Cranberries lost and found. When I was younger the area where I grew up used to be full of spots to pick lowbush cranberries (lingonberries). My family and I did not even have to go far. We could just ride our bikes down some local back roads and the berries would be growing all around; next to the roads and along the edges of the woods. There were some very nice spots deeper into the woods where the poplar and quaking aspen trees grew. The woods were not dense and the forest floor had many sunny and shady spots; the berries grew in abundance. But all this abruptly changed about four years ago on the evening of Sept. 15th 2012, an immense wind storm began to blow. The storm lasted for a few days after but the night of the 15th was of a certainty the worse any of us had ever seen. The winds were so strong that some of the blasts were rated as being hurricane force though no rain accompanied them. When it was all said and done nearly 500 acres of trees in the surrounding forests and valleys had been blown over. Because of the shallowness of their root systems when trees fell their wide root systems pulled great hunks of the forest floor with them. Many of our usually berry patches were literally ripped up by their roots and still many more were buried by fallen trees and branches. Our trails became essentially impassible, and the aspect of the forest changed so much that once familiar landscapes had become a shocking picture of nature’s destructive force.
This event attracted the notice of the local forestry division and they began to look more closely at our area. One forester in particular had a burden to make our area a safer residential zone; he felt that the thickness of the forests near our roads and near our houses was an extreme fire danger. In the summer of 2014 forestry sent a large crew to our area and they began to clear the trees near all the roads. We thought that this would be a relatively small project. A continuation of the cleanup projects that they had been helping us and the others in the area with because of the Great Storm. Time past and the tree lines along the roads moved back from 10ft to 20ft and more; then forestry decided more clearings deeper into the forests needed to be created as LZs for supplies and crews if a fire did occur. They did much cutting with chainsaws which was not very damaging, but this took too long so they brought a great drum with metal ribs on its outsides and filled with water. This giant cylinder was pulled behind a big piece of equipment and reduced acres of forest to great openings filled with ripped up vegetation and crushed timbers. Needless to say any and all berries in these areas have been completely eradicated. I and others in the valley have found other patches deeper into the forests and so all is not lost, but I do wish that in their quest to make us all safer forestry had not been so completely successful in removing all burnable substances for miles around. This project is still ongoing even this summer a crew was working behind our homes deeper into the forest cutting more and burning great piles of brush.
I understand the need for safety but I do hope that one day the berry patches will come back. A few of the men in our neighborhood, who own and run a logging and milling business, say that given time the torn landscapes most likely will grow up into deciduous forests. They hope that the increased sunlight and nutrients will begin to bring long dormant seeds to life. I see this being a good thing as in the past the best patches I found were under the canopies of deciduous trees. I have put in a few interesting links about lingonberries and the likely hood of whether the old patches I used to know will ever return. I have looked for info on the particular method of tree removal that I mentioned, but apparently it was an experiment forestry was trying. Their hope was that the deciduous trees would come back and are keeping an eye in this area to see how fast the forest takes to regrow including the underlying groundcover such as berry bushes. Because it is a new method I could not find much info about it I guess only time will tell. I will continue to watch the patches of cleared land to see how fast.the vegetation takes to come back. The following links are simply interesting research articles on Lingonberries and Alaskan berries that are important to Alaskan communities in general. AB Delta Junction
By Richard G. St Pierre, Ph.D. 2016
Accessed Sept. 19,
By Various researchers: Michael Brubaker, Jerry Hupp, Kira Wilkinson, Jennifer Williamson.
Accessed Sept. 20, 2016