Musher Heidi Sutter and dog sled team approach the Sourdough checkpoint for a mandatory rest period during the Copper Basin 300 dog sled race. Federal agency land management volunteers met in Glenallen, population less than 500, to lend support for event success. (Photo courtesy of Photography on the Kenai/Robert Parsons)
Think Alaska in the winter: a large land canvas of powdery, granular or icy snow and days of often very, very cold weather.
With those conditions, it’s off to the races for some of the heartiest Alaskan sled dogs and volunteers like U.S. Forest Service employee Carol Teitzel, who works in the U.S. Forest Service Alaska Region and who lent her support to the excitement and challenge of this year’s Copper Basin 300 Sled Dog Race.
The 310-mile competition counts as a qualifying race for the nearly 1,000-mile Iditarod, the most popular dog sled race, and the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest, sometimes called the world’s toughest dog sled race. Read more »
Sockeye salmon swim upstream in Yakutat, Alaska. (U.S. Forest Service/Nate Catterson)
Alaska’s Chugach and Tongass national forests are sometimes referred to as salmon forests, producing all five species of wild Pacific salmon: king, coho, sockeye, pink, and chum.
Salmon is vital to Alaska’s economy, and last year’s statewide commercial salmon harvest is being noted as a banner year. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced the salmon harvested in 2013 set a new record at 272 million fish.
About 45 percent, or 122 million, of these commercially harvested salmon relied on habitat managed by the U.S. Forest Service. Much of the harvest consisted of pink salmon, the most abundant of salmon found in Alaska. Don Martin, the aquatic and fish program leader for the Alaska Region, said that 95 percent of the habitat where pink salmon spawn in Southeast Alaska is on the Tongass National Forest. The work of Forest Service fish biologists contribute to the health and viability of these salmon. Read more »
The Chugach National Forest BioBlitz – an intense period of biological surveys – included surveys of all organisms in Portage Valley including fungi. Ecologist Kate Mohatt leads a walk for the public to identify all mushrooms fruiting in the valley in 2011. (U.S. Forest Service/ Mona Spargo)
While many people look forward to fall for football rivalries and tailgate parties, others enjoy a different pastime — foraging for fall’s crop of fungi.
In Alaska, the season’s fungi festivals will find enthusiasts lined up for hikes into the woods to search for lichens and forage for mushrooms.
In September, the Wrangell Ranger District on the Tongass National Forest hosted a two-day event near the Rainbow Falls Trail. Karen Dillman, the forest’s ecologist, and Kate Mohatt, an ecologist from the Chugach National Forest, shared a variety of tips and information on fungi with locals and visitors including information profiled in the video “The Mushroom Maven of the Chugach National Forest.” What are the differences between edible and poisonous mushrooms? The pair described how to look for telling colors of the mushrooms after they are cut open, as well as the distinctive features of the caps and ridges. Read more »
Ski athletes come from all over the world to train on the Chugach National Forest, spending 25 to 30 hours a week in the challenging, variable conditions found on Eagle Glacier. The Alaskan Pacific University operated seven camps, each with about 20 athletes this summer. (Courtesy U.S. Ski Team Women’s Coach/Coach Matt Whitcomb)
America’s elite, Olympic-bound Nordic skiers have a high-altitude secret they hope will give them an edge in Sochi, Russia, during the 2014 Winter Olympics in late February.
Team members take a 10-minute helicopter ride from sea level up to Eagle Glacier on Alaska’s Chugach National Forest, the most northern national forest in the U.S. The environment there mimics what they expect to find in Sochi.
The glacier, 5,500 feet above Girdwood, Alaska, is home to the Thomas Training Center operated under permit by the Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Center. The ski center was established in the late 1990s as a model for creating international success in American Nordic skiing. Read more »
Fly agaric / Amanita muscaria (Copyright Steven A. Trudell; reprinted with permission)
The fly agaric (Amanita muscaria) sits on the forest floor in Alaska as if it is waiting to be cast in an Alice in Wonderland movie.
Its recognizable bright red cap dotted with white warts belies their toxic nature. Although the effects vary, experts warn against eating them. In Alaska, fly agaric is generally found around birch or spruce trees and loves the northwest environment. Read more »
Two yellow cedar trees have fallen victim to the yellow cedar decline; the smaller tree on the right recently died, the larger tree on the left is slowly dying. U.S. Forest Service photo by Mary Stensvold.
Yellow-cedar is an ecologically, culturally, and economically important tree species in the coastal temperate rainforests of Alaska and British Columbia. This slow-growing tree has few natural insect and disease agents and is capable of living more than 1000 years.
But less snow in Alaska’s winters is leading to the demise of yellow cedar trees at and just above sea level. During hard freezes when little or no snow is on the ground to insulate the yellow cedar’s shallow roots, the roots freeze. Ultimately this leads to the tree’s death. This yellow cedar decline has occurred over the past 100 years. Read more »