Cooper Landing

Posted: Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Greetings from Wisconsin.

Ladonna Herbert called to report the Community Church was changing to summer hours, which means starting Sunday services begin at 8 a.m. at the Catholic church on Snug Harbor Road.

Friends of John Torgerson, candidate for Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor, invites area residents to a chili feed Thursday at the community hall. This is an opportunity to visit with John from 5 to 8 p.m. and get a free meal, too.

Mayme Ohnemus, Gene Craig and Florine Velker visited old friends and former Cooper Landing residents in Anchorage recently. They found Dolores Runner looking well in her new home at Health Care Bridges. Alyce Hanson treated them to a tour of Marlow Manor after lunch. At the Pioneer Home they had to move quickly to keep up with Pat Ground in her motorized wheel chair.

The Chugach National Forest scenario-building workshops regarding winter access across the Seward Ranger District are over and a team will take the ideas generated at the workshops and other comments received and formulate an environmental document. These team meetings are open to the public and the times and locations are on the project Web site: Winter use of the Lost Lake Trail and Carter-Crescent Lakes Trail has been a concern of area snowmachiners.

The USFS also will host open houses in May concerning prescribed fire, hazardous fuels treatment, and other issues. They want to encourage participation by offering several projects at once because they've heard some folks are having meeting fatigue. Information about the open houses can be found on the Web site above.

Retired U.S. Forest Service research entomologist Ed Holsten, told the April 16 Cooper Landing Historical Society audience about forest and yard insect pests already at work and about some that are working their way toward us. Spruce bark beetles, larch sawflies, uglynest caterpillars, birch leaf miners and gypsy moths were shown on the screen as well as the results of their voracious appetites.

The spruce bark beetles have about eaten themselves out of house and home on the Kenai Peninsula. At the height of what has been called the world's largest outbreak of spruce bark beetles, millions of trees were killed each year.

We knew that the beetles found freshly fallen trees, whether from a wind storm or human activity, and stands of mature spruce the ideal hosts. What some of us didn't know was what else contributed to the always-present spruce bark beetles going bonkers.

Climate change played a large part in the beetle epidemic. Ed learned that only a few degrees, maybe one or two degrees Fahrenheit warmer, can change the life cycle of the cold-blooded spruce bark beetle from two years to one year. So there's more beetles to attack and kill trees faster. Evidence of climate warming was found in tree-ring studies, tracked North Pacific sea surface temperatures and a drying landscape.

Stressed trees are more susceptible and drought causes one kind of stress, especially to large trees. As the trees loose moisture because summers are hotter, they become stressed. When the stands of mature trees are thick, the soils around the trees can't thaw quickly enough in the spring for the roots to get moisture and that stresses the trees. The tree's defense against the beetles is to pitch them out. If the spruce is stressed, it can't withstand too many beetle attacks. A healthy, well-watered tree can pitch out many more beetles.

Spruce bark beetle adults generally emerge in May and fly to new host trees to lay their eggs. After the hottest summer in years last year, and what seemed like a mild winter, I wonder if the remaining large spruce are more stressed this year and if the beetles will go to smaller trees.

I know we will continue to water as many spruce in our yard as we can reach with water from the creek pumped through a large hose.

Next week a report on some of the exotic insect pests in our area. Those uglynest caterpillars can make a real mess of cotoneaster shrubs.

I was touched by the presentation at the historical society meeting and I want to thank the members for the armful of flowers and the framed picture and inscription. They chose a place for it in Jack Lean's old cabin. Jack was the first of the old timer's I got to know and I spent many years working in that cabin during the post office years.

Mona Painter can be reached by phone at 595-1248 or by email at

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