Mountain pine beetles appear to be on their way to becoming a permanent fixture in Alberta’s forests, provincial officials say.

There were hopes that low winter temperatures in early 2008 would reduce Alberta’s infestation, but a provincial government assessment states that populations of the voracious tree pest remain high in several areas.

“Pine beetles may be here to stay in Alberta,” said Ted Morton, Sustainable Resource Development Minister. The admission also raises the possibility that the beetles could soon spread eastward across Canada’s vast boreal forest, where the generally higher temperatures accompanying global warming may allow the pests to survive.