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DELUXE FLIP VERSION MARCH 30, 2020

March 30, 2020

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News: March 30, 2020 issue

Edson Scavenger Hunt provides fun for the entire community during Covid-19

by Brianne Benson
 
Since the COVID-19 virus has continued to have residents social-distancing, the Community Services team from the Town of Edson hosted an internet-based scavenger hunt called the Edson Walk/Drive (& at Home) Scavenger Hunt.
As the title states, participants were given the option to remain in their houses, remain in their vehicles, or venture outdoors to enjoy the scavenger hunt in the sun. This way, all residents could take a moment to do something fun.
Community Development Coordinator Ali Broda said, “The public is interested in activities like the scavenger hunt as it is a simple way to get out and about for some fresh air or take the option of staying inside, all while maintaining a social distance of course. Families have the opportunity to take silly photos, post them on the event page and share with one another.”
The event serves to uplift and support the spirits of local residents who are being affected by the coronavirus precautionary protocols. The event page was shared by many locals on social media, and a number of participants happily shared the photos from their adventures on the event page to inspire others to take part in an activity providing both entertainment and flexibility.
“As a department we are doing what we can from afar, keeping the community engaged and interested. We’re working to come up with ideas that we think will work for our residents at this time,” said Broda.
Those walking and driving were tasked to find and photograph 10 different things including: a red building, the tallest thing you can see, a place to exercise, a local restaurant, and something with wings. Those staying in their homes were also tasked to find 10 things including something that starts with the letter ‘H’, something that is a pair, and something taller than you. Some items were even put in clue form.
Broda explained, “Anxiety and times like these can cloud creativity. Activities are a simple way we can help families, by taking the thought of ‘what do we do today’ away from them and offering our ideas to make it a little bit easier.  We’re also finding ways to keep busy without having to worry about needing to buy materials.”
Broda recommended also maintaining physically distanced social connection because “socialization is a huge part of everyone’s lives. It’s important for our mental health to stay connected and have positive relationships. Adults and kids alike will be missing socializing, so it’s important to get creative.”
The Community Development team will continue to create more resources and opportunities to inspire positive and enlivened attitudes during stressful times.

News: March 23, 2020 issue

Edson Council meets to respond to COVID-19 updates

“The Town of Edson has not been given any indication that COVID-19 is on the streets of Edson”: Mayor Zahara

by Cassie Kushniruk
 
As a result of the COVID-19 virus, which was officially declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on March 11, the Town of Edson has been taking preventative measures to ensure that safety of its residents.
On March 15 at 8 pm, the Town of Edson announced that, in keeping with information provided by the province, student attendance at schools would be prohibited effective immediately. Additionally, all licenced child care facilities, out-of-school care programs, and preschool programs were to be closed indefinitely.
Edson Town Council and Administration held a meeting on March 15 to respond to new information regarding COVID-19 and to ensure critical services and infrastructure, such as water, sewer, and fire response, could continue as usual.
Later that evening, the Town announced the closure of a variety of Town-operated facilities and programs in response to the latest update from Alberta Health Services (AHS), including Repsol Place, the Town of Edson office, the Fire Hall, the Public Works building, and the ParentLink Centre. “Some facilities will remain open, including the Edson Landfill and sewage lagoons, and the Edson Airport will be open to limited public access,” said Town of Edson Mayor Kevin Zahara.
“We are taking these measures as a preventative response to the COVID-19 outbreak around the world,” Zahara said. “There is very low risk in the Town of Edson but we think these measures are necessary to support the public health and safety of our residents.”
On March 16, the Town of Edson stated that the Emergency Management Plan had been activated and that there had been a partial activation of Edson’s Emergency Coordination Centre (ECC). This allows senior staff to meet regularly to implement strategies to protect and support residents, staff, and Alberta Health. Additionally, the ECC activation also allows for greater coordination between agencies and puts dedicated staff in place to help plan and implement strategies on a larger scale.
During the March 17 Town Council meeting, CAO Mike Derricott provided Council with an update on the COVID-19 situation in Edson and what the Town is doing to prevent its spread, “Our directive, administratively, which has been supported by Council, is to follow the guidelines as they come down from the provincial bodies, in particular, AHS. We took, what I believe, are some proactive measures in the closures of facilities, which now I think would be necessary with the latest updates from the provincial regulatory bodies today.”
“One of the issues we, just like many organizations are dealing with, is the childcare issues that have arisen with the school closures,” Derricott mentioned. “Most of our employees have been able to manage those. We know this is a juggling act that many of the businesses in our community here are dealing with.”
Derricott stated that Town of Edson staff will continue working for the time being, and that the Town has taken internal protocols to “ensure that our employees are as safe as they can be while still working appropriately”.
“Our encouragement to any members of the public is to watch official Town channels, our social media, our website, or the app if you want to learn specifically how our community is being affected,” said Derricott. “In general we just really encourage people to ensure that the places they’re gathering their information from are official government sites, typically AHS. One of the main elements of response in a situation like this is good, consistent communication of the right information so that people can respond appropriately. We feel that we have done that so far and we’re obviously going to continue to ensure that our response is as appropriate as possible.”
Mayor Zahara noted, “I know that there are rumors around town about COVID-19 on the streets of Edson. To be very clear, at this point in time the Town of Edson has not been given any indication that that is actually the case.”
According to the province, there are currently 97 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Alberta, only three of which are present in the north zone. 
“I think it’s really important to stress that correct information is really important and that we all stay calm and cool and collected,” said Zahara. “Most of the measures that have been taken to date are all precautionary to ensure that the majority of the public and those that are most at risk will be safe.”
Zahara then asked, “If things change and progress, what would be the next level for the ECC?”
Derricott replied that the next level would be the consideration of declaring a state of local emergency. “There are a number of communities who have done that, including Calgary,” he said. “The main purpose for those at this point in time is that under a state of local emergency, local jurisdictions have some additional powers in terms of enforcement of regulations or parameters. In this case, this was specifically enacted to allow [Calgary] to intervene with organizations or events that were not complying with the recommended gathering limits. Under the state of local emergency, they were given additional abilities to step in that they wouldn’t typically have. I think that if we are fortunate we will not need to go to that level, but we’re certainly set up and prepared to respond if that does become necessary.”
Zahara closed, “On behalf of Town Council I would like to thank Town of Edson staff who have quickly met here Sunday night at a momentary notice to develop plans. I think our team has been doing a wonderful job.”

News: March 16, 2020 issue

Coronavirus update from the Town of Edson

updated: March 13, 2020

With the latest information from the Province (follow link) we would like to advise that Town of Edson facilities remain open at this time, however, events that meet the new thresholds will be cancelled.
"Alberta is asking organizers to cancel any events that have more than 250 attendees. This includes large sporting events, conferences and community events. It does not extend to places of worship, grocery stores, airports or shopping centres.
Any event that has more than 50 attendees and expects to have international participants, or involves critical infrastructure staff, seniors, or other high-risk populations should also be cancelled.
Events that do not meet these criteria can proceed, but risk mitigation must be in place, such as sanitizer stations and distancing between attendees.
At this time, schools and daycares can remain open but steps should be taken to ensure that no more than 250 individuals are in the same room at any given time.
Travel outside of the country is not being recommended at this time. Given the rapid global spread of the virus, it is no longer possible to assess health risks for the duration of the trip."
For official updates: www.alberta.ca: COVID-19 coronavirus info for Albertans

News: March 9, 2020 issue

Edson RCMP lay arson charges in recent fires

37 year-old man and 17 year-old youth arrested and charged with multiple counts of arson

by Cassie Kushniruk
 
   On March 4, Edson RCMP reported that two local individuals have been charged with a series of offenses following a string of fires that have affected the communities of Edson, Whitecourt, and Niton Junction.
   The first fire occurred in the early morning of December 9 when the Edson Chrysler Dodge dealership was destroyed, leaving 35 people out of work. The front office/showroom, as well as 60-80% of the mechanic bays, were devastated by the fire, but fortunately there were no injuries reported at the time.
   Only 45 minutes after the dealership fire, Edson RCMP received a second call of a vehicle fire on 41st Street and 51st Avenue that destroyed a truck.
In nearby Whitecourt, two businesses, Sew Right and KW Pets, were destroyed by a fire later on December 26.
   Unfortunately, nothing could be saved in either store, including the animals.
   On December 30 around 5 am, the Edson Fire Department was made aware of a major structure fire at the Edson Honda dealership, which caused over $1 million in damage in product and building.
  The most recent fire occurred on February 23 at the Petro-Canada Gas station building in Niton Junction. Fortunately, the fire damage was limited to the interior of the gas station's store and did not cause structural damage to the Petro-Canada building.
   During a media appearance on March 4, Edson RCMP Detachment Commander Sgt. Kevin Gaal and Town of Edson Mayor Kevin Zahara spoke to The Weekly Anchor about the charges and the arrest of the two individuals.
   According to Sgt. Gaal, the fire at the Niton Petro-Canada gas station “tipped that hat” to allow the RCMP to come to the final conclusion of who they were dealing with.
    Gaal stated that the RCMP was not able to connect the Whitecourt and Edson fires until they received a surveillance video linking them. “That was a turning factor in our investigation,” he said. Investigators will also be reaching out to the surrounding communities for other unsolved arson cases. 
    Edson and Whitecourt RCMP General Investigation Section (GIS)—with assistance from RCMP GIS Units from Western Alberta District, Drayton Valley and Hinton; Grande Prairie Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams, and other RCMP specialized support units— were able to identify and charge two individuals in connection with all five fires. 
    “On Thursday, February 27, Edson and Whitecourt RCMP executed two search warrants on residences within the Town of Edson,” said Gaal. Through video surveillance provided by the affected businesses and evidence collected at the residences, the RCMP was able to identify the culprits and subsequently arrested two individuals.
    Edson residents Thomas Berube (37) and a 17 year-old youth were arrested and charged with four counts of arson, three counts of break and enter, theft of a motor vehicle over $5000, killing or injuring animals, and obstruction of justice.
    Additionally, Berube has also been charged with arson and break and enter as a result of the Petro-Canada gas station incident in Niton.
    Both Berube and the youth were remanded into custody and are scheduled to attend court in Edson on March 17, 2020.
    Edson Honda General Manager Chad Ford stated that this arrest allows him and his employees to “move on” from the incident while giving them a sense of security that this individual will not be “bouncing back into our store”.
   “The last couple of months have been filled with a lot of uncertainty and fear with the various fires that have been occurring,” said Edson Mayor Kevin Zahara following the arrest. “You don't see fires like this in our community, so people were duly concerned if it was going to affect their business or residences.”
   “It is with a huge sense of relief that charges have been laid following an intensive investigation by the Edson RCMP,” Zahara continued. “The risks these fires posed to First Responders and the public, along with financial impacts to the owners, employees, and the community can't be overstated. My hope is that our residents can sleep easier knowing that suspects have been charged and are now before the courts. The chaos and destruction caused in our community by acts such as these are intolerable.”
    Zahara added, “On behalf of the community of Edson and Edson Town Council, I'd like to recognize all the members of the Edson RCMP Detachment involved in this comprehensive investigation along with all the other RCMP Units and Detachments that were involved. I know locally our investigators worked tirelessly and diligently on this file over the last number of months.”
   Yellowhead County Mayor Jim Eglinksi stated that he was “happy and relieved” to hear charges being laid against the culprits responsible for these fires, adding that "this is certainly a relief for Yellowhead County residents". 
   “As for Niton, the loss of a community store is a big impact,” Eglinski said, adding that it has also impacted people traveling through the region. “I want to compliment the RCMP on the great work they have done. Through good work by the police these cases can be solved,” he said.
   Edson RCMP is currently looking for assistance from the public in locating a four-month-old male Chihuahua that was stolen from the KW Pet Store in Whitecourt on December 26.
If you have this dog, please drop it off at the Edson Animal Control Dog Pound or alternatively, to the Edson RCMP, so that he can be returned to the owner. The Edson Animal Control Dog Pound is located at 3240-1 Avenue, Edson, and is open between 7:30 am and 4 pm.
   Anyone with information about the whereabouts of this dog is asked to contact Edson RCMP at 780-723-8822. If you wish to remain anonymous, you can contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS), online at P3Tips.com or by using the 'P3 Tips' app.
   “I believe that our community is a safe place to live, work and play,” said Zahara. “It's unfortunate that a small group of individuals caused chaos and destruction like this. People need to be vigilant and watch out for their neighborhoods, and if they see suspicious activity know some information, either contact the RCMP or utilize Crime Stoppers. It could be the little piece of the puzzle that could solve the crime.”
   (NOTE: A charge should not be considered as evidence of guilt. In Canada, all persons are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.)

News: March 2, 2020 issue

Break-in and fire at Niton Petro-Canada station

 Quick response from YCFD prevents spread of structure fire

by Dana McArthur

On Sunday, February 23, Yellowhead County Fire Department (YCFD) attended to a structure fire at the Petro-Canada Gas Station building in Niton Junction.
It has been determined that there was a break-in at the gas station and a subsequent fire at the location. “The fire was reported at 3 am,” said Media Relations Officer for RCMP Western Alberta District Deanna Fontaine.
Yellowhead County Firefighters from the nearby Station 8 fire quickly extinguished and prevented the spread of the fire.
The fire damage was limited to the interior of the gas station's store and did not cause structural damage to the Petro-Canada building. YCFD firefighters were able to prevent the fire spreading to nearby buildings, although the adjacent motel was evacuated as a precautionary measure while the fire was extinguished. No injuries were reported.
An investigation is underway to determine the exact cause of the fire. “It's under investigation. The circumstances are suspicious,” said Fontaine.
Along with gas pumps and convenience store, the Niton Petro-Canada also served as the parcel and registered mail pickup for Canada Post. Area residents will have to travel to the Edson Tags North store to pick up their parcels for the expected two or three months the gas station will be closed for repairs.
-with files Yellowhead County

News: February 24, 2020 issue

Teamwork brings back the Family Day Extravaganza

by Brianne Benson
 
The Boys and Girls Club partnered with the Foster Parent Association to organize this year's successful Family Day Extravaganza.
With over 200 community members attending the carnival-style event, the Boys and Girls Club was able to help the Foster Parent Association keep the tradition of the annual event alive after they were forced to shut it down for the past two years due to a lack of volunteers.
The auditorium of the Legion Hall in Edson was transformed into a mini-carnival to help provide the community with a fun and low-cost activity to do with their families for Family Day on February 17. Families ate hot dogs, popcorn, and cotton candy while making their way through the wide variety of games.
“Everyone had a really great time and we are very appreciative that Gean Chouinard and Brian Golding from the Foster Parent Association thought of our organization to partner with to raise some much-needed funds, especially in these trying economic times. It is very helpful,” said Boys and Girls Club Executive Director Loralie Shupe-Latour.
Available games included plinko, bean bag toss, ring toss, mini-putt golf, horseshoes, fishing, spin to win wheel, ski-ball, and a basketball hoop shot. The kids and their families had a blast trying out all the games and winning tickets to use as entries for door prizes.
The two big ticket grand prizes were a six-person camping tent, and a 42-inch air hockey table. There was also a host of other great door prizes to be won.
“We are glad that we were able to partner with the 4-H Club and that we had the support of our staff, their families, and the board of directors. They all pitched in and we were able to work together and make it happen,” Loralie added. “We have found that the number of volunteers that we have available compared to previous years is lower and so it’s really important to develop these partnerships especially now that times are tougher than in the past.”
 “Anything we can do to provide an affordable and fun event opportunity for families to attend locally is always a good thing,” Shupe-Latour said, “we just want to thank the community for coming out and supporting us. We would also like to extend an extra special thanks to everyone who volunteered to help out.”
“In addition, if families are needing some extra support, they can also reach out to us and we can connect them with the services that they need," Loralie added.

News: February 17, 2020 issue

Town begins discussions for Campground Investment Plan

by Cassie Kushniruk
 
At the February 11 Town Council meeting, Council began preliminary discussions for the development of a Campground Investment Plan for both Willmore Park and the Lions Park Campground.
Currently, the Town operates Willmore Park and the Lions Park Campground is operated in partnership with the Lions Club.
“The first step for the campground investment plan is to clearly define the purpose and intent of each of the campgrounds,” said General Manager of Community and Protective Services Guy Latour. “A clear definition of purpose will then allow us to establish the required services each site can provide and the resulting infrastructure investments required to meet its intended purpose.”
During the time period for questions and comments from Council, Councillor GeanChouinard said, “I would like to take part of Lions Campground and Willmore Park and make it more attractive to temporary housing. A lot of times we are bringing workers into town and I have to agree that the campgrounds around us are staying very full.”
CAO Mike Derricott cautioned, “Most of the other campgrounds close to Edson are in the market of temporary housing and I’ve heard some hesitancy from Council in the past to create competitive dynamics where we’re competing against other entities that are trying to provide the same type of service.”
Councillor Troy Sorenson suggested completing a gap analysis first to “find what we are missing in our community and what we need more of”.
Sorenson added, “I would be uncomfortable if all of our campgrounds were full of long-term temporary workers. I know it would be great for the economy, but we already have hotels and apartment complexes that are looking to make money off of temporary workers.”
Councillor Jacqui Currie echoed Sorenson’s comment, adding, “I think the amount of money that has been invested into [Willmore] Park has already set the parameters of what that is. I think it would really take away if it was all temporary housing.”
Deputy Mayor Krystal Baier commented, “I think Willmore Park should be left a bit more on the rustic end as it is, maybe with a few enhancements, but I don’t think investing sewer, power, or additional water into it would make it any more attractive.”
Councillor Bevan stated that he would like to invest some money into developing the Lions Park Campground. “I don’t think we have to go 100%in providing year-round facilities there, but water, power, and sewer would be great. I know people that prefer going to Lions Park because they can go out to all the restaurants around town, they can walk downtown, or they can go down to our trails. We spent $400,000 out at Willmore Park. I think we can spend some money to fix our Lions Park.”
Councillor Currie stated, “I am interested in recreation and a bit of tourism for Willmore Park and tourism with some temporary housing for Lions Park.” Councillors Janet Wilkinson andGeanChouinard, along with Deputy Mayor Baier, agreed with Councillor Currie’s comment. 
During the time period for questions from the public, one resident commented, “[Lions Park] is not just for tourism or workers.My dream would be totally revamp the park. Right now it’s chopped up because it was designed in the 70s for little campers. We could relay it out, get things back in there, and start putting trees back in.”
This item will be brought back to Council at a future date for further discussion.

News: February 10, 2020 issue

Potholes plague motorists on Hwy 16

Highway pothole repairs get underway amid rising complaints and media inquires

by Dana McArthur
 
It's not a pretty sight. Highway 16 east and westbound from Evansburg to west of Wildwood is riddled with an obstacle course of deeply eroded potholes; better described in some sections as road trenches.
The section from Wildwood Range Road 92A and Range Road 91 eastbound, however, is particularly bad. "Although this is a particularly bad stretch there are many more potholes everywhere on Highway 16 in both directions," said Scott Meadwell from the County.
"In the past two days I have spoken to two County residents that have wrecked tires and rims in these potholes.  Today I spoke to a man who had been waiting for a tow truck for four hours after he hit a pothole," said Meadwell. "These potholes are going to cause accidents and damage as small cars get thrown around or from people swerving to avoid them. I don't want to think of what could happen if a motorcycle hit them."
On February 3, the Weekly Anchor contacted the media representative for Ledcor, the maintenance contractor for the highway, but no response to our questions was received as of press time.
Regarding the nearby potholes along Highway 16, Wildwood resident Megan Otway at Lobstick River Foods, said, "It's horrible! I was driving and hit one of those potholes and it kicked the back of my truck out and I almost hit the ditch! I swerved into the other lane and it was lucky no one was passing me or it would have caused an accident!"
Otway added that she knew of some repairs to the road that were attempted recently during wet weather. "When it froze it just seemed to crack off and made it even worse." Brooklyn Elhard, Press Secretary for the Ministry of Transportation, stated, "Pothole repair can be done any time of year, though most products and Alberta Transportation specifications require working conditions above +5 C for permanent repair."
Local resident Sadie Marklund with Special Touch in Wildwood, said, "It's one of the worst sections I have ever seen. I travel that section every day and it's gotten to the point where I won't even travel in the right lane anymore. It's safer to travel in the passing lane because it's not full of potholes. It's getting worse, so I have started taking the back roads just to avoid the potholes on the highway from Lobstick to Wildwood."
The Weekly Anchor also contacted MLA Martin Long's office on Monday, February 3 and received a call-back on Tuesday. Martin stated that he was headed to a scheduled meeting with the Alberta Transportation Area Operations Manager and that the potholes will be part of the conversation. "I talked to MLA Shane Getson [Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland] and he has brought our concerns to the Minister of Transportation's office as well," said Long.
In an interview with Long after his meeting with the area manager, he stated to the Anchor, "There is work being done on the highway in that [Wildwood] area today [January 4], and with weather permitting they will continue that work."
"Highway 16 is considered a priority highway because higher volume highways take presidence. People have brought us their concerns, and my office, and this government take those concerns very seriously. I appreciate people reaching out to my office and we will always do our part to make those concerns heard at the appropriate level," said Martin.
The Ministry of Transportation also confirmed, "The department is aware of the condition of this segment of Highway 16 and has issued hand patching work orders to the contractor to address these pavement defects on an emergency basis." Alberta Transportation states they assess a combination of factors for repair decisions, "but safety is our top priority," said Press Secretary Elhard.
To report issues on the highway it is recommended to contact the maintenance contractor Ledcor first at their 24 hour number 1-866-453-3267. The Alberta Transportation District Office in Edson can be reached at 780-723-8250. For highway travel information and reports go to 511.alberta.ca.
If your vehicle was damaged by potholes in the area along Highway 16, you can file a written claim including the date, time, and location of the incident. Include an estimate of the damage and a description of the incident, and your name and address (phone number optional).
Forward your claim to the highway maintenance contractor: Ledcor Alberta Limited, Attention: Claims Coordinator, 7008 Roper Road, Box 4031 Edmonton AB, T6B 3H2. Also send a copy to Alberta Transportation, Edson District 202 111-54 Street Edson AB, T7E 1T2. If you do not hear from the contractor within two weeks advise the Edson District Office of Alberta Transportation at 780-723-8250.
The Alberta Motor Association advises never to swerve abruptly to avoid a pothole. This could cause an accident. If you aren't able to safely avoid a pothole, slow down to help mitigate the damage. But take your foot off the brake just before you drive through the hole, this gives your suspension more 'travel' to absorb the blow.
The poor condition of Highway 16 through Edson has also raised concerns with Town Council. On January 21 council agreed to support a lobby for better maintenance of the east and westbound lanes.

News:February 3, 2020 issue

County denied funding under provincial MPB program for 2020

by Cassie Kushniruk
 
On December 2, 2019, Yellowhead County received notice from Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AAF) that grant funding under the provincial Mountain Pine Beetle program for 2020 has been denied.
According to a letter fromAAF, this $332,000 in funding, which was used to remove approximately 1500 trees from private property in Yellowhead County, will instead be reallocated to fightthe Mountain Pine Beetle solely on crown lands.
“Yellowhead County has been working with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry since 2009 to control or eradicate the MPB,” stated Yellowhead County Agricultural Services Supervisor Jennifer Benson. “Without grant funding, there is the possibility that the MPB will continue to move west and effect neighboring municipalities.”
During County Council’s January 28 meeting, Director of Community Services Christopher Read said, “Given that neither Alberta nor Canada are funding municipalities to participate in the MPB fight, Administration has drafted a letter to be sent to both levels of government to ask them to reconsider those respective decisions.”
Councillor David Russell asked, “If I understand this correctly, there are no funds that the County will have for a Pine Beetle program in 2020?”Read responded, “That is correct. The County has never funded this program as it has come through the Province. There will be no program to help our residents solve a beetle problem on their properties.”
Councillor Shawn Berry asked how much monetary assistance has been provided to residents through this program. Read responded, “Last year over $300,000 of Pine Beetle control was done in the County.” This is excluding the Robb area which the province discontinued funding support for last year.
Mayor Jim Eglinski added, “I am very disappointed with the provincial and federal governments for cutting funding for this program. I spent many hours as an MP speaking in the House on this issue and it seemed to fall on deaf ears. I think it is just a matter of time for a very serious fire situation to happen, and I am very concerned.”
When asked what residents will do now that there is no funding available for cutting down MPB-infested trees, Benson said, “Some residents will cut down the trees themselves and others will possibly hire contractors directly. Others still will unfortunately leave the trees standing because of financial or physical constraints.”
According to Alberta Wildfire Information Officer Caroline Charbonneau, the Forest Health Department from AAF has been busy over the past several months conducting aerial surveys to collect MPB red tree locations. “These locations are collected and analysed provincially to determine priority locations,” she said.
The province anticipates controlling approximately 100,000 infested trees this season in various Forest Areas throughout Alberta.
“The majority of the survey and control work is being completed in the southern portion of our forest area, 80 kms southeast of Hinton and 50 kms south of Edson,” Charbonneau mentioned. “Another small contract directed by AAF is located near the community of Grande Cache.”
In the Edson Forest Area, approximately 2500 sites are planned to be ground surveyed by contractors and are nearly complete. “From these ground surveyed sites, an estimated 13,920 trees are predicted to be controlled this season,” stated Charbonneau.
According to Charbonneau, 2404 trees have already been hand-fallen and burnt on site by provincially hired contractors, who will be working on this project until the end of March.
Charbonneau added, “Contractors require fire permits once wildfire season begins on March 1. This makes burning operations tricky since some sites may not be safe to burn due to lack of snow and dry grass. A Forest Officer will determine if a burn permit can be approved.” 
Two local forestry companies, Hinton Wood Products and Weyerhaeuser, have also applied for funding to control the MPB in this area through the Forest Resource Improvement Association of Alberta (FRIAA) grant.
“Hinton Wood Products has started ground surveys, which began in early January, and they anticipate controlling 1000 trees near the Mountain Cree Community through a FRIAA and FRIP (Forest Resource Improvement Program) grant,” Charbonneau said. “Hinton Wood Products FRIP dollars will also be put towards training six Mountain Cree members who will be helping with survey quality inspections and control quality inspection training.”
Weyerhaeuser has also been approved for FRIAA funding and have begun ground surveys on 600 sites. “Of these sites, they anticipate to identify and control 7,000 trees south of Edson,” Charbonneau stated.
Due to the cold temperatures Alberta received this January, Charbonneau stated that lower MPB numbers are to be expected, however, “there needs to be a mortality level of as much as 95% to suppress the population and the temperatures just weren’t cold enough”.  
“The results of this year’s cold temperatures won't be known until the spring when Alberta Agriculture and Forestry conducts and analyzes overwinter mortality surveys,” Charbonneau mentioned.
Charbonneau added, “The good news is that the MPB in our forest area have taken a significant hit the past 2 years, experiencing above average precipitation over the summer months and cold weather events at various stages of fall, winter and spring.  These events are certainly helping us achieve our control objectives.”