Canada –-The Alberta government has dedicated $190 million in emergency funding to fight wildfires and mountain pine beetle infestations across the province this year.
The money, which requires a state of emergency to be declared by the province, was approved by cabinet earlier this week.
“It’s essential for our environment, our economy and our communities that we remain aggressive on both of these fronts,” said Mark Cooper, press secretary to Environment and Sustainable Resource Development Minister Diana McQueen. “These are battles that we need to win.”
The province opened the fire season on March 1 this year, due to a dry winter.
It will add $150 million to the department’s base budget of $110 million for fighting wildfires – less than the $250 million added to a $107-million budget last year when the town of Slave Lake was devastated by wildfire.
Although the base budget for fires is set early, Cooper said the province waits until it gets a better sense of what is actually needed to fight fires for the year ahead before dedicating the total amount.
“In this case, the $150 million is what we project we will need to continue our fight for this year,” he said, noting the province has learned from the Slave Lake fire. “Fires are growing in intensity and size, and they are a growing threat to our communities.
“The Slave Lake fires last year caused more than $700 million in damages, so we need to get on top of this.”
Another $40 million will go toward pine beetle infestations.
It includes $30 million for survey and control field work, and another $10 million to reforest areas where trees have been killed by infestations in previous years.
An annual survey on how Alberta’s trees fared over the winter is expected to be released in the coming weeks.
Since 2004-05, the province has put $295 million into the mountain pine beetle program.
One million infested trees have been removed and another 1,000 trees are surveyed annually for mountain pine beetles at 200 sites across the province.