The province says it will spend $40 million over the next four years to combat outbreaks of pesky budworms that feast on spruce and jack pine trees across Northern Ontario.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry said on Dec. 15 the pernicious insects have already ravaged sections of northern forests this year, including parts of the Northwest.

“Infestations of spruce budworm in the northeast, and jack pine budworm in the northwest, have grown exponentially from 2018 to 2019, with confirmed increases in infestation, defoliation, and tree mortality through the 2020 survey season,” a ministry spokeswoman said in an email.

“If left unaddressed, these infestations could result in significant losses to the future wood supply for the forest industry and increase fire hazard risk, affecting community safety and wildlife habitat,” said an MNRF news release.

Aerial spraying programs will begin in 2021, following “extensive public and Indigenous consultation,” the release said.

A provincial backgrounder said Ontario’s forestry sector accounts for “$18 billion in revenue and supports approximately 147,000 direct and indirect jobs in regions with few other industries.”

Spraying programs against jack pine budworm occurred in 2006, 2007 and 2009, but were halted after the outbreaks began to ebb, the provincial backgrounder said.

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