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Anchorage is spending millions to take out beetle-killed trees

Dangerous dead trees that may cause a fire or falling hazard are being removed along many Anchorage trails.
Published: Jun. 20, 2022 at 4:39 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Dangerous dead trees that may cause a fire or falling hazard are being removed along many Anchorage trails.

The spruce bark beetle-killed spruce trees have posed a hazard across Southcentral Alaska for more than a decade, and federal American Rescue Plan Act funds are being used to help remove the dangerous trees from trails along the Anchorage Hillside. Parks and Trails Safety Foreman for the Anchorage Department of Parks and Recreation Mike Braniff said that the city is spending nearly $4 million in ARPA to remove dead spruce trees this summer and next, so Anchorage residents may hear the sound of chainsaws along while traversing trails.

“If we don’t address beetle kill — this fuel situation — and also the falling hazard the trees present in certain areas, are two dangers that we just can’t afford to let get away from us,” Braniff said. “Left standing dead, eventually this material is going to burn. Our goal is to remove it before it does burn.”

Braniff said the work is being done on the upper Hillside at Far North Bicentennial Park, Hillside Park near Service High School, Ruth Arcand Park on the lower Hillside and also parts of the Campbell Creek Trail. The work is expected to run through the end of November and start again next spring.

While that program is intended to take out trees that are fire hazards on public land, the Anchorage Fire Department is encouraging people to do the same on their own property. The Firewise Home Assessment Program is now taking applications from people who want to learn how to make their homes safer from wildfires. The program includes an on-site inspection and can offer 50% reimbursement up to a maximum of $500 for homeowners who remove dead trees from their property.

Priority is given to homeowners whose property interfaces with wooded areas on the Hillside, Eagle River and other forested municipal properties and park lands. The department encourages people to sign up for the Firewise Homes Assessment Program online, adding that the assessments are on a first come, first serve basis to homeowners while funding is available.

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