Spruce bark beetle outbreaks examined at Alaska Symposium

January 20, 2004

ANCHORAGE, Alaska. January 20, 2004. About 4 million acres of spruce forests were infested and killed by the spruce beetle in south-central Alaska in the past decade--more than twice the amount affected from 1919 to 1989. Fire, of course, spreads rapidly through these dead forests causing catastrophic damage to life and property.

Several state and federal agencies are presenting a symposium to address this issue and to share research findings about the spruce beetle and its effect on forested ecosystems in south-central Alaska. The symposium, "A Changing Alaska Forest Ecosystem: Effects of Spruce Beetle Outbreaks and Associated Management Practices on Forest Ecosystems in South-Central Alaska," will be held in Homer, Alaska, February 24 to 26 at the Land's End Resort. Co-coordinators of the conference are Roger Burnside, Alaska Department of Natural Resources, and Ed Holsten of the USDA Forest Service.

"The spruce beetle outbreak peaked in 1996 when about 30 million trees were killed," said Holsten, a Forest Service research entomologist. "Much of the damage occurred on the Kenai Peninsula. The town of Homer was badly impacted, which is why we decided to hold the symposium there. This outbreak was the impetus for a variety of studies from various agencies so we decided to put on a symposium to share this knowledge with land managers, the general public, and others."

The Interagency Forest Ecology Study Team is hosting the conference. Members include representatives from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Alaska Department of Natural Resources, Kenai Peninsula Borough, National Park Service, USDA Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Geological Survey.

During the 3-day session there will be presentations on the effects of spruce beetle outbreaks on forests, wildlife habitat, and stand management; fire ecology and changing fuels; and the social and economic impacts of the epidemic. Keynote presentations will be given by Dr. Thomas Quigley, Director of the Forest Service's Pacific Northwest Research Station, and Dr.Glen Juday, a research climatologist at the University of Alaska/Fairbanks. To learn more about the conference go to www.borough.kenai.ak.us/sprucebeetle.
-end-
Contact: Dr. Ed Holsten, eholsten@fs.fed.us, 907-743-9453
Media assistance: Sherri Richardson-Dodge, 503-808-2137

USDA Forest Service - Pacific Northwest Research Station

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