Posted: Wednesday, July 15, 2009

During a recent visit to the west side of Cook Inlet, I ventured into a forest that was full of huge, dead, beetle-killed spruce trees. Most of them still stood there tall and proud but the bark had pretty well fallen off, leaving them looking ugly and alone. There was no green left on any of them just the ugly reddish brown color that clearly indicates the tree is dead.

Each year these trees rot a little more as the decomposition process takes over and before long these once magnificent trees will come crashing to the forest floor. Trees that would have made a huge pile of lumber for building or many years supply of firewood to heat several homes are simply rotting away and being completely wasted. It saddens me to see this type of waste here in Alaska besides the added risks of fires these dead trees help create.

I find that in many areas we still have a lot of dead beetle-killed tress still standing and it leaves a very ugly impression on me as there is nothing beautiful about a dead forest. Dead trees also hinder the regrowth of the forest by blocking sunlight and leaving the forest floor littered with downed timber.

Imagine the heat generated when a forest like this catches fire and the danger it causes to everything around it. I guarantee that if this remote area I just described would ever start on fire there would be no stopping it. It would burn everything in its path-cabins, live trees, and vehicles, and there would be no way to get in enough equipment fast enough to stop it very quickly.

But perhaps the most disappointing thing there is for me is trying to understand why someone has not harvested this wood instead of letting it go to waste. Lumber is expensive so basically this lumber or firewood would be free if someone was allowed to cut it.

The fire in Homer burned several thousand acres earlier this spring and the Shanta Creek Fire has now burned over 10,000 acres as of July 10th. Could they have been prevented? Most likely yes, but also I'm sure both areas had plenty of dead beetle kill in their paths that helped fuel these fires.

I think for the most part it is simply too easy for most of our people today to just buy whatever we need at the store then to harvest it ourselves. Burning wood is a whole lot more work and troublesome then burning natural gas so most of us simply burn gas. Also natural gas is very user friendly and a whole lot cleaner. As the cost of natural gas increases, the idea of burning wood has once again raised my interest, especially in an outside boiler so the wood mess stays outdoors. Then I'd get a little exercise cutting wood and it would be a whole lot cheaper then natural gas!

Just imagine the supply of natural gas coming to an end or simply getting too expensive to use. What will you and your family do then? I know if we all had to turn to burning wood it would also push the cost of firewood higher but it might also mean we would all be in a little better shape! Perhaps we could cancel the health club membership and simply cut wood to stay in shape.

I hate the thought of wasting anything so badly I would cut those dead beetle-killed trees myself even if I had to give it to someone. To me managing our forest is as important as managing our fish and wildlife. I think we are simply too wasteful at times and need to be wiser in managing the resources God gave us right here in Alaska. If you're one of our elderly and need a little firewood for this winter call me and I will help round up some firewood for you.

See you next week!

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