For its role in helping to construct a fuel break around the community of Sterling, Alaska, CIRI has received an “Outstanding Partner” award from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
A fuel break is a strip of land on which flammable vegetation and debris have been removed so it can act as a barrier in the event of a wildfire. Fuel breaks help protect area residents, maintain firefighter safety and provide decision space in the event of a wildland fire. CIRI became involved in the project because a portion of the eight-and-a-half-mile-long fuel break rests on CIRI land.
Located on the Kenai Peninsula 15 miles east of Soldotna, Sterling has seen its share of wildfires in recent years. In 2014, the Funny River Horse Trail fire consumed nearly 200,000 acres. In 2015, the Card Street Fire scorched 9,000 acres not far from the Funny River blaze. The fuel break project began in June 2016 and concluded this summer. Its success relied on multiagency and landowner cooperation, including the Alaska Mental Health Trust, CIRI, the Kenai Peninsula Borough and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Other partners included the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the Alaska Division of Forestry and Chugachmiut.
According to Ben Mohr, Surface Estate manager for CIRI, “The Outstanding Partner award recognizes external partners who have made significant contributions to the conservation of natural resources in the region, of which CIRI is proud to have played a role.”