We see it just about every day, and the time is coming for us to pay a little closer attention to it:Kruzof IslandNorth Kruzof is the next item on the Forest Service agenda for a new management plan. But what does the Forest Service have in mind for north Kruzof? Something called an Integrated Resource Management Plan or IRMP.
In a nutshell, an IRMP is
"a collaboration using an inclusive process to find common ground across the many stakeholders and to leverage our investments for broader conservation impacts... blending a cross section of forest management activities, such as forest thinning, decommissioning roads, and removal of fish passage barriers - all of which lead to improved forest and grassland health and watershed function"¹.So how will this translate into real life on Kruzof?
Kruzof is being managed for a number of different attributes: salmon habitat, recreation, hunting, wildlife habitat, transition into old growth forest, and to a much lesser extent - timber extraction. The new IRMP will seek to further the progress on each of these attributes in a cohesive way, with management activities working towards multiple goals across the landscape. Some of these activities could include:
Gap treatments- as the name suggests, this consists of creating a small (about 1/4 acre) clear cut in a young growth stand. This mimics natural disturbances such as a blow down from high winds and storms. These gaps in the canopy allow more light to reach to the forest floor, in addition to creating wider spaces between trees.
- More light = more plant life on the forest floor, namely plants that deer and other animals depend on for food, like blueberries and huckleberries.
More room = bigger trees can grow. If you've ever tried tobushwhackthrough a stand of second growth trees, you know what a dense thicket many of those stands can be. Removing some trees in a gap treatment also mimics the natural die-off that would occur as some treesout-compete others for light. The 'winning' trees can now devote more energy to growing outwards, speeding up the process of skinny second growth trees growing into giant old growth trees that existed there before logging.
- These big trees will eventually fall, and hopefully into a salmon stream!
- Trees removedfrom the forest will be available (to a limited extent)for use by Sitkans as firewood, building materials, and more. Gap treatments that will also be removing the downed trees will only occur in a few places on north Kruzof, and will likely be fairly limited.
Upstream V's-in streams, like Shelikof creek, that were 'stream cleaned' during logging operations (removing all logs and other obstacles from the stream bed in order to allow machinery to use it as a roadway), logs are placed back in the streams in a large "V" pattern to mimic the presence of former logs and the conditions they created.
- Pools to rest in and hide from predators are created by having large logs in streams. Calm pools for salmon to rest in are important for their long and arduous journey upstream to spawn. Once hatched, salmon fry also depend on these same pools as a place to rest as well as hide from predators. More complex stream conditions (deep, calm pools, tangled branches, swift moving water) create more varied habitat for salmon to thrive in. More thriving salmon means greater spawning success and larger salmon runs in the future.
- More salmon to eat, for people, bears, ravens, eagles, and even the forest itself! The abandoned salmon carcasses left in the forest by bears and other animals fertilize the forest as they decompose, bringing in essential nutrients all the way from the ocean.
Improved Roadways- if you've driven an ATV on Kruzof lately, you've noticed the "speed humps" that have been created to slow down ATV traffic, making it safer for all users. In addition to these installments:
- Clearing trails that are overgrown will not only make those trails safer for those who do venture on them, it will allow other users access to these roadways.
- Maintaining and improving current roads and trails will allow for easier access and more enjoyable experiences for all users, and will also discourage new trail-blazing in these areas.
Cabin/Facilities Upkeep- while already a part of the Forest Service system, the cabins scattered across Kruzof could be given more attention and upkeep as needed/requested.
- Additionalamenities could also be a part of cabin/facilities upkeep, such as hardened trail access to and campsites at North Beach, a culture camp for the Tribe,wildlife viewing platforms at Iris Meadows, additional mooring buoy at Mud Bay,"meat poles" for hunters to hang deer,etc.
Even more exciting is how this IRMP is being created - with direct input from the public! Coming up on January 16th at Centennial Hall, everyone in Sitka will have a chance to make their ideas and desires for north Kruzof heard during a public meeting with the Forest Service and the Sitka Collaborative Stewardship Group. This summer, the Sitka Collaborative Stewardship Group, along with some other 'stakeholders', took a trip out to north Kruzof to brainstorm some ideas on what they'd like to see happen there. This meeting will incorporate ideas from the summer as a jumping-off point for more discussion on what Sitkans want to see on their public lands.
For more information on the Kruzof public meeting, contact Ray Friedlander at [email protected]
Can't come to the meeting, but still have ideas you want to be heard? Contact Erin Fulton at [email protected]
¹US Forest Service Fiscal Year 2012 Budget Overview document