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Pine beetle fight resumes

More than 30 contracts have been awarded since the beginning of the year to continue the fight against the mountain pine beetle in west-central Alberta, the province announced last week.

More than 30 contracts have been awarded since the beginning of the year to continue the fight against the mountain pine beetle in west-central Alberta, the province announced last week.The work involves about 600 contract employees and is expected to result in removal of about 170,000 infested trees. Most of the contract workers were deployed by mid-January and all are expected to complete their work by the end of March.The targeted area is bounded by Grande Prairie in the northwest, Hinton in the southwest and Slave Lake to the east.The Alberta government announced it is providing $15 million for the contract work and that in total, $30 million in disaster assistance has been provided this year to combat mountain pine beetle infestations, including field surveys and control work, grants to municipalities, seed collecting and pheromone monitoring.Forest companies in the region are also helping to remove beetle-attacked trees by harvesting high-risk stands. Mountain pine beetles threaten six million hectares of Alberta forest containing pine stands, Alberta Sustainable Resource Development said in a news release.ìAt risk are social, economic, and environmental values ñ including watershed health, fish and wildlife habitat, recreation opportunities, community sustainability and the province's forest industry,î said the release.ìAlberta's objectives are to minimize the spread of beetles north and south along the Eastern Slopes, and prevent beetles from spreading further east in the boreal forest.î