Mat-Su looks to mitigate spruce beetle outbreak with timber sales

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) – With warmer weather returning to Southcentral Alaska, forestry officials say the destructive spruce beetle is once again on the move, seeking out new host trees to attack.

The ongoing outbreak of beetles has so far affected more than half a million acres. DOF forest health program manager Jason Moan says it’s a problem that has grown rapidly.

“We started picking up some increase in activity around 2015 and really substantial increases in 2016 and 2017,” he said.

Spruce beetles are native to Alaska and outbreaks have been known to occur in the past. Moan says the spread of these beetles substantially reduces the forest canopy.

Most of the infested trees are concentrated on the Kenai Peninsula and the Susitna River Valley. Mat-Su Borough officials are looking at a few plans to mitigate the spread of the beetles by cutting down infested trees for timber.

“We have a contract in the works off the Petersville Road and Chujik Creek area that will hopefully mitigate and remove a lot of the beetle-killed spruce in that area,” said Ray Nix, the borough’s natural resources manager.

That contract is being negotiated with Cook Inlet Regional Incorporated, the company that owns the land around Chujik Creek. If the proposal moves forward, a business called Denali Timber Management will harvest the beetle infested spruce trees and bring the round logs to Port MacKenzie, where they can be exported to China and other Pacific Rim trading partners.

Moan says Alaskans can also help prevent the outbreak from spreading by making sure their spruce trees remain healthy and growing. You can also use a preventative pesticide to protect trees that haven’t been attacked by the beetles.

For more information, head to the Division of Forestry website.

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