Sterling fuel break moves forward

Progress is being made on a fuel break planned for the Sterling area where it meets the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

As previously reported by the Clarion, the Sterling Fuel Break will be a process of thinning black spruce trees along an 8.5-mile section of the border between Sterling and the refuge, near mile 76 of the Sterling Highway. The Alaska Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Forestry is presently seeking bids for a contractor to “mechanically thin black spruce trees,” according to an online public notice.

While the contract is for 8 months, Area Forester Hans Rinke with the Soldotna office of the Division of Forestry said the work to put in a fuel break should take five to six weeks. The project is a collaborative effort between the refuge, the Division of Forestry, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Division of Wildlife Conservation, the Chugachmiut Corporation, Cook Inlet Region, Incorporated and the Kenai Peninsula Borough, according to a joint release about the project. The land is owned by the refuge, borough, CIRI and Alaska Mental Health Trust.

The intent of the fuel break is to “better protect area residents from wildfire, maintain firefighter safety, and increase decision space for land managers in response to new ignitions,” according to the release. The black spruce, or “hazardous (flammable) vegetation,” will be thinned and manipulated with heavy machinery and chainsaws, according to the release.

A similar fuel break already exists in the Funny River area.

“Both the Funny River fuel break and the break here in Sterling are … in burn scars,” Rinke said.

Those scars are left from fires that burned back in 1947, he said. Rinke said Division of Forestry staff are finding that the fuel in those areas is “very receptive to burn again.” This is a relatively short interval between large burns, Rinke said, and could indicate the likelihood of a severe fire every 50-60 years or so for those areas.

The fuel breaks in both Funny River and Sterling are preventative measures that have proven successful in the past, Rinke said.

“Any fuel break you do, obviously the maintenance of it is a long-term question,” he said.

The project is slated to continue over the course of several years, according to the release.

Bidding for project contractors should be closed by the third week in September, Rinke said.

Division of Forestry staff hope the fuel break will help facilitate some “vegetative changes” in the Sterling area, he said. By thinning the flammable black spruce trees, Rinke said the goal is to encourage recruitment of tree types with less fire potential, like aspen.

Reach Megan Pacer at

More in News

A cruise ship is docked in Seward, Alaska, on Wednesday, May 25, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Cruise passengers encouraged to test before docking in Seward

The request comes as new COVID cases are increasing in Alaska

In this July 13, 2007, photo, workers with the Pebble Mine project test drill in the Bristol Bay region of Alaska, near the village of Iliamma. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing restrictions that would hinder plans for a copper and gold mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region. It is the latest in a long-running dispute over efforts by developers to advance a mine in a region known for its salmon runs. (AP Photo/Al Grillo, File)
Restrictions proposed in Pebble Mine fight

Critics of the project called the move an important step in a yearslong fight to stop the mine

Armands Veksejs, Hager Elserry, Dady Thitisakulwong, and Haewon Hong attend a farewell potluck barbecue in Nikiski on Monday, May 23, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
‘A life in a year’

Foreign exchange students receive send-off in Nikiski

A man fishes in the Kenai River on July 16, 2018, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Peninsula Clarion/file)
Ninilchik River and Deep Creek to open sport fishing

Sport fishing will be open for three upcoming weekends

Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, stands in the Peninsula Clarion offices on Wednesday, May 25, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Micciche will not seek reelection

His announcement comes a week after the end of the 32nd Alaska Legislature

The Boney Courthouse in downtown Anchorage, across the street from the larger Nesbett Courthouse, holds the Alaska Supreme Court chambers. (Photo by Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska redistricting board picks new Senate map after Supreme Court finds a gerrymander

The board could continue work and possibly write a different map for the elections from 2024 onward

A landslide blocks Lowell Point Road in Seward, Alaska, on Sunday, May 8, 2022. (Photo courtesy City of Seward)
Lowell Point Road to reopen Friday

Intermittent blasting work will continue next week

Members of the Kenai City Council participate in a council meeting on Wednesday, March 16, 2022 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Boys and girls clubs land donation postponed

The issue will be back before the body on June 1

Most Read