KENAI (AP) -- Hundreds of acres of forest killed by the spruce bark beetle near Ninilchik and Homer will be up for bid in mid-March.
The timber sales are part of a continuing effort by the Alaska Division of Forestry to remove hazardous trees from populated areas.
One sale, which totals an estimated 895,000 board feet, involves 152 acres south of Deep Creek on the east side of the Sterling Highway called the Hillside Sale.
Another lies about 11 miles northeast of Ninilchik at Mile 127 of the Sterling Highway, site of 105 acres totaling approximately 370,000 board feet designated the Mile 127 Sale.
The largest is the 1.4 million board feet offered in the Circle Sale, 245 acres of timber near Eagle Lake east of Homer a few miles from Voznesenka.
The division typically has one or two commercial sales a year, said Jim Peterson, area forester. Sometimes the focus is providing wood fiber to the timber industry, but these sales are primarily for hazard reduction.
The Kenai Peninsula Borough Spruce Bark Beetle Task Force recommended the division move quickly to reduce fuels where fires are most likely to threaten homes and businesses. On average, beetles have killed roughly 95 percent of the spruce in the sale areas, according to the division.
The threat of wildfire in the dead forest can be extreme, especially in the dry spring before green-up.
Reforestation of the dead forest is another important consideration.
''Outside of hazard reduction, it's the second most important priority,'' Peterson said.
The sales will require constructing temporary roads that would be blocked off after logging is completed, he said.
Two of the sales require a review for consistency with the Kenai Peninsula Borough Coastal Management Program. They are the Hillside and Mile 127 sales. The borough management district covers land up to an elevation of 1,000 feet. The Circle sale is not subject to the borough coastal review. The sales also get consistency reviews under the Alaska Coastal Management Program.
The sales raise some environmental concerns, said Bob Shavelson, director of the Cook Inlet Keeper, a Homer-based organization that conducts water-quality research.
Shavelson said there are some indications that the heavy rains of the last month may have put a lot of sediment in lower Peninsula salmon streams. He said the increased sediment demonstrates the importance of proper logging setbacks around streams.
And Shavelson no one knows the effect of removing billions of pounds of nutrients from the watersheds.
A public meeting regarding the proposed sales is scheduled for Wednesday at the Ninilchik Community Hall at 7 p.m.
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