On November 30th, the popular opportunity for area residents to harvest their own Christmas Tree returned to the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. According to KNWR Ranger Rick Johnston, there are stipulations on the tree cutting program. Trees are free for personal use with a limit of one per household.
Johnston has cut his family tree there since 1979 and said his daughter, now an exchange student in Argentina was worried she might not make it home in time this year. "We'd go out on the Refuge every year to cut our tree, and had done so for the last 29 years. Then last year I felt a little guilty when I bought a tree for the first time, so this year when my daughter gets home we'll return to the tradition of going out together and finding a tree on the Refuge," said Ranger Rick.
Trees may be taken anywhere on the Refuge with hand tools, except within 150
feet of a road, lake, stream, trail, campground, or picnic area. No tree cutting is permitted in the Refuge Headquarters/Visitor Center area and along Ski Hill Road. "The main thing for people to know is not to be in a hurry, look around and find a place where you can sled or carry the tree back to road easily. Of course for safety and aesthetic reasons, we ask everyone to trim the stump as close to the ground as possible. Sometimes its easy to underestimate the size of a tree when its standing and even if you have a 12 foot ceiling you might find when you get the tree home its larger than you estimated but making modifications is part of the fun too. We just ask that you take out what you cut so that it doesn't make a hazard for others using the Refuge for dog mushing or snow machining," Johnston added.
Johnston suggests you can find nice trees along Funny River Rd. in the old wood cutting area. "You can walk in on the existing roads where you see the iron gates to your right after you pass the Soldotna Airport, and out north on the Swanson River Rd. past the native lands is a good location for nice new growth full-bodied trees," he said.
In other Refuge news, Manager Andy Loranger has announced that the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge is now open for snowmachine use. All traditional areas of the
Refuge will be open. Closed areas include the Headquarters tract on Ski Hill Road, Skilak Loop Special Management Area, Swanson River and Swan Lake Canoe Systems, Wolf Lake pipeline corridor, and areas above timberline, except in Caribou Hills. Users are encouraged to contact the Refuge Headquarters if unsure of boundaries. The Refuge is asking all snowmachine users to be respectful of their surroundings and avoid the
few areas that still have insufficient snow accumulation. Users should also try to avoid moose and other wildlife whenever possible. "We advise that snowmachine users exercise caution, especially on lakes, rivers and streams which may not yet be sufficiently frozen. In addition, rocks and tree stumps can be hazardous in areas of less snow accumulation," said Loranger. Coming events at the Refuge include the Christmas Bird Count scheduled for December 18th and the Full Moon Snowshoe Hike planned for December 20th.
For more information, please contact Refuge Headquarters at 262-7021, online at http//kenai.fws.gov, or visit the Refuge Headquarters on Ski Hill Road in Soldotna.
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