June 4th, 2014

Think About It……..                                                                                           June 4, 2014

Saved by the firefighters and finally helped by the rain.  That’s pretty much the story of the Funny River Fire except to remind ourselves what a stressful time it was for almost two weeks. Days of thick heavy smoke, huge walls of flames, evacuations of homes in both the Kasilof and the Funny River areas, community meetings, water and retardant drops and more and more firefighters and equipment joining the battle every day. Memories of the fire will be with us for many years.

Over 190,000 acres burned.  Homes or structures destroyed….zero!  Firefighters lost…..zero!    Lives of our friends and neighbors lost…..zero!  What a blessing!

Most all of the area burned and blackened by the Funny River Forest Fire was on land owned by the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge who own and control over almost two million acres here on the Kenai Peninsula. All of this land was formerly the National Moose Range until 1980 when ANILCA changed its name and purpose to the National Wildlife Refuge.

The designation means that no new trails or roads can be built. Of course means that no timber can be harvested and very little hunting because of the limited access. It’s interesting to note that since 1990 an area wide infestation of Spruce Bark Beetles has killed thousands of eight inch and larger Spruce trees which has brought about warning of extreme fire danger.  The Kenai Peninsula Borough realizing the danger, let contracts to remove by logging most all the dead spruce from their property. Native Corporations also removed dead trees from their lands. Private land owners did the same. However, the National Wildlife Refuge refused. Their lands are loaded with thousands of dead trees, except all those burned in the Funny River Fire.

Not only that but the fire left many trees standing which over the next few years will be prime for harvest. However, due to no access on Refuge lands thousands of board feet of timber will be wasted, to fall and rot where they stand, over the next few years. It is indeed a shame that Congress with the Refuge has mandated no access. One would think that small logging trails in the old burn area, to harvest that timber and then restoring the area with seeded grass, would just make good common sense and make use of a valuable resource.

It’s also interesting to note that because of heavy old growth black spruce on all the Peninsula Refuge Lands there has been a steady decline in the number of moose per acre that can survive. The land of thousands of trophy moose is no longer. Moose counts are lower than ever before because of this no access policy. One of the positive things about the Funny River fire is that the 190,000 plus acres burned will create new moose browse within three to five years.

The fire was very bad. Efforts to fight the holocaust were outstanding. Community support of firefighters was awesome and the efforts of G.M. Matt Wilson and his crew here at KSRM, keeping everyone informed about the fire and its direction and status, was simply amazing.

Think About It!     John Davis    6-4-14

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