The bare areas of the forest where trees have been removed for personal use, logging operations and affected by spruce bark beetles will not be so bare after this year.
The U.S. Forest Service will head out this summer with a plan to replenish one of Alaska's resources -- trees.
"There are areas that we are going to fill that were cut for personal use, and that is basically where the beetles destroy the trees as well," said Mark Kromrey, a forestry technician with the Forest Service. "Our plan is to reforest areas that have been deforested."
Kromrey, who has been handling much of the reforestation around the Kenai Peninsula since the middle of the 1980s, said reforestation is not a new idea.
"We've had a program of reforestation the entire time I have been here," he said. "(The amount of trees we plant) varies from year to year. This year we are hoping to get in well over 300 acres on various sites and various projects."
Kromrey said the reforestation project will begin as soon as the ground thaws and will continue through July. The Forest Service has ordered approximately 75,000 seedlings to help in the reforestation projects.
Kromrey said the larger projects usually are put out on contract, but the Forest Service tries to handle the smaller projects itself.
"I really enjoy doing it," Kromrey said. "You can go back 10 years later and see what you accomplished. You get to see a forest taking shape."
Kromrey said the project has generally been a success in the past, but there are numerous factors that could temper future successes.
"In most areas, it gives trees a jump on vegetation that chokes everything off," he said. "The best success comes right after an area has been cleared and the seedlings are planted right away. It all comes down to how much we plant and where."
The reforestation project is not just a one-time fix to an old problem, it also is a step toward ensuring the future of Alaska's forests.
"We will be planting seedlings in some areas where we don't plan on moving any trees," Kromrey said. "We will try to get some (seedlings) in there so that in five years when the old trees start falling over, there will be something there to occupy that area besides brush and grass."
Kromrey said some areas that will receive the seedlings include Quartz Creek, Summit Lake and Hope.
"Basically there will be projects spread over the entire district," Kromrey said. "The district starts around the Sportsman Lodge on the Sterling Highway, extends to the Turnagain Pass area and down to the town of Seward."
In the end, the goal is to have all of the deforested areas teeming with forest once again.
"Our forests are at an even-age condition, an old even-age," Kromrey said. "Many of our trees are relatively at the end of their life cycle. When they start to come down, we want something there besides brush to take over."
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