ANCHORAGE, Alaska. January 20, 2004. About
4 million acres of spruce forests were infested and killed by the
spruce beetle in south-central Alaska in the past decade—more
than twice the amount affected from 1919 to 1989. Fire, of course,
spreads rapidly through these dead forests causing catastrophic
damage to life and property.
Several state and federal agencies
are presenting a symposium to address this issue and to share research
findings about the spruce
beetle and its effect on forested ecosystems in south-central Alaska.
The symposium, “A Changing Alaska Forest Ecosystem: Effects
of Spruce Beetle Outbreaks and Associated Management Practices
on Forest Ecosystems in South-Central Alaska,” will be held
in Homer, Alaska, February 24 to 26 at the Land’s End Resort.
Co-coordinators of the conference are Roger Burnside, Alaska Department
of Natural Resources, and Ed Holsten of the USDA Forest Service.
The spruce beetle outbreak peaked in 1996 when about 30 million
trees were killed,” said Holsten, a Forest Service research
entomologist. “Much of the damage occurred on the Kenai Peninsula.
The town of Homer was badly impacted, which is why we decided to
hold the symposium there. This outbreak was the impetus for a variety
of studies from various agencies so we decided to put on a symposium
to share this knowledge with land managers, the general public,
The Interagency Forest Ecology Study Team (INFEST)
is hosting the conference. Members include representatives from
the Alaska Department
of Fish and Game, Alaska Department of Natural Resources, Kenai
Peninsula Borough, National Park Service, USDA Forest Service,
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Geological Survey.
the 3-day session there will be presentations on the effects of
spruce beetle outbreaks on forests, wildlife habitat, and stand
management; fire ecology and changing fuels; and the social and
economic impacts of the epidemic. Keynote presentations will be
given by Dr. Thomas Quigley, Director of the Forest Service’s
Pacific Northwest Research Station, and Dr.Glen Juday, a research
climatologist at the University of Alaska/Fairbanks. To learn more
about the conference go to http://www.borough.kenai.ak.us/sprucebeetle