Clear cutting a cruel cut

Posted: Tuesday, February 15, 2011

It's disappointing when a letter to the editor concerning governmental activity isn't in response to words or ideas but rather actions. The recent clear cutting between Ninilchik and Clam Gulch came to my attention not via proposals or public notices; I learned of it after the clear cutting had commenced.

I know good people who live in these areas and gladly endure long commutes to enjoy the silence and tranquility that limited population and abundant nature provide. I and many others like me gladly pass the long drive to pluck meat from South Peninsula saltwaters, hit the Ninilchik to feel the mass of a soon-to-be smoked salmon or brave November temps to cradle the strength of a passing Anchor River steelhead. The drive itself lends tremendously to the experience (I'm sure our visitors feel the same) and it was with much chagrin that I discovered that clear cutting up to 300 feet was taking place on the southern Sterling Highway.

A gentleman from the Department of Transportation fielded my questions cordially, although at one point some were dubbed egregious. I was informed that removing trees and shrubbery would allow more sunlight and ease the burden of road ice, create a larger berth between moose and vehicles and provide a safer highway. Statistics show that many more moose collisions occur in the Kenai/Soldotna area. I haven't went out with my tape, but I'd bet the clear cutting along the Spur doesn't approach 300 feet. I'd be intrigued to hear what kind of statistical improvements have been made along the Spur and what rationale the DOT utilized to choose the area they've been cutting recently, as well as the distances from the road that are being cut. Any chance the DOT will be reimbursing residents whose property has been clear cut for decreasing their property values?

As Alaskans we revere the beauty that lines our roads, shelters our homes and enhances our drives. Some semblance of public notice, review and debate should occur before such large portions of plant and tree life are eradicated at the state's leisure. We should be consulted before they alter the lands that also belong to the people. It's utterly irresponsible when the government undertakes activities as drastic as clear cutting without informing the populous and doesn't even consider fielding public input. I know I'll feel resentment when I head south on my next fishing trip and I couldn't begin to fathom the ire of folks who woke up to find state equipment hacking down their front or back yards.

Maybe the next time the DOT has money to spend, they could at least disseminate their intentions, or better yet, spend the money repairing and sanding the roads to truly make them safer. If you agree with any of these notions, contact the DOT and voice your displeasure.

Dan Ungrue, Kenai

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