The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Heidi Zemach
For The LOG 

Ideas expressed at USFS plan revision meeting

 

Heidi Zemach | For The LOG

Carol Griswold and Ben Pister help Forest Service planners by indicating on a map of the Seward area where the wild camping parties take place, and where invasive species are found.

A team from the Chugach National Forest held a listening session for area residents Sept. 26 at the Seward Library Museum – one of eight that planners are holding in communities across the 5.4 million-acre Forest. Their purpose is to continue the assessment phase of the new National Forest plan revision to the 2002 revised Forest plan. During the revision process, planners confirm what is still working in the current plan, and identify where there is a need for change. The plan will be in place by 2017 and inform management decisions in the Forest over the next 15 years.

Although only a handful of people showed up at to the Seward meeting, those who did had plenty of thoughts about future management for the area.

Lee Poleske, a local historian, called for better, more conveniently-placed interpretive signage in certain Forest locations to educate visitors about their surroundings. He wanted the sign for LV Ray Peak that used to be across from the fish hatchery at Moose Pass replaced. That sign was removed when the area was upgraded, he said. It’s now on the other side of Kenai Lake, away from public view. Also, there used to be an interpretive sign created in tribute to Andy Simon’s mountain near the knife store near Kenai Lake along Seward Highway. It’s now at the Primrose boat launch area where a view of the mountain can be seen behind it.

“People looked at that sign, they loved it,” agreed Ann Whitmore-Painter, a seasonal interpreter for Kenai Fjords National Parks, who lives at Ptarmigan Creek, near Mile 23. Another good location for an interpretive sign would be at the boardwalk at Mile 14, where a young swan family and moose walking in the wetlands can be seen, observed longtime resident and Forest user Carol Griswold. She was informed that the area is actually state, not federal land.

Poleske described intra-agency plans underway to create a trail along Exit Glacier Road that could help bring access to hikers and winter users. It would be a flatter trail than most, thus more accessible to children and less athletic older folks, he said.

Residents also expressed concern over the growing numbers of snow machines overflowing the parking area at Primrose campground and elsewhere, often blocking private driveways. These off-road parking areas can never be large enough to accommodate everyone who wants them, Griswold said, nor should they be extended indefinitely. All three complained that it is increasingly difficult to find scenic trails to hike or ski, unencumbered by motorized-vehicle use. Those are management decisions that the plan revision also could address.

Mike Glazer, of Moose Pass, who gives bus tours for Seavey’s Ididaride summer business is unhappy about the loss of certain historical sites one can find in the Forest, and the lack of those uniquely Alaskan places for people to visit, such as recreational gold mining sites. Calling them “really neat,” he hoped that the old gold mines would not be destroyed by the Forest Service, as many of the old historic cabins along remote trails were.

Tom Malacek, the new Chugach National Forest District Ranger for the Seward Ranger District, assured Glaser that mines are only destroyed if they are considered a danger to the public.

The forested areas that run along Exit Glacier Road from Seward Highway to the glacier are unruly camping party hotspots every summer, Griswold said. At the end of every tourist season, groups of volunteers clean up tons of trash left behind by these partiers. She proposed shutting down the free camping areas that encourage them, and switching to day-use only. She also favors forbidding campfires in the area, which would have a similar effect.

Campers also illegally cut down young trees to use for their campfires, and frighten families living in the area, drinking and shooting their guns, said Benjamin Pister, the director of the Ocean Alaska Science Learning Center at Kenai Fjords National Park. The land along the road is owned by private owners and a variety of federal and state agencies. Fewer problems occur on Forest Service land, which is more heavily policed and routinely managed, they acknowledged, but the Forest Service should work cooperatively with other affected agencies and landowners to coordinate an effective solution along the road, Griswold said.

The Forest Service also could help coordinate the ongoing battle against invasive species along the road – particularly white sweet clover and alfalfa. Every year volunteers pull as many of those invasive weeds as they can, but these invasives continue to proliferate.

Pister, who came here from California, where invasives have taken over many natural areas, said the earlier one battles invasive species, the more likely the problem will be to solve, and at less expense. Alaska is at the earlier stages of this battle, and thus in a better position to deal with these invasives, he said. The Forest Service does in fact coordinate with other federal, state, NGO’s, and private groups in various weed pulls throughout the Kenai Peninsula, including along the Exit Glacier Road, said a Forest Service official after the meeting.

Planners heard from Cooper Landing and Soldotna residents much concern over the loss of moose populations, species which are managed by Alaska Department of Fish and Game, not the Forest Service. Whitmore-Painter noted that wildlife also are becoming scarcer in this part of the Chugach. She used to enjoy hearing wolves howling, loons calling, and encountering moose and bears while hiking area trails. Now, the wolves and the loons are gone, and even her favorite wild berry-picking places have been discovered by prospectors who sell the berries to businesses in the cities.

Access to wood from the National Forest also has been a local concern, especially as fuel prices continue to rise. One problem, attendees said, is the difficulty and price of accessing the remote areas where usable wood is located. Many of these are “Roadless Areas,” forbidden to motorized vehicle use.

Malacek, who moved to the Seward district from the Rio Grande, Colorado, said the Seward gathering was his third public planning meeting to date, and added that they have been very helpful in quickly educating him on many of the complexities of his new district.

For more information on the plan revision visit http://www.fs.usda.gov/chugach or contact Don Rees at 907 743-9513.

 

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