February 24, 2017 5:45 pm
Updated: February 24, 2017 6:27 pm

NB government steps up efforts to tackle spruce budworm, avoid outbreak

WATCH ABOVE: New Brunswick's official opposition says not enough is being done to ensure the spruce budworm doesn't chew through the province's valuable forest, as Global's Jeremy Keefe reports, they're calling for increased action before it's too late.

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The New Brunswick government has stepped up their efforts to battle a possible spruce budworm outbreak, however the opposition thinks although it’s not too late, it’s still too little.

READ MORE: NB Scientists staying ahead of invasive insect with devastating potential

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When the Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries department’s turn came during this week’s Standing Committee on Estimates and Fiscal Policy, Progressive Conservative (PC) MLA Ross Wetmore questioned whether a budgeted $2 million dollars to spray potential spruce budworm hot spots was enough to curb the issue.

“This problem could be about $300 million to fix and my concern is that our government is not taking this serious enough,” the MLA for Gagetown-Petitcodiac explained. “People don’t realize it but the spruce budworm could cause close to $15 billion worth of damage over a number of years.”

“We all know they’re coming and we should be prepared for it,” he said.

Last year, 60,000 hectares were sprayed to ward off the insect which can, literally, take a bite out of forests.

The province has increased the amount to be sprayed to 150,000 hectares, which will be done this spring.

While the $2 million cost is being called a low ball amount by the PCs, scientists say the area being covered is in line with their projections.

READ MORE: Citizen Scientist program helping NB researchers learn more about spruce budworm

“That was our recommendation from the science committee and the people working the program,” explained Rob Johns, Natural Resources Canada research scientist. “The decisions around how much to spray is not based on financials it’s based on what the densities are and what the shape of the current outbreak is in New Brunswick.”

Johns said historically the budworm has been “substantially devastating throughout Eastern Canada,” but it is being kept at bay by the province’s efforts.

“What we’re finding so far is when we treat these areas that we find still relatively low densities of spruce bud worm,” he explained. “We’re having fairly good success in terms of pushing those populations down. That’s the goal we’re aiming for, we’re aiming to keep defoliation low, populations low.”

Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries Minister Rick Doucet said he believes the proper resources are being devoted to tackle the issue proactively and that in the event the spruce budworm population grows past their projections, emergency response will be ready to take action.

“We’re working very strategically with it, we’ve been monitoring the situation on an ongoing basis,” Doucet said. “We’re watching the infestation coming from Quebec and at the same time we’re having many conversations with our Atlantic counterparts and the federal government so that if this gets out of hand we’ll be ready to go.”

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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