Alaska News

U.S. House Candidate Forrest Dunbar

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-10-24 12:00

Forrest Dunbar is the Democratic candidate for U.S. House.

Lifelong Alaskan and political newcomer Forrest Dunbar is young and determined. This Yale Law grad wants to be Alaska’s next Congressman. Dunbar is running as a Democrat. His social policy fits with that party, but he says he is more in line with Republicans on resource development.

Congressman Don Young was offered two options to appear on Talk of Alaska, and his staff said his schedule would not allow him to appear on the program.

HOST: Lori Townsend, Alaska Public Radio Network


  • Forrest Dunbar, Democratic candidate for U.S. House
  • Callers Statewide


  • Post your comment before, during or after the live broadcast (comments may be read on air).
  • Send e-mail to talk [at] alaskapublic [dot] org (comments may be read on air)
  • Call 550-8422 in Anchorage or 1-800-478-8255 if you’re outside Anchorage during the live broadcast

LIVE Broadcast: Wednesday, October 29, 2014 at 10:00 a.m. on APRN stations statewide.

SUBSCRIBE: Get Talk of Alaska updates automatically by e-mailRSS or podcast.


Categories: Alaska News

Fish & Game Revising Wildlife Habitat Management Plans

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-10-24 08:47

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is revising management plans for some of the most exceptional areas of wildlife habitat in the state. But critics say that even after an outcry about what’s been called a massive erosion in environmental protection by both the public and the Legislature, little to nothing has been fixed.

The Habitat Division within ADF&G oversees the 32 so-called “special areas.”  They’re state lands like McNiel River Game Sanctuary and Izembek refuge supporting wildlife from brown bears to sandhill cranes.

Randy Bates is the head of the Habitat Division, and is to release the first batch of eight revised management plans in the near future.

“We don’t have a target date yet, but in the relatively near future– I would hope in the next month or two,” Bates explained. “At the end of the day what we want is a plan that protects and preserves the area–the natural habitat, the populations of fish and game–for the reasons these areas were designated.”

Once those drafts are finished by ADF&G employees they’ll be made available for public review lasting about 45 days.

“That’ll give the public an opportunity to review that informally, see the changes that we’re proposing, and we’ll have the opportunity for public meetings in Anchorage, Juneau, Fairbanks,” Bates added.

The informal review process is a way for Bates and his staff to hear concerns or recommendations for specific plans, but in a way that is less constrained by protocol than under the Administrative Procedures Act.

But Ric Sinnot, who retired from ADF&G after 28 years, said that during his time within Habitat the division would spend an entire year working on each plan, identifying every stakeholder–from birders to oil companies.

“And all year long those people would be involved in the process,” he recalled. “You didn’t just say ‘Well we’re gonna do this plan,’ and then go into hiding for a year, and then come out with a plan and go ‘Well you’ve got 30 days to review it.’ And that’s what’s happening now.”

Sinnot is also concerned that the “informal” commenting and review process is not legally binding, and so lacks a meaningful mechanism for public involvement in deciding who will use the special areas, and for what.

“The conventional wisdom is that these things are going to be changed so much that they’re gonna be unrecognizable from the earlier plans,” Sinnot worried.  “The pressure is to make them as unrestrictive as possible, so that pretty much anyone who comes in with a permit to do pretty much anything will be given the permit and told to go out there and do whatever they want to do.”

Sinnot’s concerns draw on what happened last year at Dude Creek: the Habitat Division released revised plans for the area covered in red ink, cut in half, with environmental regulations and scientific sections totally scrapped.

At the time, Bates explained to APRN the cuts were the result of a miscommunication with his staff.

But Bob Shavelson, director of Cook Inlet Keeper, a conservation group, believes the process fits with a trend coming out of Governor Sean Parnell’s administration.

“Here we have our special areas–these are our critical habitat areas our refuges our sanctuaries–and the administration is making broad-brush changes behind closed doors without public participation,” he explained. “So there’s a real concern about the erosion of democracy here and the behind-the-scenes process that’s taking place.”

Shavelson is circulating a petition that he says has picked up about 800 signatures. It asks the administration to reconsider the state’s criteria for managing the Special Areas. Shavelson also worries that even stakeholders with specific concerns about individual areas will have a hard time reviewing all the information set to be released in just 45 days.

“When all these plans come out at one time it’s gonna be like drinking from a fire-house. There’s gonna be no way for local people to respond meaningfully.”

When it comes to the upcoming management plans, there is no way to get a preview of how they will look, or what changes to expect. The biologists within ADF&G working directly on revisions are not cleared to speak with the public–or even employees in different divisions within the department. That’s according to a year-old memo sent by Bates to Habitat staff.

Bates denies that this amounts to a gag order, the term offered by both Shavelson and Sinnot.

Asked for a response, Bates gave a light laugh and replied, “Not much need to respond to that. I do look forward to the open public process that we intend to have on these planned revisions.”

While ADF&G does not have a set date for releasing its revised management plans– and thus kicking off the 45 days of public review–Bates said the department will publicize the information as soon as possible on both the department website and the state’s public notice system.

Categories: Alaska News

Alcohol Advertising Near AFN Prompts Complaints

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-10-23 21:01

Fostering healthy communities has been a regular theme of the Alaska Federation of Natives annual convention. Health associations set up booths with literature on substance abuse, and all official AFN events are sober. If anyone shows up under the influence, that person is escorted out.

So a banner advertising drink specials alongside the AFN logo attracted attention on Thursday, when it was up at McGinley’s Pub in sight of the convention entrance.

“It’s literally across the street where everyone is going in and out of the door to come in here and conduct the business at hand,” say Liz Medicine Crow, who is attending the convention, and she takes issue with the sign beyond the unauthorized use of the AFN logo. The banner read “A Jack in the hand is worth two in the Busch” to advertise whiskey and the Busch brand of beer, while punning on the term “Bush Alaska.”

Medicine Crow says the advertising is in conflict with the spirit of the Alaska Federation of Natives convention.

“People are really disgusted,” says Medicine Crow. “I’ve heard that people are hurt. I’ve heard that people think that it’s 100 percent inappropriate. I also hear that people are not surprised, because the welcome from this place of Anchorage is just not as warm as it could be considering how much money comes into this town and how many people are utilizing the services here.”

The banner took on added significance because of McGinley’s affiliation with Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan. Sullivan includes his status as a founding partner of the bar in his official biography, and a 2012 financial disclosure — his most recent completed filing available on the Alaska Public Offices Commission website — lists income from the establishment. Sullivan delivered welcome remarks to AFN on Thursday morning, and is running as the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor. He did not return a message left on his cell phone asking about the banner.

But employees of McGinley’s Pub explained that the sign was actually the work of their beverage suppliers. Bar manager Denise Bostedt said that the sign was produced and installed by K&L Distributors, and that no one from McGinley’s was involved in its design.

“I can promise from the bottom of my heart that we never meant to insult anybody,” said Bostedt. “We love when AFN comes to town.”

A spokesperson for AFN confirmed that use of their logo was unauthorized, and that they received “many” complaints about the banner through the day. After representatives from AFN contacted McGinley’s about the sign, the pub covered up the logo with three sheets of white paper but left the sign up, with the rest visible. When approached by a reporter with questions about the sign on Thursday night, they took it down entirely.

Categories: Alaska News

Tilton, Wehmhoff Vie For House 12

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-10-23 18:01

 Wasilla’s Cathy Tilton and Chugiak’s  Gretchen Wehmhoff are as dissimilar as their parties. Cathy Tilton sticks to a Republican agenda

“I am pro-gun, pro-family and pro-business and I believe that the role of government is not to interfere in our daily lives but to create an environment that allows business to be successful and provide essential services.”

Democrat Gretchen Wehmhoff says she’s people-oriented.

“And I’ve always been involved in my community from Girl Scouts to Arctic Winter Games, and I believe that this is the ultimate community service, to be running for office. I’m pro – people and I believe that we can work with communities and work together to better our state, better our district.”

The two candidates for House 12 faced each other under tv lights on KAKM’s Running series earlier this month.

Tilton has made no secret of her concerns about the budget, especially when it comes to Health and Social Services.   She cautions that spiraling Medicaid costs could “bankrupt” the state. She worked with Representative Mark Neuman on the state operating budget last session, focusing on HSS cuts, and recommends weighing the goal of the state’s formula programs against their actual achievements

“What they were doing good, what they weren’t. And then we were able to look at those things and make long term decisions that could give us some long term sustainability in the recommendations that we made in cutting those places.”

 Wehmhoff wants to provide better transportation choices for workers, increase educational funding and says she’s worried about housing for state senior citizens.

“I don’t know how much cutting we can do on some programs. Some programs have been cut to the bone. But I do think we need to think about our revenue sources, and how we bring revenue back into the operating budget.”

 Tilton has a background in the real estate business, but she touts her legislative staff experience, and campaigned hard in her district to beat her primary opponent in August, taking over 64 percent of the vote.

Wemhoff has little political experience, but has a background in mediation, education and, she says, in the care of an elder family member. On another family note, Wehmhoff is related to Senate F candidate Bill Stoltze by marriage.

School funding, energy and the budget seem to be the top questions this election, but in the Matanuska Valley, fish issues can lead to fighting words.

Wehmhoff says the answer is education.

“We do know, scientifically that a lot of our problems with our fish returning, also has to do with the spawning areas. We have a lot of work to do on educating the public on it’s not just commercial fishing, it’s not just sportfishing, but we need to be aware of where fish are spawning when we are out riding our ATV, you know, where are we crossing streams, are we going down streams.”

Tilton, who advocates state control of halibut management, agrees.

“And what we do need to do is to be able to bring everyone together and, you know, as a consensus builder, someone who can bring those groups together and have them talk with each other to come up with solutions.”

 As for campaign spending, Tilton, as of the October 6 Alaska Public Offices Commission report, has raised almost 75 thousand dollars for her run, although 54 thousand of that was for the primary race. Tilton has spent just about 62 thousand of her campaign chest so far. Tilton has contributed heavily to her own campaign.

 Wehmhoff, on the other hand, has run her fiscally tight campaign on a shoestring. Wehmhoff has raised just $18,634, spending $15,829 as of last APOC report. 

Categories: Alaska News

McGee, Vazquez vie for open House District 22 seat

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-10-23 17:29

Rep. Mia Costello vacated the seat for House District 22 this year when she decided to run for Senate K instead. Neither of the candidates vying for her house seat have served in the legislature before. 

HD 22

On some issues, Democrat Marty McGee and Republican Liz Vazquez are very similar. For example, they both support allowing the permitting process to continue for large projects, like the Pebble Mine.

“What I’m saying is every mining project should be treated the same and be allowed to submit an application,” says Vazquez. “In the case of Pebble Mine they have not been allowed to submit and application.”

“And it shouldn’t be the federal government making that decision,” says McGee. “That’s what Alaska statehood was about in the beginning. Is that Alaskans take control of the natural resources in their state.”

Vazquez says all mining projects need to be treated equally. But McGee says the permitting process does need refining so the regulations are clearer.

Both candidates also agree the state’s budget is too large, and they can’t say where exactly they would cut without more information.

McGee says he would draw on his 17 years of experience as Anchorage’s assessor to try to improve the government’s efficiency.

“I worked very closely with different administrations on the municipal level of finding ways to have more efficient government and use technology and work with our personnel rules, our job descriptions to cause the budget to fit within the means we have.”

He says examining the capital budget is especially important because he sees too much spending on-large scale projects as leading to the downfall of the state.

Vazquez says she would turn to internal audits to find ways to trim the budget, like she has while serving on the Anchorage budget advisory committee.  “So the first thing I would be looking at is looking at their reviews of the different programs and so forth. And figure out what’s waste, what’s not effective.”

Vazquez says the same approach needs to be taken for education issues in Alaska — it’s not about giving more money, it’s about using the money more effectively. “As a legislator I would want to see more better results. I would support forward funding so the district is aware of what funding they have a year in advance, but I would want to be more effective with the dollars that are spent on education.”

She says she would cut materials and supplies before cutting teachers. Vazquez also supports using public money for private schools to give parents more options.

And on this topic, Vazquez and McGee disagree. McGee says public money needs to go to public schools, and more of it. He says the legislature needs to re-evaluate how they fund schools.

“The pattern that the Republican majority has set in the legislature is to cripple and destroy the public education system. I’m absolutely opposed to that.”

Both candidates have lived in the district for decades and raised children there. McGee was born in Sand Lake and has worked in fishing, mining, real estate, and property assessment. Vazquez is a lawyer who was born in Puerto Rico and moved to Alaska 31 years ago. She’s also served on the Chugach Electric Board.

Categories: Alaska News

Small Fuel Barge Adrift In Beaufort Sea

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-10-23 17:22

A small, unmanned fuel barge is adrift in the Beaufort Sea and may be heading toward Prudhoe Bay after its tow line snapped in a storm on Monday.

Download Audio

The 134-foot barge has 950 gallons of diesel fuel on board. It’s owned by a Canadian company, and was in Canadian waters when it broke loose from its tugboat.

Now, Coast Guard response commander Shawn Decker estimates the barge is drifting west in ice-free water at a speed of three to four miles per hour. At that rate, he says it could reach Prudhoe Bay sometime late Friday – and there aren’t any vessels nearby that could try to stop it.

Decker says it’s not guaranteed the barge will run aground in Prudhoe Bay. It’s drifting between the Arctic coastline, and winter sea ice advancing from the north.

The Coast Guard wasn’t able to visually locate the barge today, so they don’t know for sure where it’s drifting, or how fast. Decker says a Coast Guard aircraft will find the vessel again Friday and drop a tracking device onto its deck.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: October 23, 2014

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-10-23 17:22

Stories are posted on the APRN news page. You can subscribe to APRN’s newsfeeds via emailpodcast and RSS. Follow us on Facebook at and on Twitter @aprn

Download Audio

Small Fuel Barge Adrift In Beaufort Sea

Annie Ropeik, KUCB – Unalaska

A small, unmanned fuel barge is adrift in the Beaufort Sea and may be heading toward Prudhoe Bay after its tow line snapped in a storm on Monday.

AFN President Criticizes Gov. Sean Parnell

Jennifer Canfield, KTOO – Juneau

The head of Alaska’s largest Native organization publicly criticized Gov. Sean Parnell Thursday morning, the opening day of the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention in Anchorage.

Fish & Game Revising Wildlife Habitat Management Plans

Zachariah Hughes, KSKA – Anchorage

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is revising management plans for some of the most exceptional areas of wildlife habitat in the state. But critics say that even after an outcry about what’s been called a massive erosion in environmental protection by both the public and the Legislature, little to nothing has been fixed.

Senate Candidate Dan Sullivan Courts Rural Alaska Voters

Liz Ruskin, APRN

U.S. Senate candidates Mark Begich and Dan Sullivan sparred today over who can better move Washington to bring more resource development to Alaska. The Anchorage debate was sponsored by the Resource Development Council and associations representing the state’s oil and gas, mining and logging industries.

Senate Candidate Dan Sullivan Courts Rural Alaska Voters

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

Late last week, US Senate Candidate Dan Sullivan took his campaign to Bethel.  The challenger to Senator Mark Begich, who if successful, may be the Senator that tilts the power balance in the Senate from Democratic to Republican.

20 Alaska Native Languages Now Official State Languages

Matthew Smith, KNOM – Nome

Twenty Alaska native languages are now official languages in the State of Alaska—after Governor Sean Parnell signed House Bill 216 into law this morning at the Alaska Federation of Native conference.

Third Minto Earthquake Rocks Interior Alaska

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

There was another strong earthquake, followed by dozens of aftershocks, in the Interior Thursday.  A magnitude 5 earthquake at 8:30 am was centered in the Minto area northwest of Fairbanks. There have been no reports of damage, but the quake, the latest in a series in the same area, has drawn concern from seismologists.

Wrangell Doctor Indicted On Child Porn Charges

Katarina Sostaric, KSTK – Wrangell

A federal grand jury indicted a Wrangell doctor Wednesday on child porn charges.

Unalaska Clinic Shares Ebola Response Plans

Annie Ropeik, KUCB – Unalaska

Concerns about Ebola are running high in Unalaska. The town’s unique geography and large international workforce have residents wondering how they’d be affected by an outbreak. Local medical providers are trying to calm those fears.


Categories: Alaska News

AFN President Criticizes Gov. Sean Parnell

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-10-23 17:21

The head of Alaska’s largest Native organization publicly criticized Gov. Sean Parnell Thursday morning, the opening day of the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention in Anchorage.

Download Audio

Categories: Alaska News

U.S. Senate Candidates Spar Over Resource Development

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-10-23 17:19

U.S. Senate candidates Mark Begich and Dan Sullivan sparred Thursday over who can better move Washington to bring more resource development to Alaska. The Anchorage debate was sponsored by the Resource Development Council and associations representing the state’s oil and gas, mining and logging industries.

Download Audio

Sullivan, sticking to his main campaign strategy, repeatedly tied Begich to President Obama and the Senate’s Democratic leader, Harry Reid. Sullivan says the Democrats want to impede resource development with regulations, lawsuits and by blocking legislation.

“What I’ll do as a U.S. senator is to follow on what I did as DNR commissioner, to work with people all the stakeholders to recognize we have a problem. Bipartisan support. And I’m very interested in being on the Environment and Public Works Committee to do exactly what we need to do: Really reform our regulatory and permitting system to unleash the energy potential of Alaska and America,” Sullivan said.

Sen. Begich insists the election is not about Obama. He says Alaska is closer to new logging opportunities with the Sealaska land bill, which he says is ready to go to the Senate floor. He says development of the National Petroleum Reserve is progressing, as is Arctic Ocean drilling. Begich says he’s been able to promote resource extraction with his committee assignments.

“When you elect someone like Dan Sullivan, here’s what we do lose. Seniority does matter. How many times before did you have Ted Stevens standing up here talking about seniority? It makes a difference in the U.S. Senate. And when you’re on the appropriations committee – Two seats from the same state, very rare,” Begich said.

At the end, debate organizers polled the audience on whether the forum would influence their vote. Most respondents said it would not.


Categories: Alaska News

Senate Candidate Dan Sullivan Courts Rural Alaska Voters

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-10-23 17:18

Sullivan greets Leif Albertson at the Bethel Chamber of Commerce lunch. (Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK)

Late last week, U.S. Senate Candidate Dan Sullivan took his campaign to Bethel. The challenger to Senator Mark Begich, who, if successful, may be the Senator that tilts the power balance in the Senate from Democratic to Republican.

Download Audio

On a clear and chilly Friday afternoon at the Alaska Territorial Guard Park, Senate candidate Dan Sullivan walks along the Wall of Honor and asks resident Tundy Rogers about names of those who served.

“Sullivan: Is that your uncle?, Tundy: my stepdad’s over there, I’ve got cousins in Eek, Quinhagak, Goodnews, Hooper Bay, damn near the whole wall. Sullivan: Boy, proud tradition.”

US Senate candidate Dan Sullivan campaigned in Bethel October 17, 2014. (Photo by Ben Matheson /KYUK)

Wearing his combat boots, the Lieutenant Colonel in a Marine Corps Reserve unit was getting the face-to-face contact with potential voters that many say is essential to success in rural Alaska. Retail politics of course is one voter at a time. Buck Bukowski is wearing a button that reads Yupik for Begich.

“Sullivan: I’m going to try and convince you to change buttons. Bukowski: I don’t know..”

Less than three weeks before election day, Friday’s visit marks Sullivan’s first to the Y-K Delta in over a year of campaigning. The rhetoric, however, between the two campaigns has already reached a shrill pitch on rural issues. Sullivan alleges that incumbent Senator Mark Begich has been saying that he has the Native Vote.

“Locked up”

A statement that Begich spokesperson Max Croes says his boss has never made. It’s ugly on both sides: the Begich campaign has positioned Sullivan as an adversary to subsistence users, tribes, and rural Alaska. Sullivan, however, is quick to defend his rural cred.

“But I have very deep ties with the Alaska Native community that go much deeper than my opponent’s, because they’re family. My daughters are Alaska Native girls, and my wife is Alaska Native. And we’re going around the state with a great leadership team. I’m very proud to have some of the most prominent Alaska Native Leaders and rural leaders in the state, from all parts of the state, supporting the Sullivan campaign,” said Sullivan.

Begich, has said repeatedly that this race will be decided in rural Alaska and has opened 16 field offices. That presence was apparent at a Bethel Chamber of Commerce lunch, where Democratic staff sat in the back and a tracker with a national group working to elect democratic candidates, videotaped Sullivan’s every word, looking for a slip up or material to be used in ads.

Sullivan visits the ATG Memorial Park Wall of Honor. (Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK)

After a stump speech focusing on low cost energy, reducing federal overreach, improving public safety, and dealing with the salmon crisis, Sullivan heard directly from Bethel residents.

In the first question, Bethel resident John Wallace said he was disappointed that Sullivan did not attend the Association of Village Council Presidents Conference earlier this month.

“Didn’t get an invitation, so you, know, you kind of, but we’re here, right, we’re here, I’m here, she was here at the event, for the very reason you mentioned, to get out, talk to people,” said Sullivan.

She, was Sullivan’s wife, Julie Fate Sullivan. Dan Sullivan planned to travel to Hooper Bay and Aniak over the weekend to shake as many hands of potential voters as possible, along with Senator Lisa Murkowksi, who’s endorsed him.

Sharon Chakuchin attended Sullivan’s lunch. She says that not knowing the extent of Sullivan’s involvement in the Katie John lawsuit, which the state appealed when he was Attorney General gave her pause.

“We just heard that term, Katie John, and it strikes a chord in your heart, oh my gosh, Katie John, that’s terrible, so I figured we had to know the other side, we have to know what that’s about,” said Chakuchin.

Sullivan says he was just doing his job to protect state sovereignty, but he say he supports the federal rural subsistence priority. But his opponents consider the decades-long lawsuit an attack on rural and Alaska Native subsistence rights.

A tracker for American Bridge 21st Century films Sullivan. (Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK)

Sullivan will come face-to-face with his record as Attorney General this week at the state’s largest gathering of Native people, the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention. Both Senate candidates are proudly listing prominent rural and Alaska Native endorsements. Sullivan planned to campaign in Aniak with former state representative Carl Morgan.

“I think and know that he’s going to do a lot of plus for bush Alaska,” said Morgan.

Sullivan says, if he’s elected he’ll forge a new relationship between the region and federal government and work to bring opposing sides together to fix the subsistence system.

“One of the things I’m a big big proponent of is sitting down with all the differnet stakeholders, hearing them out, and trying to get common ground and move forward. Can we do that on subsistence? I think so,” said Sullivan.

Early voting begins October 20th. Election day is November 4th.

Categories: Alaska News

20 Alaska Native Languages Now Official State Languages

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-10-23 17:17

Twenty Alaska Native languages are now official languages in the State of Alaska — after Governor Sean Parnell signed House Bill 216 into law Thursday morning at the Alaska Federation of Native conference.

Download Audio

In a packed room at the Dena’ina Center in Anchorage, nearly two dozen elders sat front and center as the governor and a handful of legislators spoke to the importance of the bill.

The lawmakers spoke to the inspiration for the bill, and how it was long overdue. But it was the assembled speakers, teachers, and students of nearly all of those 20 Alaska Native languages who spoke to the vitality of what the recognition means.

Lance Xh’unei Twitchell, an associate professor at Univerity of Alaska Southeast, began in Tlingit before switching to English.

“There is no such thing as language superiority, just as there is no such thing as racial superiority,” Twitchell said. “That is what we’re saying today.”

Ceremonial pens used to sign the bill into law were given out to the assembled elders—with each taking a moment to speak to what the new law means for them, their language, and their communities.

Selina “Ka’seix” Everson — a Tlingit speaker from Juneau originally from Angoon — received the first pen, blushing as she admitted to being the oldest elder in the room and marveling at how much change she’s seen since the days when she says she was punished for speaking her

“My Tlingit … is now the official state language. One of them. And again, you don’t know how thankful we are. We are rising as one,” Everson said.

Nome’s Bernadette “Yaayuk” Alvanna-Stimpfle says the new law finally put speakers of all languages on an even field.

“…And that means, the English speakers are now equal with Inupiaq speakers,” Alvanna-Stimpfle said, speaking Inupiaq.

As each of the assembled elders spoke, the speakers agreed that the recognition of their languages was just one step in an ongoing march. Many echoed sentiments of taking the next step in that march by installing the newly-recognized languages into state education programs, and in universities.

Categories: Alaska News

Third Minto Earthquake Rocks Interior Alaska

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-10-23 17:16

There was another strong earthquake, followed by dozens of aftershocks, in the Interior Thursday. A magnitude 5 earthquake at 8:30 a.m. was centered in the Minto area northwest of Fairbanks. There have been no reports of damage, but the quake, the latest in a series in the same area, has drawn concern from seismologists.

Download Audio

Categories: Alaska News

Wrangell Doctor Indicted On Child Porn Charges

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-10-23 17:15

A federal grand jury indicted a Wrangell doctor Wednesday on child porn charges.

The grand jury charged Wrangell doctor Greg Salard with two felonies for distribution and possession of child pornography.

Download Audio

Federal law enforcement officers arrested him last week after executing a search warrant at his residence.

The indictment alleges Salard was in possession of child pornography on the day of his arrest.

A Federal Bureau of Investigation agent alleges in an affidavit that Salard was also making child pornography available to others through a file-sharing network.

A conviction for distribution of child pornography carries a penalty of five to 20 years in prison, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska. Possession of child pornography has a maximum 10-year sentence. Both counts carry fines up to $250,000 and the possibility of lifetime supervised release after imprisonment.

According to the press release, the arrest and indictment are part of the Department of Justice’s efforts to increase federal prosecutions of sexual predators and to reduce Internet crimes against children.

Salard is one of four medical providers in Wrangell. He is employed as a family doctor by Alaska Island Community Services and serves under a contract with Wrangell Medical Center, the community’s hospital.

AICS Executive Director Mark Walker said both organizations suspended Salard’s medical privileges after the arrest.

“We know that he’s been charged, but we know nothing more,” Walker said. “We don’t know what his pleading is going to be and the outcome of the case. But at this point he’s not practicing for us or the hospital.”

Walker said he found no reason in the workplace to suspect Salard would be arrested for child pornography.

“There were never any complaints that relate to anything like this,” Walker said. “So we’re completely taken by surprise by all of this and dismayed about the impact on the community and want to do whatever we can to help anybody that is concerned about it, answer any questions, provide counseling for them.”

Salard started practicing in Wrangell in 2009. Walker stressed that job applicants go through a rigorous hiring process that includes a background check.

The hospital suspended Salard’s medical privileges in 2011 and restored them in 2013 after court action and controversy in the community.

The State Medical Board is reviewing the case and may take action on Salard’s medical license in the next few weeks.

Salard is at the Lemon Creek Correctional Center in Juneau awaiting his arraignment in U.S. District Court Oct. 28. At his last court appearance, he requested a public defender and said he had been fired from his job.

Categories: Alaska News

In Snub To Successor, Palin Endorses Walker

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-10-22 21:10

After her vice presidential run, Sarah Palin’s seal of approval was coveted by conservative candidates. Now, she’s endorsing against the Republican ticket for the first time in the Alaska governor’s race. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez reports.

When Sarah Palin stepped down as governor in 2009, she handed the reins to Republican Sean Parnell. Five years later, she’s working against his reelection. Palin has endorsed unaffiliated candidate Bill Walker. Walker is running alongside Democrat Byron Mallott, and has the Democratic Party’s support.

Walker spokesperson Lindsay Hobson says the endorsement is personal as much as political – Walker and Palin have a long-standing friendship. She adds that the two share similar views on resource development, and that Walker welcomes endorsements from across the political spectrum.

“Sarah Palin is known to be a conservative Republican, and we’ve certainly had endorsements from the other side as well,” says Hobson. “I don’t think we’re necessarily looking at initials next to people’s names. We’re just looking at Alaskans that want to see a different Alaska, and that’s what we’re all about.”

It’s unclear how the endorsement will affect the race, and comes as a surprise to some pollsters.

“Oh, I started laughing,” say political consultant Marc Hellenthal.

Hellenthal thinks the endorsement is a risk for Walker. When Hellenthal polled on Palin earlier this year, more than half of survey respondents said they had an unfavorable opinion of her. That was especially true among the Democrats and rural voters who form part of Walker’s base.

“With them, Palin is not somebody you snuggle up to publicly,” says Hellenthal.

Hellenthal adds that recent accounts of a drunken brawl involving the family haven’t helped Palin’s reputation.

But the endorsement is still a slight to Palin’s successor. This summer, Palin criticized Parnell for undoing her signature oil tax policy, and threw her support behind a tax referendum movement that narrowly failed.

“At least Bristol wasn’t there beating on him,” jokes Hellenthal.

Palin’s endorsement event for Walker went without incident. Parnell’s campaign had no comment on the matter.

Categories: Alaska News

Wasilla Principal Says Congressman Young Offended Grieving School

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-10-22 17:20

The principal of Wasilla High School says Congressman Don Young offended her students at a school assembly yesterday. Young, known for brash talk throughout his four decades in office, spoke to students about suicide and gay marriage in a manner Principal Amy Spargo describes as hurtful.

Young spoke to about 120 students and took questions.

“Congressman Young’s standards are his standards, but in our school, the standards we set for kids are higher than that,” Spargo said in an interview today.

It started to go downhill, she says, after a teacher asked about Alaska’s high suicide rate and framed her question by telling Young that a student at the school took his own life last week.

As reported first reported by Alaska Dispatch News, Young said suicide shows a lack of support from friends and family. Spargo says it was insensitive.

“Our students took offense to that. I took offense to that,” she said.

A spokesman for Young didn’t return messages by our deadline today, but said in a written statement the Congressman was being frank and forthright but acknowledged he should have been more sensitive given the recent tragedy.

Spargo says one student, a friend of the deceased, voiced his disagreement to Young, saying he’d been taught that suicide was a function of depression. Spargo says Young didn’t take it well and the discussion escalated.

“The student eventually did, with emotion, say to Congressman Young that the student we lost had friends and that he had support and his family loved him,” Spargo says.

Young later said the boy needed to learn some respect, but Spargo says she’s proud of how all the students handled themselves.

“We spend a lot of time talking at our school about how we treat people,” she says. “When somebody treats someone in a way that’s disrespectful we call foul on that and, really, what our students did was they called foul on the way they were being spoken to.”

16-year-old Danika Ingersoll arrived at the assembly late. She missed the exchange about suicide but heard Congressman Young condemn gay marriage.

“He made it really clear he thought it was morally wrong and ‘out of the question’ was one of the things he kept repeating,” she recalls.
She also says he brought up animals, saying something like if you put two bulls together they don’t produce a calf. That didn’t go over well, either, she says.

“People were whispering and shuffling in their seats. It was just an uncomfortable place to be,” Ingersoll says.

Classmate Reagan Johnson also missed the suicide comments but heard Young disparage gay unions.

“It was kind of abrasive and he brought in a lot of statements that were kind of hurtful to our school, just because we are a safe space, and it was a little harsh,” Johnson said.

On ADN.Com the story quickly attracted hundreds of comments. Some thought the reaction to Young’s remarks was a case of political correctness run amok.

Young, 81, has been in office since 1973. It’s not the first time his frank talk with teens has raised eyebrows. He once used a crude term for a sexual act in talking to Fairbanks students about the photography of Robert Mapplethorpe.

Spargo, the principal, says some parents are questioning her judgment in allowing the Congressman to speak to students.

“They are thinking I should have seen this coming,” she says. “But I’ve had really great experiences with kids interacting with our national leaders … so I had no reason to believe it would become a hurtful experience for them.”

Young’s Democratic challenger, Forrest Dunbar, agrees Young’s comments were insensitive but says he’s sure the Congressman is sorry he said them. Dunbar says he doesn’t intend to exploit the error for political gain.

Categories: Alaska News

Tanana Youths Speak Out Against Sexual Assault, Marijuana Legalization

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-10-22 17:14

The Tanana 4-H club returned to the Elders and Youth Conference Tuesday, following up on their emotional presentation at last year’s conference. The group’s message is still the same: they don’t always feel safe or cared for and they want that to change, but now they’re also taking a stand against marijuana legalization.

Download Audio

During last year’s presentation, each 4-H member told the audience that they’d been molested, abused, or neglected and that they were tired of it. The youth shocked the unsuspecting audience.

An encore presentation during the Alaska Federation of Natives convention a few days later brought overwhelming support and praise for the group and thousands of dollars in donations.

Those donations brought the group back this year. This time, First Alaskans Institute, which hosts the conference, was more prepared for the intense feelings that the 4-H presentation might stir. A volunteer counselor in the audience was available to anyone who needed to talk.

One 4-H member, 17-year-old Ashely, identified herself as a victim of sexual abuse. She listed off statistics about Alaska’s high rate of sexual abuse and domestic violence and she chided adults for not doing more to protect children from it.

“If you experience sexual abuse you need to report it, but what difference does that make?” she said. “They still send abusers back to villages to prey on us. They don’t change; they’re still a sick, twisted person. This is our time to come out and speak. I challenge every one of you to stop keeping this a secret and protect our children to save our future.”

The youths talked about how their families have been affected by things like rape, domestic violence and substance abuse. A few of the youths took the opportunity to speak out against ballot measure 2, which would legalize the use and sale of marijuana.

“Hi my name is Linda, I’m 15 and I’m against legalizing marijuana. I may be young but I’m already sick of the negative effects the marijuana has (had on) my community. It has destroyed my village, we have crime and outstanding teen usage.”

As the legalization initiative is written, if voters approve legal pot there is nothing stopping people from bringing it into villages. When it comes to alcohol, communities can choose to allow importation but ban sales or they can completely ban it altogether. With marijuana, only incorporated municipalities have local control over retail sales, villages have none. The law will allow for legal possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and up to six plants.

The kids also spoke a lot about spice, synthetic marijuana that can cause hallucinations, seizures and psychosis. They said that they’ve been terrified when they were around family members who were using it. The legislature outlawed spice earlier this year.

Group leader Cynthia Erickson said that a few months after the kids returned from last year’s conference, she asked them if they thought anything had changed in their village of Tanana. They said nothing had. A few months later in May, a Tanana man shot and killed State Troopers Sgt. Patrick Johnson and Gabe Rich. The kids looked up to the troopers and were devastated.

“But I said all of you are changing, don’t get discouraged. It took 50 years to get this dysfunctional,” she said. “Seven kids can’t walk on stage and expect a change overnight. But you are changing. You won’t drink and do drugs with a baby in you. You won’t molest. You won’t rape. You are the change; we are the ones we have been waiting for. By one child changing it changes a whole village. One healthy child does make a difference.”

After the presentation Erickson said that the 4-H kids were starting to get a sense of how they impact other youth around the state. Some got to travel to Bethel and Ruby to meet and talk with other youths going through the same struggles. Erickson wondered if kids outside of Tanana might also benefit from getting some weight off their chests.

“I asked the kids how many of you would sign up today to go and take the stage with us at AFN,” Erickson said. “We have seven of you that will come and blast your village’s ass out of the water, they stand up and clap, ‘where do we sign up?’”

The Tanana 4-H club will again take the stage this year at the AFN convention. The group is scheduled to present Thursday after the Elders and Youth Conference report is delivered.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: October 22, 2014

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-10-22 17:13

Stories are posted on the APRN news page. You can subscribe to APRN’s newsfeeds via emailpodcast and RSS. Follow us on Facebook at and on Twitter @aprn

Download Audio

Wasilla High Principal Says Congressman Young Offended Grieving School

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Anchorage

The principal of Wasilla High School says her students are shaken after a visit from Congressman Don Young on Tuesday. Young, known for brash talk throughout his four decades in office, spoke to students about suicide and gay marriage in a way the principal describes as hurtful.

Tanana 4H Members Follow Up On Emotional Presentation

Jennifer Canfield, KTOO – Juneau

The Tanana 4-H club returned to the Elders and Youth Conference yesterday, following up on their emotional presentation at last year’s conference.

Begich, Walker/Mallot Are the Early Frontrunners for AFN Endorsement

Jennifer Canfield, KTOO – Juneau

Alaska’s largest Native organization will vote on candidate endorsements Saturday morning. The Alaska Federation of Natives Board of Directors has drafted two resolutions that will be heard on the final day of the AFN convention in Anchorage.

Debris Lobe Threatens Dalton Highway

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

Geology and climate are interacting in the Brooks Range, sending masses of debris down mountains toward the Dalton Highway. One of the moving debris lobes has prompted a plan to relocate the road.

High Energy Prices Driving Builders, Homebuyers to More Efficient Housing

Tim Ellis, KUAC – Fairbanks

Alaskan engineers and builders are pushing the envelope in the quest to build ever-more energy-efficient houses. Some of those innovations are making their way into residential construction.

Senate F Race Pits Valley Educator Against Seasoned Legislator

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

A new District – Senate F – was created with last year’s state redistricting plan, and now two candidates with solid ties to the the area want to represent it in Juneau.  Educator and Democrat Pat Chesbro,  is challenging long – time  Republican House representative Bill Stoltze  for the seat.

Alaska Writer Presents Simple Philosophy On Wildlife

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

Bill Sherwonit knows a thing or two about Alaska wildlife. The Anchorage based writer has spent decades traipsing through swamps, forging rivers and hiking mountains studying and writing about Alaska’s critters. From the superstars like grizzly bears, moose and caribou to the lowly wood frog. Even shrews and spiders have been given respectful literary treatment.

Sherwonit has a simple philosophy about his relationship with wild animals.

Categories: Alaska News

Begich, Walker/Mallot Are the Early Frontrunners for AFN Endorsement

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-10-22 17:13

Alaska’s largest Native organization will vote on candidate endorsements Saturday morning. The Alaska Federation of Natives Board of Directors has drafted two resolutions that will be heard on the final day of the AFN convention in Anchorage.

Download Audio

The resolutions call for the re-­election of Sen. Mark Begich and the endorsement of Bill Walker for governor and Byron Mallott for lieutenant governor. Mallott is a former president of AFN.

Resolutions are typically decided with a voice vote. Roll call votes, however, are not unheard of. In that case, regional caucuses will discuss the resolution with their delegates and a caucus leader will then cast the vote on behalf of each group.

AFN’s co­chairs Tara Sweeney and Ana Hoffman are on opposite sides when it comes to the senate race. Sweeney is co­-chair for the Sullivan campaign. Hoffman has been actively involved in Begich’s campaign.

Sullivan made an unscheduled appearance during a Board of Directors executive session meeting Tuesday. He reportedly received a cool reception. Despite the preference for Begich, board members were urged by delegates to not make endorsements and instead draft resolutions for them to vote on.

The final list of resolutions includes several measures that in some form or another have been voted on at previous conventions. One resolution calls for stronger protection of tribal subsistence resources. Another asks for subsistence priority over commercial and sport use fishing and hunting.

Delegates will also vote Saturday on resolutions to oppose marijuana legalization, reduce chinook and chum salmon bycatch in the Bering Sea pollock fishery, and support juvenile justice reform during the 2015 legislative session.

Categories: Alaska News

Debris Lobe Threatens Dalton Highway

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-10-22 17:12

Frozen Debris Lobe A along the Dalton Highway
(Credit University of Alaska Fairbanks Institute of Northern Engineering)

Geology and climate are interacting in the Brooks Range, sending masses of debris down mountains toward the Dalton Highway. One of the moving debris lobes has prompted a plan to relocate the road.

Download Audio

Categories: Alaska News

High Energy Prices Driving Builders, Homebuyers to More Efficient Housing

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-10-22 17:11

UAF Professor Tom Marsik, who now teaches at the Bristol Bay Campus, at his home in Dillingham. The 600-square-foot, extremely energy-efficient house has been certified as the world’s most airtight house. (Credit KDLG)

As energy prices continue to rise, Alaskan engineers and builders are pushing the envelope in the quest to build ever-more energy-efficient housing. Some of those innovations are making their way into residential construction, as builders look to meet homebuyers’ demand.

Download Audio

UAF professor Tom Marsik has built what he says is the world’s most efficient house, a small, airtight structure that he and some friends built in Dillingham a couple of years ago.

“It’s extremely insulated – we’re talking 28-inch thick walls, just to put it in perspective,” Marsik said.

Those thick walls are rated at R-90, nearly four times more than the required R-21 for walls; and the ceiling’s R-140 rating is nearly triple the required R-49.

Marsik and friend Gordon Isaacs conduct a blower door test on Marsik’s home in March 2013 to determine how tightly it’s sealed. The test was certified by the World Record Academy, which declared the structure was “the world’s most airtight house.” (Credit KDLG)

Marsik, who teaches sustainable energy, says on most days he can warm his small, airtight home with about the same amount of energy it takes to run a hair-dryer.

“Last year, it cost us about one-hundred-fifty dollars to heat the home for the entire year,” he said.

Marsik says he was inspired to build the house after spending a few winters here in Fairbanks teaching at the main UAF campus.

Cold Climate Housing Research Center President and CEO Jack Hebert marvels at the work of Marsik and others he calls “pioneers” of efficient homebuilding. He includes Thorsten Chlupp, a Fairbanks-area builder who like Marsik has constructed highly efficient homes that are super-insulated and that also often employ sustainable-energy heating systems.

“There’s amazing things done in Alaska by very creative people – like Tom, like Thorsten, like others in the state who’ve always been pioneers in housing,” he said.

But Hebert says not all the advances developed by those pioneers in their quest for a home that requires little, if any additional energy to heat, will make their way into mainstream homebuilding. Because some are too expensive or unappealing to homebuyers.

“I think these pioneers and creative people right now that are approaching net-zero with their passive houses and the work that they’re doing on extremely energy-efficient envelope small home – extremely admirable. But how can we incorporate that into the mainstream, where the market says I don’t want to live in a house like that, or I can’t afford it?”

That’s the challenge that green homebuilders like Aaron Welterlen confront. Welterlen’s Fairbanks-based company, WV Builders, touts its line of energy-efficient and affordable homes. He says most of his customers tend to be first-time homebuyers, often young families or people temporarily here, like military personnel or contractors.

Welterlen says homebuyers in the Interior have increasingly shown a preference for energy-efficient homes in recent years since, not coincidentally, the price of heating oil began its rise to $4 a gallon. But he says he must weigh how many of those features a prospective homebuyer is willing to pay for. Because such features as super-insulated windows and ground-source heat pumps – which extract heat from underground – all add to the upfront cost.

“So we as builders are trying to find ways, constantly, of how do you give people the best house that they can afford, the most energy-efficient house they can afford, for a cost that is reasonable to them – without having them having to bankrupt themselves in order to get into a house.”

Welterlen says despite such incentives as rebates of up to ten-thousand dollars offered by the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation, and the payback that energy-efficient features promise, many homeowners still just can’t get past the sticker shock of, for example, a twenty-thousand-dollar ground-source heat pump.

“Yes, the ground-source heat pump is still more expensive, but it’s about 50 percent cheaper to operate,” he said. “So if we can convince the client to spend some money out of their own pocket at the beginning, then you have a heating cost which is now about 50 percent less, so you’re heating a house for a hundred and 10 dollars a month in winter – it kind of becomes unbeatable, very quickly, in the long term.”

Hebert says that shows that shows a demand for energy-efficient homes – but, for many, it’s a demand that has limits, based on cost.

“The market is really the loudest voice,” he said. “If the market starts to demand energy efficiency – a highly efficient heating appliance over a commercial range in the kitchen – then that market demand will start to drive where the builders go.”

Hebert and Welterlen both say that’s already happened, as shown by homebuyers’ sustained interest in energy efficiency. Hebert says building on that progress won’t be easy, and will require educating homeowners by getting the word out about breakthroughs in efficiency and introducing them into the marketplace, then making the case on investing more now to reap the energy savings later.

Categories: Alaska News