Historically, periodic spruce budworm outbreaks have destroyed hundreds of millions of cubic meters of timber, leading to substantial economic losses in New Brunswick. During the past two major outbreaks, a Foliage Protection strategy was used as a reactive, stop-gap measure to suppress defoliation in high-value crown land by culling spruce budworm with insecticides. However, given massive increases in insecticide application costs, foliage protection over the full potential range of a budworm outbreak may no longer be economically sustainable. As an alternative, the early intervention strategy (EIS) was introduced to slow or prevent the spread of spruce budworm ‘hotspots’ through Atlantic Canada.

A recent economic study by Liu et al. (2019) evaluated the potential economic impacts of EIS and Foliage Protection strategy on New Brunswick economy. This analysis suggested that EIS could prevent up to $9.6 billion in lost economic output over the next 50 years, whereas Foliage Protection strategy could prevent $8.7 billion of loss. Additionally, a full benefit-cost analysis to assess the relative economic efficiency of these two strategies revealed that EIS could produce a net economic benefit of nearly $353 million over the next 50 years compared with up to $109 million for Foliage Protection. The findings confirmed that an EIS, assuming that it continues to work, was predicted to best mitigate negative economic impacts of SBW and was the most cost-effective and economically efficient forest protection strategy.

Eric Liu, University of New Brunswick

Full paper available online: “Economics of Early Intervention to Suppress a Potential Spruce Budworm Outbreak on Crown Land in New Brunswick, Canada.“