Chugach National Forest Beetle infestation, Alaksa   Don Bertolette
  Jul 25, 2002 17:39 PDT 
As it turns out, I found the original message that I sent to ENTS/Erth, and
am pasting it below. I was a part of this, and as you might expect, can
further discuss it if asked.

After reading your posted Black Hills article, I was reminded of my stay in
Alaska during the 1990's. I arrived at the beginning of spruce bark beetle
infestation. There were significant differences between the Black Hills
National Forest and the Chugach National Forest where I worked. The Chugach
was and is essentially a 'recreation forest' as the Timber Program was very
small (the reconstruction of parts of the Anchorage to Seward Highway
involved more board footage than the annual cut).
Six years later, the infestation had spread across ALL of south central
Alaska (let's say equivalent to a major proportion of New England). As of
my departure, more than 95% of all white/Lutz spruce was killed. The first
to be impacted were the recreationists (hikers and bikers had difficulty
passing through trails jackstrawed with downed spruce), followed shortly by
Alaska's "charismatic megafauna" such as moose, who have significant stride
height, but were confounded by snow hiding much of the tree. Long term
effects I suspect now include a drastically changed watershed dynamic with
significantly less moisture transpired with so much of the spruce now gone.
An aggressive spruce bark beetle program back when the infestations were
small and localized may have significantly reduced the eventual decimation.
A timber induced monoculture incapable of fighting off a single species
disease? No, very little logging historically. Mimicks large catastrophic
fire disturbance? Not much history of fire disturbance on the Kenai
Peninsula, or other locations either, as the spruce most commonly occupied
slopes leading away from marine locations. Climate change? Could be
something to that, as dryer warmer winters were favorable to the spruce bark
beetle's overwintering.

Could the BHNF be doing the right thing? I think they could be. Could the
BHNF fall prey to timber interests? They could, and you'd know better than
I. Is stopping them altogether like throwing out the baby with the
bathwater? Let's hope that a compromise is reachable that effectively
minimizes the beetle infestation/fire danger, but doesn't unnecessarily
diminish the healthy forest that remains.