With spruce budworm infestation continuing to be a problem in the southwest communities of Rocky View County (RVC), particularly in Bragg Creek, RVC council has voted to research and develop a plan to combat future infestations.
The consideration of motion was initially brought forward by Bragg Creek area Coun. Mark Kamachi during a Sept. 7 council meeting. It was read in during the Sept. 14 council meeting.
As Kamachi was not in attendance for the Sept. 14 meeting, Coun. Kevin Hanson took the lead on the motion and spoke about its importance.
“It’s a bit of a unique situation in my mind,” Hanson said. “Bragg Creek is such an asset to the County.”
The decision comes after the County sent out a press release back in May, which stated RVC plans to focus on finding the best approach for future management of the hamlet's budworm issue.
According to the Government of Canada, the western spruce budworm is a native moth species that feeds on fir and spruce trees in Canada’s western provinces. While overpopulation is usually kept at bay by the region’s harsh climate, natural predators, parasites, and disease, an outbreak can last for several years, resulting in high levels of tree mortality, growth loss, and timber defects in mature softwood forests.
With the affected trees being on both public and private property, Hanson said the infestations are a complex situation.
“Just because it’s complex doesn’t mean we can’t have a look and see what the options are,” he said. “There is a wide range of opinion in the community from what I can tell, so this won’t be an easy task. But I think it is worthy of us to protect our investment and take care of the residents that chose to [live in forested areas].”
Bragg Creek residents voiced their discontent with the budworm infestations in their community earlier this year. They spoke about an aerial spray program that uses biological or chemical insecticides – similar to one being used to manage a budworm infestation in nearby Redwood Meadows – as one of the best options to prevent further damage to the trees.
Not all residents agree with aerial spraying in the community, however, as they have concerns about the health effects of Btk, which has been the “gold standard insecticide” used in Canada for 30-plus years. As a result of that opposition, RVC has still not yet determined a solution to the budworm infestation.
Mel Lomenda and Kym Binns are Bragg Creek residents who have had to deal with particularly nasty budworm infestations this year. They said council's decision is a positive step because something needs to be done.
Binns said what were once healthy green trees on her property are now decimated due to the budworm infestations.
“It’s really sad to see to see these beautiful, majestic trees lose all their strength,” she said. “It would be nice if we could be kept in the loop more on what is happening with this.”
“The problem is, if you let this run amock, the only choice is to eradicate it, or hope it goes away,” Lomenda added. “We think these things will feed until they destroy many of our trees.”
Lomenda said his main concern is it may almost be too late.
“I think we need to act,” he said. “If we don’t act now, it will be another year before anything happens, which is another year added onto the infestation. Five to six years of infestation can kill the trees.”
Hanson’s motion called for the research and strategy to be brought back to council for discussion by the end of November.
Byron Riemann, the executive director of operations for RVC, said administration will look at what has been learned from experts, the Province, and a strategy that could be accommodated and entertained by council.
“It is virtually just bringing you information so you can make your next decision,” he said.
The item passed unanimously.