This undated map shows three wildlife enhancement projects on the southern Kenai Peninsula, Alaska, planned or done by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. (Map courtesy of Alaska Department of Fish and Game)

This undated map shows three wildlife enhancement projects on the southern Kenai Peninsula, Alaska, planned or done by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. (Map courtesy of Alaska Department of Fish and Game)

3 projects on southern Kenai Peninsula aim to benefit moose habitat

Cut willow bushes will regenerate into higher protein browse for moose

A Homer contractor finished a wildlife enhancement project earlier this month to help regenerate willow patches in the Fritz Creek area.

Under an Alaska Department of Fish and Game grant funding three enhancement projects on the southern Kenai Peninsula, Moore and Moore Services did spruce tree clearing and willow mowing on an old hay field.

Another Homer area contractor, Fetterhoff Services, will work on enhancement projects in the Beaver Creek and North Fork Anchor River areas, all part of Game Management Unit 15. All of the projects involve cutting willow bushes back to encourage new growth that moose prefer. The total project area for the three sites is 117 acres, all on state lands, and will cost about $120,000 total for all three sites.

“If they mow them down from the root crown of the plant, it will rejuvenate and sprout,” said Sue Rodman with the Fish and Game Wildlife Enhancement & Spatial Analysis Program, Division of Wildlife Conservation. “The moose like that fresh growth. It has more digestible protein.”

While moose will browse willow that encourages growth, the bushes will grow in what are called “brooms,” for their appearance of tall, thin stalks that look like the straws of brooms. Brooms don’t have as much digestible protein, Rodman said.

Funding for the enhancement projects comes partially through an 11% excise tax on sales of firearms and ammunition mandated by the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, commonly called the Pittman-Robertson Act. Through formulas, those funds are distributed back to the states to pay for up to 75% of the cost of programs like wildlife enhancement, wildlife research, development of access facilities for public use and hunter education. The state has to provide 25% of funds using fish and game license sales.

Rodman said it typically takes between two and three years for willow bushes to regenerate enough to provide moose browse. The enhancement projects also will cut small cottonwood trees back to stumps. Those stumps also will make new growth of saplings desirable to moose.

The North Fork project is the only site with cottonwood, but most of the trees in the area are large, mature cottonwoods that won’t be cut, said Matt James, the supervisor of the projects and an area administrator with the Homer Soil & Water Conservation District, one of the partners in the wildlife enhancement project. The North Fork site is off the lower North Fork Road before the bridge. The Beaver Creek site is on the Watermelon Trail on the north side of Lookout Mountain off Ohlson Mountain Road.

A longtime wildland firefighter, James said it’s interesting to see how in willow patches moose prefer some bushes.

“It’s amazing how they pick that out,” he said. “There’s areas that are heavily browsed and right adjacent to that is a patch of willow that isn’t touched. There’s no indicator why they wouldn’t eat that. They just know.”

James said the Fritz Creek project is near the old Tracy Avenue fire zone, but outside the burn area. The project site was part of a hay field project from a University of Alaska program in the 1980s. Small, Christmas-tree size spruce had started to grow back in the area, so Moore and Moore Services contractors had to first cut back those trees to make room for more willow to grow. The willow mowing is done in the winter when plants are dormant, James said.

“That’s to do it when it’s as cold as possible,” he said. “That way you get a cleaner break, if you will. It doesn’t splinter as bad.”

Initially, James said he thought Moore and Moore would only be able to do the spruce clearing this year, but they finished the willow mowing as well. The projects are outside of burn areas, he noted.

“The willow in burn areas is doing very well,” James said. “That’s the best way to regenerate.”

Fish and Game also will work with private landowners to do wildlife enhancement projects. Clearing fire breaks is another way of creating better habitat, Rodman said. Such programs can combine the benefit of creating moose habitat and mitigating for wildfires.

“It’s something we’re talking about so we can do better as stewards of the land we manage,” she said.

Reach Michael Armstrong at marmstrong@homernews.com.

In a photo taken in the winter of 2020, a hayfield off Greer Road near Fritz Creek, Alaska, shows young spruce and willow to be cut and mowed as part of Alaska Department of Fish and Game wildlife enhancement projects on the southern Kenai Peninsula. (Photo courtesy Matt James, Homer Soil & Water Conservation District)

In a photo taken in the winter of 2020, a hayfield off Greer Road near Fritz Creek, Alaska, shows young spruce and willow to be cut and mowed as part of Alaska Department of Fish and Game wildlife enhancement projects on the southern Kenai Peninsula. (Photo courtesy Matt James, Homer Soil & Water Conservation District)

More in News

The sign in front of the Homer Electric Association building in Kenai, Alaska as seen on April 1, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
Homer Electric to issue over $2M in capital credits

Around 16,000 people who were HEA members in 1989 and 1990 will receive a credit on their May energy bill statement.

Sen. Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River, holds a press in front of the doors to the Senate chambers on Thursday, March 4, 2021. Reinbold called the conference to respond to a letter from Gov. Mike Dunleavy saying he would no longer participate with her as chair of the Senate Judicairy Committee. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
State Senate removes Lora Reinbold as judiciary committee chair

The committee change was approved 17-1, with Reinbold the lone no.

Ashlyn O’Hara / Peninsula Clarion
Kelly Tshibaka addresses members of the community at Nikiski Hardware & Supply on April 9 in Nikiski.
Tshibaka reports financial support from peninsula residents

Tshibaka has raised nearly $215,000 for her campaign since the beginning of this year in total receipts.

The RavnAir kiosk stands empty at the Kenai Airport on Thursday, April 2, 2020. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Council to mull potential Kenai air carrier

Rambler Air would join Grant Aviation and Ravn Alaska in offering scheduled service between Kenai and Anchorage.

In this undated photo provided by the Tanana Chiefs Conference, shows PJ Simon, chief and chairman of the conference, from Fairbanks, Alaska, displaying a COVID-19 vaccination sticker. Alaska has been one of the leading states in the percentage of its population to be vaccinated against COVID-19. But some of Alaska’s highest vaccination rates have been in some of its most remote, hardest-to-access communities, where the toll of past flu or tuberculosis outbreaks hasn’t been forgotten. (Rachel Saylor/Tanana Chiefs Conference via AP)
Alaska tribal health groups distribute vaccine far and wide

“We live for our children. We want to bring that sense of normalcy back in our lives.”

In this June 20, 2019, file photo, the Supreme Court is seen in Washington as a storm rolls in. The Supreme Court seems inclined to say that hundreds of millions of dollars in coronavirus relief money tied up by a court case should benefit Alaska Natives, rather than be spread more broadly among Native American tribes.The justices were hearing arguments April 19, 2021, in a case involving the massive pandemic relief package passed last year and signed into law by then-President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
Court seems ready to send virus funds to Alaska Natives

The federal government set aside more than $530 million for the so-called ANCs.

A vial of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is seen at Central Emergency Services Station 1 on Friday, Dec. 18 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Alaska hits 40% fully vaccinated

In the Kenai Peninsula Borough, 35.3% of Alaskans 16 and up are fully vaccinated.

The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge headquarters in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Wildlife refuge to host spring cleanup

On April 30 and May 1, volunteers will help collect any litter or debris at the refuge that’s been covered by snow all winter.

Logo for Alaska Department of Motor Vehicles (doa.alaska.gov)
Seward DMV loses both employees, closes temporarily

The two employees worked within the city and are the only ones trained to operate the DMV.

Most Read