Wildlife refuge opens for tree cutting

Families on the Kenai Peninsula can go pick out a Christmas tree from the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge starting Thursday.

The refuge opens every year for Christmas tree cutting from Thanksgiving Day until Christmas. The public can take any tree from the refuge as long as it is more than 150 feet from a road, lake, stream, trail or picnic area. However, there is no cutting allowed in the Visitor’s Center area or along Ski Hill Road. The limit is one per household.

The trees have to be cut down using hand tools, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service requests that people cut the stumps as low to the ground as possible for aesthetic reasons.

Easy road access to cutting areas is available from Funny River Road, Swanson River Road, the Sterling Highway past Sterling and along Skilak Lake Loop Road.

Besides the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Christmas tree cutting is allowed on the Kenai Peninsula in Homer Electric Association powerline corridors and easements with the current property owner’s approval; on Kenai Peninsula Borough lands, for personal use only; in the Chugach National Forest on National Forest lands only; and in some areas managed by the Alaska Division of Forestry, according to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources.

The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge is one of only two Department of the Interior-managed refuges that allow free tree cutting. The other is the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge in Maine, where the trees must be cut for road safety anyway.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com.

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