Letter: Funny River illuminated problem; wildlife refuge has lost touch

One has to wonder if the agencies in charge of our Kenai National Wildlife Refuge should find fault with themselves in response to the Funny River fire. The Kenai Peninsula has been a tinderbox for the past 20 years. It was not a matter of if, rather of when a major fire would occur. Short of parking a tanker in everyone’s yard, what can anyone expect?

Those looking for someone to blame, and it seems someone must be, never mind choosing to reside surrounded by second growth boreal forest, the epitome of fire in the making, need look no further than the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. At the onset of the fire, when retardant could have been used, and really the only possible intervention that could have had significant impact, the KNWR intervened as it might contaminate precious KNWR property. Not surprising given the KNWR seems to have completely lost touch with the community.  

What Kenai Peninsula residents should be grateful for is this fire didn’t start north of the Sterling Highway. Had that happened, there is no chance, thanks to the KNWR, that it would be contained, and residents from Kenai to Sterling would be in dire straits. The KNWR has made excuses for its lack of proactive fire management for some time now. The suggestion of fire breaks throughout the refuge where adjacent neighbors would be threatened when the inevitable wildfire occurs have been ignored in favor of “natural diversity,” a policy which endangers the property of peninsula residents.  

On the bright side for those looking to find fault, the season is young and the annual prediction for the past 20 years of a wildfire occurring on the north Peninsula is still a very real possibility. 

The KNWR has failed in its responsibility to the general public, why because this land is our land not theirs, they are just the managers not owners and we pay their salaries with our hard- earned tax dollars. If the KNWR had spent $10 million dollars in the last 20 years on good fire management instead of a $10 million visitor center maybe such an intense fire could have been avoided.   

— Thomas N. Netschert

Conservationist, sportsman and 

concerned taxpayer