetle initiative, or the MPBI announced in 2002. This is a six year program that is working in concert with the provinces MPB activities and is consistent with the federal mandate. It was developed as a response to provincial requests for federal programming.
The focus is not only on the issue of the day, dealing with the effects of this outbreak and reducing the current manifestation and its impacts on our environmental, economic and social well-being, but also, important, on reducing the risk of the future beetle epidemics, aiming to safeguard the problems for the economic benefit and enjoyment of our next generations.
All the initiative's programs are now fully operational and being delivered in close cooperation with many partners and stakeholders. I include in this list other federal and provincial agencies, national forest sector institutes, first nations, academic institutions, industry and private landowners and managers. The war we are waging on this infestation includes working to assist beetle control and forest rehabilitation on federal forest lands in B.C., the national parks in the Rocky Mountains, first nation reserve lands and non-corporate private lands.
Government of Canada researchers and program officers have been located in the beetle epidemic regions at Prince George and Kamloops to lead the research effort and to facilitate delivery of the MPBI's programs.
Dovetailing with the province's 10 year wood salvage plan, the Government of Canada's investment is funding research to: first, estimate the commercial life span of beetle-killed timber; second, determine how best to utilize the large volume of dead timber; third, understand the impacts of the timber flow changes on forest dependent communities; and fourth, understand and mitigate, if not eliminate the ecological impacts of managing the beetle killed timber stands.
The B.C. ministry of forests recognizes that this MPBI research will provide critical information to the province in support of its 10 year plan. This principle of cooperation and collaboration was established at the outset of discussions with B.C. officials.
The initiative's research agenda was developed after a series of regional consultations with companies, provincial officials and first nations. It is strategic scientifically sound and a practical complement to operational needs.
I would like to emphasize that in addition to providing the necessary information to allow the mills to use the timber killed by the beetle, the MPBI research will provide communities with valuable information on the economic impacts after the beetle epidemic. Researchers are working to assist the province in a case study on economic diversity options for the forest dependent communities.
I am proud of my officials at Natural Resources Canada who continue to work closely with their provincial colleagues in B.C. and in Alberta in the development of a decision support system to guide effective beetle management across western Canada and the rest of the country. Alberta is at risk because like B.C., the province boasts of an abundance of mature jack pine stands. We have to reduce the likelihood of the mountain pine beetle expanding into these other timber stands of the boreal forest and spreading across the country.
We wanted to respond to this crisis effectively and directly, and I believe we have.We will continue to do so within the roles of the two governments as clearly articulated in the Constitution and respecting the government's forestry mandate.
Members of the House are no doubt aware that provincial crown forests land management is a provincial mandate. I bring to members' attention that the Government of British Columbia's forest legislation requires major forest licence holders to carry out reforestation at their own expense. The reforestation component of the mountain pine beetle initiative allows the Government of Canada to initiate efforts on lands that are outside the responsibility of the province.
There are no quick fixes to this problem and there never have been. The Government of Canada has records from the time of the first world war that note the existence of the mountain pine beetle in western forests. Indeed, over the years there have been numerous outbreaks of this beetle documented. This one, however, is the worst. Therefore we are all doing our best to reduce the environmental, economic and social impacts in a cooperative and collaborate way.
May I remind the House that officials from the provincial and federal governments work together and continue to work together long and hard to develop and implement the mountain pine beetle initiative that I have just described to the House. The Government of Canada's response has been significant and we will continue to support B.C. and Alberta working within the federal mandate.
The only thing that we could pray and wish for is that nature itself would bring in the temperatures efficient enough to take care of this massive, major infestation in our forests. Other than that, it will be a long, troublesome battle that the communities, the municipal, provincial and federal governments will have to do everything possible to lessen the impact on the people and the industry at large.