A spruce bark beetle is seen on the underside of a piece of bark taken from logs stacked near Central Peninsula Landfill on Thursday, July 1, 2021 near Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

A spruce bark beetle is seen on the underside of a piece of bark taken from logs stacked near Central Peninsula Landfill on Thursday, July 1, 2021 near Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Chugach campgrounds to be closed for beetle kill mitigation

Only one campground will be closed at a time, and updates on closures will be shared to the Chugach National Forest’s website.

Some campgrounds in the Cooper Landing area will be closed this winter while the Seward Ranger District of the Chugach National Forest carry out spruce bark beetle mitigation efforts. Affected campgrounds include Cooper Creek Campground, Crescent Creek Campground, Quartz Creek Campground, the Russian River Campground and Tenderfoot Campground.

Thomas Roland, with the Seward Ranger District Office, said Wednesday that an exact timeline for campground closures is not known because the schedule is dependent on contractors hired for beetle mitigation efforts. Forest service workers, he said, are already working on the Russian River’s angler trail, but that work at campgrounds will not begin until it gets colder.

“We’re operating only on frozen ground,” Roland said.

He added that work is expected to continue into next year, but that closures should not overlap with campground reservations. Only one campground will be closed at a time, and updates on closures will be shared to the Chugach National Forest’s website at fs.usda.gov/chugach.

Mitigation efforts will vary by campground, a release from the U.S. Forest Service said, but will prioritize the removal of dead and dying trees to reduce the risk of those trees falling and of wildfires. That may include removing whole stands of infected trees, thinning infected areas of dense stands or applying “preventative agents” to protect healthy trees.

“To assist in the recovery of these sites and to promote the long-term health of the treated areas, crews may initiate reforestation efforts,” the release says.

The announcement comes as municipalities across the Kenai Peninsula work to combat the latest spruce bark beetle outbreak, which began in 2016 and has already impacted more than 1 million acres of land in Southcentral Alaska. The Kenai Peninsula Borough has worked with private enterprises on the peninsula to help fell infected trees, but the outbreak continues to be a problem. The borough most recently sent a $35 million request to U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s office to address beetle kill on the peninsula.

Kenai Peninsula Borough property owners are allowed to limb, brush and thin vegetation on vacant borough land within 100 feet of private structures as part of firewise measure without special permission from the borough’s Land Management Division. They’re also allowed to remove standing trees from vacant borough land that pose a “direct threat” of damaging private property by falling.

More information on campground closures can be found on the Chugach National Forest’s website.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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