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Interactive visioning for the future of the Kenai Peninsula

Posted: Tuesday, June 06, 2006

 

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  Interactive visioning for the future of the Kenai Peninsula

Designer of the ALCES program, Dr. Brad Stelfox of Alberta presents the results of his computer model at the Kenai River Center.

Ever wonder what the peninsula will look like in the future if we increase the population by another 50,000, or 75,289? What will happen to brown bear or Coho salmon habitat if we build another 100 or 500 miles of roads? How much money will we save by growing our municipalities up instead of out? What happens if we replace more hanging culverts and build new culverts so juvenile salmon can get through? Will better fish habitat create more fisheries jobs, tourists, and tourism dollars? How will future oil and gas development impact the ecology of the Peninsula and what is the impact of new jobs created from it and how will climate change affect all of these factors?

These are the type of questions the Alaska Landscape Cumulative Effects Simulator (ALCES) can now help answer. ALCES is a cumulative effects model tracking land uses, natural processes, and natural disturbances to provide a comprehensive approach to resource planning. The designer of the program Dr. Brad Stelfox, from Alberta Canada has customized his ALCES program, used extensively over Canada to fit the Kenai Peninsula, “In a project coordinated by the Kenai Watershed Forum and the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge working in conjunction with a multitude of federal, state, local, tribal, and nonprofit agencies we have made sure that the model deals with all the natural disturbances common to the Peninsula such as fire, insect outbreaks, climate change as well as all the land use practices on the Peninsula so what we have input to the model is what has happened over the last 50 years to create the landscape we have now, and use that information to grow it into the future over the next 5 decades to know what it’ll mean to a host of environmental and economic indicators,” Stelfox explained.

 

Interactive visioning for the future of the Kenai Peninsula

The ALCES study results have found that trends in residential settlement could be among the largest drivers of change on the peninsula, Stelfox told a full house of interested residents at a presentation hosted by the Kenai Watershed Forum at the Kenai River Center recently. Of the 15020 ALCES studies Stelfox has participated in throughout the Americas, the Kenai Peninsula has the largest proportion of people not living in towns or cities. A major reason the peninsula’s population settlement patterns could dramatically degrade the wilderness is that rural living requires new roads, “Roads will cross creeks and streams used by your salmon ides, your young salmon, culverts will be used for those crossings and eventually they will hang and become obstacles to fish trying to swim upstream to spawn,” said Stelfox. According to Stelfox without exception all of the land uses that are occurring on the Kenai Peninsula are creating benefits and without exception they are creating liabilities. The ALCES program allows planners to visualize the impacts of various levels of land use. For more information about the ALCES study call or email Stephanie at the Kenai Watershed Forum at 260-5449 or stephanie@kenaiwatershed.org.



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