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A meeting about dying Southcentral trees drew a packed house last month. That discussion is only beginning.

  • Author: Jeff Lowenfels
    | Alaska gardening
  • Updated: March 19
  • Published March 19

Unfortunately, there was not enough room to accommodate the huge crowd that came to the Energy Center last month for the discussion about what to do about tree loss hereabouts. Despite the worst job done by our governments in not clearing the roads of a snowfall from several days earlier, there were still so many people that the fire dude had to turn some of them away.

So here is a report for those who couldn’t attend, were turned away or tried but had to turn back.

First, Pat Ryan did a fantastic job organizing a veritable “who’s who" and “who should be there” panel. There were forestry-related and pest management folks from the municipality, state and federal governments. They addressed questions alongside with representatives from the landscape industry, commercial tree industry and the Anchorage Fire Department.

There was a lot of information in the two hours of questions and answers, as you can imagine. I won’t summarize here because on May 16 — virus allowing — the State Association of Foresters will have its annual tree distribution/Arbor Day event at REI. They should plan on huge crowds — if we’re allowed to assemble by then. All the entities with outreach capabilities who were at the event will have tables, hand out information and answer questions.

A citizen group will be established at that event. I’ve heard talk of another forum in a larger venue when it is safe to gather again. This one will be specific to beetles and spruce. We have to get a handle on the dead trees and save as many of the healthy ones as we can before we tackle anything else.

The biggest question is: what to replant? Right now, it seems, spruce makes sense! Surprising, but we know what they will look like in the future, and young trees are not invaded, so they can get established. This seemed a bit unsettling to most of us and it, too, will be revisited along with other suggestions.

What to do before May? Spraying is not encouraged, to say the least. Getting rid of dead trees, stripping bark and the like was discussed at the forum. Taking action before May when the beetles fly to new trees is important. You can find all this info at forestry.alaska.gov/insects/sprucebeetle and alaskasprucebeetle.org.

And, just because of the times and being me, I have to note that it is not every day that an issue brings out so many Alaskans, especially with the roads in horrible condition, as they were. It pales in comparison to what is happening currently with the novel coronavirus, but it is a big thing.

Given the dimension of the problem, it was unfortunate that not one representative from our federal delegation attended, nor were there any state legislative people there and, most shocking, no one from the Anchorage or Mat-Su assemblies was in the audience. Almost every property owner in Anchorage is affected. All our parks are affected. They should at least attend the next meeting, which will be announced here.

Jeff’s garden calendar:

Friends: Please be safe and take this virus with all the seriousness you can muster. I cannot in good conscience suggest you attend any meetings or even leave the house.

Seeds to start: Lobelia (needs 20 days to germinate; seeds need light so don’t cover), snapdragons (10 days to germinate; they need light and cool temperatures), carnation (two days to germinate), verbena (20 days to germinate) and pelargonium

Herbs to start: Lavender, lovage and lemon balm

Corms to start: Gladiolus, unless you want to plant them directly

Tubers to start: Dahlia, yacon

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