Like the Interior Alaska ecosystem, the boreal forest in the Copper River Basin in Southcentral Alaska is adapted to periodic wildfires. But wet weather conditions and years of fire suppression have deprived many areas of the natural burns that benefit wildlife and the forest. Land managers set a fire in one of these areas, in the Alphabet Hills northwest of Glennallen in August 2004, and biologists are excited to see the benefits of that prescribed burn.
“Prescribed burns are a wonderful tool to turn back the clock on years and years of fire suppression,” said wildlife biologist Becky Kelleyhouse. “A lot of natural fires have been put out in the last several decades, to the detriment of the ecosystem. Though prescribed burns mimic natural processes, prescribed burning is an expensive tool, and these projects are very difficult to pull off.”
It is well known that moose thrive in the early successional stages of the boreal forest, where willows are dominant. The new growth is beneficial to many wildlife species. In addition to the new shrub sprouts, fire promotes the growth of forbs and sedges, which are also used by caribou and grizzly bears during the summer.
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