Alaska Department of Fish and Game to clear spruce trees killed by beetles

Effort is in place to improve moose habitat and reduce chance of wildfire near Homer
FILE - Dead spruce trees
FILE - Dead spruce trees(KTUU)
Published: Dec. 9, 2022 at 2:07 PM AKST
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HOMER, Alaska (KTUU) - Machines with masticating heads will be used to mulch down fallen spruce trees over 80 acres of land in the North Folk Area, an Alaska Department of Fish and Game news release announced on Thursday.

Standing dead trees will generally be left untouched to maintain habitats for birds and insects, the department said.

While moose populations have been numerous and hunting has been successful, it has been noted that the current habitat trends could lead to a future decline in moose populations as the department’s research has found that cows and calves in the area tend to become malnourished in late winter.

Fish and Game will also be scarifying the soil in order to remove bluejoint reedgrass and expose mineral soil so that willows and birch can grow as they are preferable to moose for eating. The mulching of the trees will also prevent grass from invading the willows’ habitat, allowing them to have more access to sunlight,

It’s all in response to spruce beetles killing trees on the Kenai Peninsula, causing a trend of the habitat in the area to decline in quality.

Machines will soon be able to operate in the area as the ground is currently frozen, which will help prevent machines from damaging the environment with erosion.

While the treatment of these areas provides moose with more access to food, the department also said that it concentrates animals to a point where they are more vulnerable to predators.

With controlled burns being several years away due to the amount of coordinated elements that must be established, the department will continue to manage the land in this manner, the release said.

The ADF&G partnered with the Homer Soil and Water Conservation District to do similar operations in the Anchor River and Fritz Creek Critical Habitat Area, which has already led to the regeneration of plants for moose to be able to forage.