Wilderness areas comprise 65% of the 1.92 million acre Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska. Fire history studies indicate that fire frequency increased substantially in both white and black spruce forests after European settlement. Dendrochronolgy studies indicate that regional-scale spruce bark beetle outbreaks occurred in the 1820s, 1880s, and 1970s. None of these outbreaks was as intense as the 1990s outbreak, which has killed most of the large white and Sitka/Lutz spruce on the southern Kenai Peninsula. Strong climatic warming appears to have accelerated the recent outbreak, probably through drought-stress of large trees. Logging of once-remote beetle-killed forests on private lands on the south-western flank of the Refuge is shrinking available brown bear habitat and making protection of the wilderness areas more crucial.