Conserve, Protect, and Enhance diverse forest values to benefit Alaskans
Alaska’s 129 million acres of forests stretch from the boreal forests of the Brooks Range to the coastal, temperate rainforests of the Southeast. Alaska’s forests provide opportunities for forest products, local jobs, home heating, benefits to community well-being, clean water, fish and wildlife habitat, subsistence opportunities, and more. The same vast geography that provides an abundance of forest resources also poses challenges related to sparse infrastructure and limited capacity to address threats to forests, making an all-lands forest assessment and strategy even more important.
The Alaska Forest Action Plan addresses wildfire, forest insects and disease, and other cross-boundary threats to Alaska’s forests through a statewide strategy for the Alaska Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry cooperative programs and their partners.
Conserving working forests and fish and wildlife habitat
Forests across Alaska provide wood products for local uses as well as local jobs. Alaska’s forest industry has historically been focused on the coastal forests of Southeast, which is transitioning from old-growth to young-growth management. The Forest Action Plan’s strategies to conserve working forests include monitoring and ensuring sustainable forest practices, assisting private landowners to conserve and manage their forests, and supporting wood products opportunities. Wood energy has great potential to reduce extremely high heating costs in rural Alaska and to add jobs. Alaska’s forests provide key habitat for all five species of Pacific salmon as well as moose, Sitka black-tailed deer, and other wildlife. These fish and wildlife resources are integral to the subsistence way of life that is economically and culturally vital, especially in rural communities. Strategies to conserve forests for these values include maintaining and improving fish and wildlife habitat and supporting non-timber forest products.
Protecting communities from the threats of wildlife, forest insects and disease, and invasive species
Alaska’s forests are experiencing the impacts of climate change with fire seasons that are beginning earlier and lasting longer. Fires are larger and more resistant to control because of hotter, drier weather. At the same time, Alaska’s growing communities are expanding the wildland urban interface, making wildland fire management even more challenging. Forest Action Plan strategies to address these threats include cultivating fire-adapted communities and managing hazardous fuels to reduce risks to communities and to benefit forest ecosystems. Similarly, forest insects and disease are cross-boundary threats. Large spruce beetle outbreaks are of special concern in south central Alaska. Monitoring and mitigating the economic and ecological impacts of forest insects and disease is a key strategy. Alaska has relatively few invasive species, and to protect Alaska’s native forests into the future the plan includes an invasive species prevention, identification, and control strategy.
Enhancing the Benefits of forests for communities and sustainable recreation
Trees, forests, open spaces, and greenbelts benefit the well-being of Alaskans individually and communities as a whole. Strategies to enhance these benefits include supporting communities’ efforts to care for their trees and forests. The Forest Action Plan’s strategies also include supporting green infrastructure for clean water. Many of Alaska’s communities are fortunate to be located along salmon streams, and green infrastructure helps protect fish habitat. Providing sustainable forest recreation opportunities including trails and recreational use of forest roads enhances the community benefits of forests, provides a greater public return on forest infrastructure over long harvest intervals, educates people about the benefits of forests, and can enhance understanding of forest management.
Best Management Practices
Alaska’s best management practices (BMPs) program is regulatory. The agencies responsible for BMPs policy development are the Alaska Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry, the Department of Fish and Game, and the Department of Environmental Conservation.
Click here to view the most recent BMPs recommendations on the state forestry agency website.