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Forests decimated by beetles slated for harvest

Posted: Wednesday, December 04, 2002

KENAI - Hundreds of acres of forest killed by the spruce bark beetle near Ninilchik and Homer will be up for bid in mid-March.

The timber sales are part of a continuing effort by the state Division of Forestry to remove hazardous trees from populated areas.

One sale involves estimated 895,000 board feet, another includes 370,000 board feet, and the largest is 1.4 million board feet offered near Eagle Lake east of Homer.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Spruce Bark Beetle Task Force recommended the division move quickly to reduce fuels where fires are most likely to threaten homes and businesses. On average, beetles have killed roughly 95 percent of the spruce in the sale areas, according to the division.

The threat of wildfire in the dead forest can be extreme, especially in the dry spring before green-up. Reforestation of the dead forest is another important consideration.

"Outside of hazard reduction, it's the second most important priority," area forester Jim Peterson said.

The sales raise some environmental concerns, said Bob Shavelson, director of the Cook Inlet Keeper, a Homer-based organization that conducts water-quality research.

Shavelson said heavy rains last month may have put a lot of sediment in lower Peninsula salmon streams. He said the increased sediment demonstrates the importance of proper logging setbacks around streams. And no one knows the effect of removing billions of pounds of nutrients from the watersheds.



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