Improved Forest Health Along With Job Opportunities

The Napaimute Logging Crew made up of Tim Alexie, Joey Evan, Jacob Wise, Pete Kelila, Ben Leary, Jeremy Mike, Oscar Samuelson Jr. and Tucker Rohde have been working hard cutting, bundling and getting firewood wood ready to ship downriver by barge. The Village of Napaimute is providing a high volume of wood that will be burned in villages along the coast this coming winter to heat homes.  After this long, cold winter we just experienced and the ever-increasing price of heating fuel, no one has to be told just how important this is to everyone.

But is that the only reason Napaimute has chosen to log our land?

No – there is another need to cut those trees…and it’s every bit as important as heating those homes – it’s called forest health. As you can see from the following picture a high proportion of the logs already cut have heart rot, an indication that many of the region’s trees are mature or fully mature. As a consequence, many of the trees on Napaimute’s land are susceptible to windthrow, and that’s exactly what happened several years ago.  As those trees fall and die, the fuel load builds up increasing the fire danger.

This blurry photo shows the extent of wind damage we’ve seen over the years.

And the following photo shows how vulnerable many trees are to such events; in this condition, even without strong winds the majority of these trees would topple over anyway:

Leaners adjacent to an area cleared several years ago to reduce fire fuel buildup.

The following pictures show what a typical harvested unit looks like after logging has occurred:

Ryan Maroney and Forester Mitch Michaud with the NRCS looking at slash and estimate the acreage of logged land so far.

Here is what a segment of the forest looks like now from the air. No doubt to some people this may at first look like devastation because they haven’t seen this kind of activity in the Kuskokwim before, but it is a necessary management tool that will pay numerous dividends down the road. If this wood were not harvested today, there is a good chance that it might burn up tomorrow…or next year or the year after that.  Rotting trees like the downed tree in the picture below attract insects that could then harm the healthier trees causing a widespread infestation that would really pose a fire danger.

Here is a pile of wood processed by the harvester ready for transport to the river staging area.

Here’s the wood ready to be loaded on the barge for its trip downriver.

Over time, new willow and alder growth will sprout up in places providing forage and cover for moose and other species.  The log piles have even provided a vantage point for an eagle or two!

Besides providing much needed firewood and improving forest health, a socio-economic benefit is that it provides jobs and income for people in villages from Chuathbaluk to Kalskag – income that is spread throughout the villages.

Having seen these photos, it’s probably obvious that this is not easy work and the conditions can be taxing to say the least; mosquitoes can be horrendous, one day can be hot and dry while the next can be cool and rainy.

This has certainly been a group effort to improve the forest health of the region, but the crewmembers are not the only ones working hard from early in the morning to late in the evening.  Shelly Leary and her daughters have been keeping the crew content with hearty meals; they get the crew off on the right foot with hot breakfasts and  delectable dinners at the end of the day.

Traditional Council President, Brook Kristovich gets a firsthand look at the extensive windfall on both NVN and TKC lands

Kuskokwim Corporation Forester Clare Doig inspects bundles of wood ready for shipment to the Coast

Bundles of Napaimute wood awaiting shipment to the Coast by barge


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