Project Cost and Matching Funds:
$ 750,000 Federal
$ 250,000 Non-Federal Match
Alaska Division of Forestry
Kenai Peninsula Borough
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Bureau of Land Management – Alaska Fire Service
U.S. Forest Service
Increases in Wildlife Restoration (WR) funds have allowed the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) to experiment with new and innovative approaches to manage and enhance wildlife populations. While fire shaped much of Alaska’s wildlife habitats for centuries, fire suppression in recent years has created extensive mature forests that are less productive for many important wildlife species. ADF&G leads an interagency effort to strategically utilize large-scale fire and mechanical treatments of vegetation to enhance moose habitat in five Game Management Units (GMUs) where moose populations are low and dependent upon decreasing forage. National, State, and local government agencies; and private land owners including Alaska Native organizations; are engaged in planning to strategically utilize habitat manipulations, particularly fire, to enhance moose habitat while addressing protection of communities and infrastructure.
On the Kenai Peninsula (GMU 15) near Sterling, a fire break is being constructed so that fire can safely be utilized in Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Also, a moose collaring study is underway to evaluate moose response and habitat utilization. In the Tanana River Valley (GMU 12) near Tok, mechanical chopping of vegetation was applied to previous burns to enhance moose browse. In the Matanuska-Susitna Valley (GMU 14A) near Sutton and the Delta Bison Range (GMU 20D) near Delta Junction, prescribed burn plans are ready for implementation in 2017. In the Susitna Valley (GMU 16A) near Petersville and Talkeetna and the Alphabet Hills (GMU 13B) near Paxson, prescribed burn plans are being developed.
Mature boreal forests, the most common moose habitat throughout interior and southcentral Alaska, provide only limited browse and are a limiting factor for moose populations. Large-scale fire and mechanical treatments are necessary to re-set forest succession to young growth of hardwoods needed to sustain moose at higher abundance levels. Increased fire suppression to protect communities and infrastructure has led to broad expanses of late stage boreal forest and declining moose abundance. Strategic use of fire at a landscape scale that also addresses communities and infrastructure is the only feasible habitat manipulation to enhance moose populations.
This multi-year project is in its third year of operation. Planning efforts to date have been extremely successful and aligned State, federal, local, and private stakeholders into effective partnerships. WR funds have effectively leveraged alternative resources to address treatments to private lands. Implementation of prescribed fire plans near Sutton and Delta Junction are anticipated this year.
Moose are an iconic Alaskan species and support significant hunting and viewing opportunities throughout Alaska. Population-level increases in moose abundance will likely increase hunter success and wildlife viewing opportunities.
The fire break near Sterling was recently completed and a subsequent WR grant was awarded to significantly extend this fire break to a much larger fire break to protect the communities of Soldotna and Nikiski. Successful mechanical treatments to previous burns near Tok have been completed showing notable increases in moose forage.