Institute of Northern Forestry to Close

Network News Fall 1995, Vol. 18 No. 1
Top Stories

Last month, the director of the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest (PNW) Experiment Station announced that the Institute of Northern Forestry (INF) in Fairbanks, Alaska will be permanently closed as a result of Forest Service budget cuts in FY ‘96. All permanent employees at the Institute received letters on September 7 stating that their positions were abolished. The Forest Service estimates that it will take from four to six months to completely close the Institute and building.

The closure announcement came as a surprise to LTER investigators at INF: they had believed that the December 1995 Memorandum of Understanding between the Forest Service (FS) and NSF pledging cooperation in the LTER Program would insure that the FS research being carried out as part of the Bonanza Creek Experimental Forest LTER would be continued. The Bonanza Creek site is one of five LTER sites located in FS Experimental Forests (others are Hubbard Brook, Coweeta, Luquillo and H.J. Andrews). The INF has been an active partner with the University of Alaska in the Bonanza Creek LTER program (BNZ) and Les Viereck, Principal Plant Ecologist at INF, has served as BNZ co-principal investigator for the past six years.

The INF was first established on the campus of the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) in 1963. At the peak of its operation in the early 1980s, there were 13 scientists and an equal number of supporting staff. The Institute has been the principal federal research laboratory in the United States devoted to research in the Northern Boreal Forest. Since the mid-1980s, INF has seen a continued decline in its budget and a continued erosion of scientists and programs. There are presently six scientists, three permanent technicians, several seasonal technicians, and a support staff of three at the Institute.

Scientists at INF have been active in the BNZ program since it was established in 1987. In addition to several research projects, Institute personnel have been responsible for the management and operation of the two research areas associated with the BNZ; Bonanza Creek Experimental Forest and Caribou-Poker Creek Research Watershed. They have also maintained the associated climate and vegetation monitoring. Three scientists and three technicians presently devote a large share of their time to the program.

At press time, Hermann Gucinski, PNW Program Manager for the Ecosystems Processes Program, was working on a Memorandum of Agreement between PNW and UAF to establish a Forest Research Cooperative Unit on the Fairbanks campus. This unit would contain two FS scientists and would preserve the FS commitment to the LTER program, provide for some continuity in the FS role in the program, and support continued operation of the two LTER research sites.