The Omineca Beetle Action Coalition (OBAC) is fighting to stay alive.
The province announced it will cease funding the board – and sister coalitions in the Cariboo and Southern Interior – as of next spring.
The OBAC was formed in 2005 in response to the pine beetle epidemic and some members say the timing of the government’s announcement couldn’t be worse.
“The critical part of the beetle epidemic is now about to hit,” says Bill Miller, chair of the OBAC. “Annual allowable cuts are going to drop. We’re going to see the impact of mill closures. We’ve already seen a couple with Houston and Quesnel Timber Swap.”
Then there’s the emerging issue with the spruce beetle. The beetle has infested an additional 50,000 hectares of forest in the past year and the epidemic is centred in the Omineca region. Miller says the coalition would be well-equipped to tackle the issue.
“We really believe as directors that it’s much more critical at this time to have the organization that we have in the coalition. We’ve looked and are looking at ways to continue funding.”
Other programs, like the rural dividend fund have been suggested as an alternative avenue for dealing with the impact of the beetle but Coalition chair Bill Miller says it’s not a good fit.
“The rural dividend fund is around hopefully getting dollars into rural BC. The coalition – we’re not project based so much as we’re based on bringing collaborative policy work between not only the province but the federal government as well.”
If no new funding sources are found, the coalition will wrap up its current tasks by March 2017.