APRN Alaska News

Subscribe to APRN Alaska News feed APRN Alaska News
Get Alaska statewide news from the stations of the Alaska Public Radio Network (APRN). With a central news room in Anchorage and contributing reporters spread across the state, we capture news in the Voices of Alaska and share it with the world. Tune in to your local APRN station in Alaska, visit us online at APRN.ORG or subscribe to the Alaska News podcast right here. These are individual news stories, most of which appear in Alaska News Nightly (available as a separate podcast).
Updated: 36 min 54 sec ago

Kuskokwim River May Meet Its Chinook Escapement Goal

Tue, 2014-10-07 17:43

Unprecedented closures kept fishermen this summer from targeting king salmon in an effort to bring more fish to spawning grounds after several poor runs. The drainage-wide results showing how well the management worked are now beginning arrive, and the state says the Kuskokwim may have achieved its critical Chinook escapement goal.

Download Audio:

Photo by Shane Iverson / KYUK.

John Linderman is Arctic-Yukon-Kuskokwim Regional Supervisor with the Division of commercial fisheries. He says the fisherman deserve a thanks for their sacrifices this summer.

“The result this year is that we saw escapements overall compared to 2013 well, about double, or a little bit higher than that. So, much improved escapement this year compared to 2013, with many more escapement goals being achieved, however, two primary tributaries: the Kogrukluk river at the headwaters of the Holitna river and the Kwethluk in the lower river, their escapement goals were not achieved this year,” said Linderman.

A preliminary report published last week says the drainage wide escapement goal was likely met. Managers however are not committing until they’ve worked through all of the data in the coming weeks.

“There’s a chance that yes we could have achieved the goal this year. But the big wild card in that equation is the fact that two signification tributaries did not meet their escapement goals. It makes it that much more difficult. If it was a bit more black and white, if a minority of goals were reached or all goals were reached it’d be easier to try and draw conclusions at this point,” said Linderman.

Lisa Olson, the deputy director for State’s Subsistence Division says work is underway for next year’s planning.

“Now is the time to starting thinking what would work for 2015, what did not work well in 2014, and I hope that people in the area get involved,” said Olson.

Federal managers were in control of the Chinook fishery last summer after the federal subsistence board took action to federalize the management. No one knows yet what will be happen next year in terms of management, but Linderman says fishermen will likely see restrictions on par with this year.

“It’s an unfortunate reality of the current situation and the current poor abundance that the Kuskokwim Chinook run finds itself in, there just isn’t enough to provide for the demand that’s out there with respect to chinook salmon. That is the current expectation that we would expect the season to start with similar restrictions to what we saw in 2014,” said Linderman.

Subsistence fishing will likely be at the forefront at the Association of Village Council Presidents Convention, which hosts a subsistence panel Tuesday afternoon. The forum will include Fish and Game Commissioner Cora Campbell, AVCP Attorney Sky Starkey, and Federal Manager Gene Peltola Junior, plus Victor Joseph, the CEO of the Tanana Chiefs Conference.

Categories: Alaska News

In New Ad, Begich Embraces Health Care Law While Pledging to Fix

Tue, 2014-10-07 17:42

For those who want to unseat U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, one strategy has prevailed from the start: Bind him to President Obama and the Affordable Care Act. A new ad from Republican challenger Dan Sullivan is typical of that approach.

Download Audio:

“….Mark Begich votes with Obama 97 percent of the time. For ObamaCare….”

But Begich, in a new radio ad running statewide, is taking the politically risky tactic of embracing the unpopular law.

“Before the healthcare law was passed one third of Alaskans who tried to get individual policies were denied for preexisting conditions and other reasons.”

The ad says Begich is working to fix the law and make coverage more affordable. Obama is especially unpopular in Alaska. A national polling firm last month found 56 percent of Alaskans disapprove of the job the president’s doing, while a Dittman poll put the figure at 65 percent. The minute-long Begich ad never uses the words “Obama,” “ObamaCare” or the “Affordable Care Act.”

Categories: Alaska News

Southeast Ballot Issues Cover Taxes, Infrastructure and More

Tue, 2014-10-07 17:41

Communities across Alaska are voting in municipal elections today. They are electing city council and assembly members and weighing in on local ballot measures. Some Southeast Alaska voters will consider how to raise revenues and what to spend them on.

Download Audio:

At least a dozen ballot measures are going before Southeast’s voters.

The city of Ketchikan, for example, wants the OK to raise money to replace aging water and sewer lines.

That could sound boring. But it won’t be if lines up to 50 years old break and spill their contents.

“It’s not a question of if that system’s going to fail. It’s a question of it will fail.”

That’s Ketchikan City Manager Karl Amylon answering a council question during a meeting last summer.

A pair of ballot measures would raise $10 million for the projects. Officials say the state will reimburse 70 percent of the total cost.

Council member KJ Harris usually opposes bond issues, but not this time.

“To me, this is a need, not a want. We’ve got to have infrastructure.”

Critics say the city already has too much bond debt.

Petersburg voters face seven ballot issues, most addressing taxes.

Four would change different aspects of the local senior citizen sales tax exemption. Two would limit the break to locals, while one would exempt only food and heating fuel.

Another would make plans to phase out the break.

Municipal Clerk Kathy O’Rear says if that measure passes, only those 65 and older by the end of 2019 would be eligible.

“So eventually, the senior citizens’ sale tax exemption will sunset or go away,” O’Rear says.

Petersburg sales tax committee member Lee Corrao is OK with residency requirements. But he’s not fond of the overall approach, which will increase municipal revenues.

“They’ll just spend it. I don’t want to give it to them. And I don’t think most taxpayers want to just give them money unless there’s justification for it. This is not the way to do it. We have bond measures if we have projects we need to fund.”

In Skagway, voters will be asked to approve a bond measure funding a new, $12 million public safety facility.

Skagway Mayor Mark Schaefer, at an August meeting, said it’s an important need for the community’s tourism economy.

“The buildings were use now are totally inadequate for the industry we serve. They’re quite shameful, in fact,” Schaefer says.

A companion measure would increase Skagway’s seasonal sales tax from 5 percent to 6 percent.

That’s expected to raise enough money to pay back the bonds, which are a type of loan.

Critics are mostly concerned about the sales tax increase, because it would raise prices for residents, not just tourists.

Juneau has one ballot proposition in this election.

It would create what’s called an empowered board that could set budgets and raise revenues for the capital city’s two swimming pools.

Supporters say a stronger board could attract more swimmers and other users, and help pay for needed repairs.

Critics say the measure would put too much emphasis on one part of the community’s recreation programs.

Categories: Alaska News

‘Blood Moon’ Forecast Strong in Alaska Tonight

Tue, 2014-10-07 17:40

People here in Alaska and in much of this part of the Northern Hemisphere will get a chance tonight to see a total lunar eclipse, weather permitting.  It’ll be another appearance of the so-called “Blood Moon.”

Download Audio:

Tonight’s total lunar eclipse is expected to peak just before 3 a.m. Wednesday.
Credit earthsky.org

Fairbanks National Weather Service meteorologist Ben Bartos says there’s a pretty good chance for skywatchers to see the eclipse here in the Interior.

“Tonight we’ll have partly cloudy skies,” Bartos said. “Looks like (it will be) pretty crisp out, so if you’re going to step outside to see it, dress warm. We’re looking at lows between 5 and 15 above overnight.”

But you’ll either have to stay up late or get up very early to see it. Fairbanks amateur astronomer Martin Gutoski says it’ll begin around 1:15 Wednesday morning, but the “totality” of the Earth’s shadow darkening the moon won’t begin until about 2:25 a.m. The moon should be darkest just before 3, and the event will be over around 4:30.

Gutoski says the moon’s position in the sky will be about the same as the lunar eclipse that occurred earlier this year.

“It’ll be low on the horizon, like it was in April,” he said.

And like that earlier eclipse, Gutoski says the moon will again be orange or reddish, which is why it’s called the Blood Moon.

It appears that way because of the Earth’s atmosphere, says Peter Delamere. He’s an associate professor of space physics with the UAF physics department and Geophysical Institute.

“Because of the Earth’s atmosphere, the green and the ultraviolet light is filtered out,” Delamere said. “And the red is the least affected as it moves through the atmosphere. So not only is it the least affected, it also bends or it’s refracted towards the Earth’s surface. So, as the light from the sun moves through the atmosphere, and it is bent, it gets bent toward the location of the moon behind Earth.”

Gutoski says the appearance of the Blood Moon has throughout history often been interpreted as an omen of bad things to come.

Planting his tongue firmly in his cheek, Gutoski offers another theory – a decidedly less-cosmic explanation…

“The one is April was right during your tax-submittal deadline for the IRS,” he said. “And Oct. 15 is the deadline for extensions of time from the April 15th IRS reporting. So maybe it’s tied to the IRS.”

If so, Gutoski suggests the Blood Moon may mean a fate worse than the fire, floods and plagues of biblical times.

“If you postpone your income tax, like I did in April, ’til Oct. 15th, this should be a harbinger to get your taxes done,” he said. “Otherwise, they’re going to draw blood out of you.”

Categories: Alaska News

At UAA, New Trees Sprout Alongside New Buildings

Tue, 2014-10-07 17:39

Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities and Maintenance at UAA, Chris Turletes, helps load up wheelbarrows for volunteers to plant. Photo by Ashley Snyder/APRN.

More than a dozen people gathered at the Alaska Airlines Center on Friday with shovels, wheelbarrows and small potted trees in tow. All were on a mission and none were afraid to get their hands dirty. Their goal? To plant 300 trees to take the place of some that were cut down during the many construction projects on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus.

Download Audio: The University of Alaska Anchorage has just completed two major projects, the Alaska Airlines Center and the Engineering Building, and recently started another, a new parking garage.  thousands of trees were cleared to make room for these buildings. But the University has implemented a “no net tree loss” system so that for every tree lost, a new one is planted. So on Friday, a group of students, faculty and staff at UAA spent the morning planting new seedlings.

Trees were planted to make up for the trees that were cleared for the construction of UAA’s new Alaska Airlines Center. Photo by Ashley Snyder/APRN.

One of the leads for the event, Ryan Buchholdt, business manager for facilities and campus services, says the math for the program is pretty simple.

“We did a study several years back that there is about 445 trees per acre when we clear land for a construction project, and then that determines what our quote “tree debt” is. So our goal is to, not necessarily right away, but over the next few years to make sure that we replace all of those trees lost due to construction.” In the summer alone the university has planted over 6,000 trees on University land in the Kenai Peninsula and Palmer. On the Anchorage campus, with winter fast approaching, there was little time to spare to plant the remainder of the small birch and pine trees. Horticulturalist Kara Monroe used her expertise to help the cause. She was happy to see the turnout of volunteers. “I was really surprised. We called on the community, mainly students to come in and help us out and there’s way more that I thought out here. So that’s really cool. We are going through these trees awfully fast.” That was student horticulturalist Omar Vilafuerte, working to further his education and help the environment at the same time. It didn’t take long for volunteers to get the hang of digging, unpotting, planting, covering and then repeating it for the next tree. But it was difficult work. Volunteer, Kelly Donnelly found it took a little extra elbow power at times to get the job done. “There are more roots than you anticipate. The ground looks soft and you dig in and then you realize oh there’s a root there and you gotta find another place, or dig through it! It’s great!” Once all 300 trees were planted the volunteers, eating pizza, got to sit back and admire the trees. Future students will likely appreciate them too.
Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: October 7, 2014

Tue, 2014-10-07 17:36

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

Download Audio:

Federal Court Striks Down Gay Marriage Ban in Idaho, Nevada

Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage

The 9th circuit court of appeals struck down gay marriage bans in Idaho and Nevada today. The federal court also has jurisdiction over Alaska, where five same sex couples are suing to overturn the state’s ban on same sex marriage.

Arctic Summit Tackles A Diverse Spread of Issues

Matthew Smith, KNOM – Nome

The Institute of the North is in Nome this week for the fourth-annual Week of the Arctic—bringing together policy makers and local shareholders to discuss short- and long-term goals for America’s presence in the far north.

Kuskokwim River May Meet Chinook Escapement Goal

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

Unprecedented closures kept fishermen this summer from targeting king salmon in an effort to bring more fish to spawning grounds after several poor runs. The drainage-wide results showing how well the management worked are now beginning arrive, and the state says the Kuskokwim may have achieved its critical Chinook escapement goal.

In New Ad, Begich Embraces His Vote on Obamacare

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington, D.C.

For those who want to unseat U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, one strategy has prevailed from the start: Bind him to President Obama and the Affordable Care Act. A new ad from Republican challenger Dan Sullivan is typical of that approach.

Southeast Ballot Issues Cover Taxes, Infrastructure and More

Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau

Communities across Alaska are voting in municipal elections today. They are electing city council and assembly members and weighing in on local ballot measures.

‘Blood Moon’ Forecast Strong in Alaska Tonight

Tim Ellis, KUAC – Fairbanks

People here in Alaska and in much of this part of the Northern Hemisphere will get a chance tonight to see a total lunar eclipse, weather permitting.

At UAA, New Trees Sprout Alongside New Construction

Ashley Snyder, APRN – Anchorage

Over a dozen people gathered at the Alaska Airlines Center on Friday with shovels, wheelbarrows and small potted trees in tow. All were on a mission and none were afraid to get their hands dirty. Their goal? To plant 300 trees to take the place of some that were cut down during the many construction projects on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus.

National Geographic Photographer Paul Nicklen Talks On Arctic Environments

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen has traveled to some of the most remote regions of the globe to document the effects of climate change. He has plunged into icy water and floated on sea ice to photograph sea mammals that rarely encounter humans. This week he travels to Anchorage to share stories of documenting the Arctic.

Categories: Alaska News

National Geographic Live – Paul Nicklen

Tue, 2014-10-07 12:19

National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen takes audiences to the vast polar regions of our planet. Paul Nicklen and leopard seal, Antarctica. (Image credit: Ehlme Goran)

National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen has traveled to some of the most remote regions of the globe to document the effects of climate change. He has plunged into icy water and floated on sea ice to photograph sea mammals that rarely encounter humans.

Nicklen worked as a biologist in Alaska before becoming a professional photographer. He says his love of the Arctic developed as a kid, growing up in a tiny Arctic village on Baffin Island in Canada.

Download Audio

Photographer Paul Nicklen will talk about his work and show slides tonight at Atwood Concert Hall in Anchorage. The talk is presented by the Anchorage Museum.

National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen takes audiences to the vast polar regions of our planet. Emperor Penguins, Ross Sea, Antarctica. (Image credit: Paul Nicklen)

National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen takes audiences to the vast polar regions of our planet. Walrus, Svalbard, Norway. (Image credit: Paul Nicklen)

TOWNSEND: How did you first get started as a polar regions photographer?

NICKLEN: Funny you would even start there — that’s the start of my talk. How do you become who you are? For me, it was when my family moved from southern Canada to Baffin Island, where we lived in a tiny Inuit community of 190 people.

You know back in the 70s we never had radio. We didn’t have television. We didn’t even have a telephone in this community. We got our groceries once a year by ship, so a lot of these Alaskan communities can relate.

You become so immersed in that environment, you become so immersed in that culture and for myself all my entertainment, all my pleasure, came from being outside.

The Inuit were my teachers. They taught me survival skills, they taught me how to hunt, they taught me how to survive on the land. I never really realized how deeply engrained that was into my, sort of spirit, until I left and went to university and every second I missed the north.

I came back as a biologist and became frustrated with the whole scientific process. Working for the Canadian government is extremely slow and can be very ineffective. We were collecting great data but we weren’t doing anything with it. I thought if I could just bridge the gap between this good scientific work and the public — then now, I have a chance to reach 100 million people with a story in National Geographic magazine for example.”

TOWNSEND: Paul, tell me about some of your most memorable photography expeditions in the arctic. What stands out?

NICKLEN: I have had so many incredible journeys. When I look at my images, people say what’s your favorite photo? Well I don’t really ever have a favorite photo; I have favorite moments that will stay with me forever. On my death bed it’s going to be not surrounded by covers of National Geographic, but it’s going to be memories and hopefully friends and family.

You know for myself, swimming with narwhals to find out they really are these unicorns of the sea and very few people have seen them. It took me ten years to get in a position that I could actually photograph them. It involved me buying an ultra light float airplane that I could fly off the sea ice. We flew 100 miles of shore, landed on a floating pan of ice; we were surrounded by 1,000 narwhales. They were scenes that nobody else could ever dream of or imagine; scenes that very few people besides the Inuit would ever get the chance to see — to reach out and be able to touch their tusks as they are blowing for air and photograph.

Also spending time with grizzly bears in Denali National Park alone, hiking with them. I was sitting in Denali one day and I was young, I was 19 years old, and right in front of me were a bunch of Dall sheep and I heard a noise behind me and it was a big grizzly bear walking behind me and I looked over to the left there and there was a wolverine running up the hill. I had to pinch myself that all of these things were going on at the same time.

TOWNSEND: You have also photographed in Antarctica. Tell us about your encounter with a big leopard seal there.

NICKLEN: I’m always trying to dispel myths with my photography. It drives me crazy when I go into a bookstore in Alaska and it’s like ‘death by bear’ and ‘Alaska tales of death’ and every picture’s got a bear on the cover that’s snarling. Bears don’t even growl like that, you know? Maybe it’s yawning or maybe a trainer is making it yawn in the picture. You know that stuff just really irks me — these animals need a fair shake, these animals are just trying to survive.

So, to have leopard seals be the villain in “8 below 0” and “Happy Feet” as this vicious monster? I don’t think any animal is vicious and we have to change how we perceive and how we connect with these species and ecosystems.

If I want people to care about ice, I can’t afford to have people thinking “Oh Antarctica? Ice? That’s where those terrible monsters live!” So I pitched a story to National Geographic to go down to Antarctica and get in the water with as many leopard seals as I could over a six week period, just to see if they were vicious or misunderstood.

I was nervous jumping in the water this first day with this 1,000 pound female leopard seal that had just killed a penguin and there was blood and guts everywhere. She was ramming the dead penguin under the hull of our little Zodiac, and we were trying not to fall in the water — and that’s when I had to get in.

So I put on my snorkel in my mouth, and my mask, and my dry suit, and weight belt and jumped in the water. And right away this 1,000 pound seal, that’s a head bigger than Grizzly bear, came shooting over to me. She kept doing these threat display lunges at me but it never really looked aggressive. If you look at a leopard seal they have no scars on their body, so I think they are always communicating with these displays.

She calmed downed after five minutes and then she went off and got a penguin and tried to feed me the penguin; a live one. And then she realized I couldn’t catch that and so she brought me tired penguins, nearly dead penguins, and she brought me dead penguins. At one point I had five dead penguins floating around my head. She started to flip penguins onto my head. She defended me from other leopard seals when they came by. And she would come and sleep by my sailboat at night and then in the morning when I’d go back out on the Zodiaq she’d be there waiting for us like a big excited puppy dog.

We’d drive over to wherever we wanted to photograph her next to ice bergs. She’d go off and get a penguin and we’d do this song and dance and this went on for four days before she finally realized that I wasn’t going to eat a penguin. I went from being terrified to laughing so hard and crying in my mask; it was tears of joy and water flooding in my mask. I was constantly clearing my mask trying to just see this amazing thing going on in front of me. It is something that I definitely will never forget.”

TOWNSEND: You were adopted by a leopard seal?

NICKLEN: I think you can be anthropomorphic or anthropocentric on these types of encounters. But I really think that in her eyes she was just trying to figure out what I was doing there. She probably has never seen a human being before. You are either breeding or you are feeding, so I think she thought if she could just get me to accept a penguin, she would understand why I was there. And then I think it became this urgent need to make sure I wasn’t going to starve. All of a sudden I think she went from figuring out what I was, to trying to help me. Again you don’t want to be anthropomorphic about this stuff but I don’t know how else to think about it.

TOWNSEND: Give us some context about the change in the Arctic that you’ve seen in the time that you’ve been a professional photographer.

NICKLEN: That’s a great question. 20 years ago, you think of a place like Svalbard, Norway that’s only 700 miles from the North Pole. It’s historically been completely surrounded by ice all summer long. You have these shelves of ice, massive glaciers and you’ve got the sea ice and pack ice and it’s all swirling around.

On that ice supports a huge population of polar bears for example; 3000 bears live on these ice floes and they are able to feed on seals all summer long. Just think, now 10 years forward to 2006/2007 we were trying to photograph a story there, we had to keep putting the story on hold for three years because there was no ice to be found anywhere and the bears were stranded on land. Not only was there not ice in the summertime, there wasn’t ice there in the winter. These bears are finding little strips of ice. You think of seals where they give birth to their pups on the ice; it’s affecting them. It’s affecting copepods and amphipods and polar cod. It’s affecting the whole food chain; it’s not just bears that are being affected.

Just this summer I decided to go back. We started a non-profit called “Sea Legacy” which is trying to bring attention to these global issues like climate change and global fisheries, and so this donor paid for this trip for us to go there and photograph. The entire Nordaustlandet ice cap was melting; usually you see a trickle of waterfall here and there. We saw hundreds of waterfalls just gushing water off this ice cap. And that’s fine, how do you quantify that?

But, in places traditionally where there is ice, the last little pockets of ice that remain there all summer long were complete gone. We started walking across the land and were finding dead bears that had starved to death. We were finding bears that were two, three years old that had died.

So it was an amazing opportunity as a storyteller to be able to actually document these dead bears and just contrast that in conjunction with the melting ice and not having any ice anywhere around Svalbard for the bears.

TOWNSEND: What do you really hope to accomplish with the pictures that you take?

NICKLEN: Everybody has a role to play. The scientists; without science my pictures don’t mean a lot. They are more of my own emotional interpretation. But, I think since the beginning of time, since the time of drawing painting on cave walls, we are visual storytellers. You think of the Inuit culture, it’s very visual, very creative, very artistic.

I think we’ve been beating people over the head with facts of climate change in the newspapers, you read about it every day. I think we’ve become inundated with it; I think we’ve become numb to it. So I’m just using my photographs as constant reminders. And we are seeing a shift in people’s perceptions about the change. Not only am I trying to inspire change, I am also trying to drive change with decision makers and influential people.

Categories: Alaska News

HUD Grants Aimed at Alaska Native Housing Projects

Mon, 2014-10-06 17:45

HUD Secretary Julian Castro announced Monday the award of millions of dollars in housing grants to American Indian and Alaska Native tribes nationwide. Castro made the announcement while in Anchorage.

Listen now:

 ”Today, I’m pleased to announce that HUD is awarding $60 million in Indian Community Development Block Grants to more than ninety communities throughout the nation. These grants are intended to improve housing conditions and stimulate community development. And they also support self-determination. Our tribal partners, not Washington, determine which activities and projects meet their needs. “

 Castro said he chose to make the announcement in Alaska because of the “excellence of the partnerships” among state and local governments and non-profits here that create opportunity for housing and economic development. Castro  said  local non-profits, Alaska Housing Finance Corporation and other housing entities are able to successfully leverage federal funding with other types of funding to get projects done.

The Secretary used the opportunity to announce that additional grants would be available to remove mold from low income housing owned or operated by tribal entities.

 Alaska Native tribes will receive about seven million dollars of the Indian Community Block Grant funds, to be distributed among fifteen tribes through out the state. One of those, Cook Inlet Tribal Council, will receive 600 thousand dollars to purchase two  properties in the Muldoon area of Anchorage to be used for  senior housing.

Gloria O’Neill is CEO of Cook Inlet Tribal Council. She says CITC and Cook Inlet Housing Authority work together on housing issues.

“I hope this demonstrates how we leverage both of our missions, so that we can make investment in the community. And this is the only way that we are able to take the might of what we do and do well, and really expand opportunities, especially in this area. We know that housing is probably our greatest challenge to overcome in Anchorage, and CITC is so very grateful that we could play a small piece in it all. “

 CITC plans a project to house 23 senior citizens, including retail space on the lower level.

 The HUD grant funds can be used in a variety of ways, including land purchase, rehabilitation of older homes or construction of new ones, even on road construction or water and sewer programs.

 Ten Alaska tribal entities received 600 thousand dollar grants, and five other tribal communities received lesser amounts.

Categories: Alaska News

Gwitch’in Translators Scramble to Ready Election Materials

Mon, 2014-10-06 17:44

According to a U.S. district court order, the Alaska Division of Elections has until October 10th to provide outreach and poll workers in three remote regions of the state with election materials and voting information that has been translated from English into either Yupik or Gwich’in. In Fairbanks, Gwich’in translators are finding the process challenging.

Listen now:

Allan Hayton was contracted by the state Division of Elections. “Some of it is very technical language, legal jargon,” he says.

But this isn’t the first time he and his colleague, Marilyn Savage have tried to translate a large body of work into their native language. “We’ve translated other materials too, like Shakespeare,” says Hayton. “Marilyn and I worked last year translating King Lear into Gwich’in, so we’re used to difficult challenges but we’re happy to do this.”

For Marilyn Savage, this is also personal. “I’m think about my uncle in Fort Yukon,” she says.  “He’s blind and so it will be good for him to hear our language.  I think he’ll have a sense of pride and for a lot of us it will increase voting.  So people will say ‘oh, did you go to vote? It’s in our language now,’ so I’m excited about it.”

Savage plans to use the Gwich’in ballot this November.  “Just mainly because it’s available and I’m curious to see how it’s presented,” she laughs.

And how it’s presented is key. Hayton says they have to remain objective, regardless of how they feel about a candidate or a ballot measure. “You can’t try to sway voters, you just have to present the material as it is.”

Marilyn Savage does think it’s tough. “Oh yeah, I think it is challenging and you do think about what this is going to do for people’s lives,” she says.

But there’s also no direct translation in Gwich’in for words like ‘commerce,’ ‘marijuana’ or terms like ‘Department of Natural Resources,” and those words all appear on Alaska’s November ballot. Gary Holton is a linguistics Professor at UAF’s Alaska Native Language Center.  He says translating election materials is daunting because culturally, Gwich’in can’t describe some of the concepts involved in the process.

“If you were going to design a language that’s as different from English as possible, you would probably come up with Gwich’in,” Holton says.

There are no Latin roots and Gwich’in vocabulary is vast. “If you’re looking for a word that means ‘to go,’ you may struggle because in Gwich’in, talking about ‘to go,’ it makes a difference whether you’re talking about one person or two people or three people or an animal that’s migrating,” Holton explains. “All of those are different words for ‘to go’ that in English we would use the same words for those.”

The state has been ordered to translate everything from public service announcements to buttons for poll workers as well as the four regional election pamphlets.  That’s more than 600 pages of material. Marilyn Savage says she never expected her native language to be involved in the modern election process.

“I always thought our language was from people from ancient times and that it was just their day-to- day language for day-to-day living,” says Savage. “Now, we’re in a century that’s pretty high tech.”

Every registered voter receives an election pamphlet by mail, but in an email, State Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai says there’s no way to know for sure whether voters read them before they go to the polls. Allan Hayton says that doesn’t matter. “I think in the long run, we do need to have everything that every other voter would have in their language.”

According to the Alaska Native Language Center, there are roughly 300 native Gwich’in speakers in the state.  It’s not clear how many of them plan to vote this November, but if they do, it will be the first time they’ll use a ballot written in their native language and they might discover a few new words.

Categories: Alaska News

Parnell Rescinds Termination Order for 2 Guard Officials

Mon, 2014-10-06 17:43

The acting top official of the Alaska National Guard fired two high-ranking officers last week but reversed the action a day later at the direction of Gov. Sean Parnell.

Download Audio:

Brigadier Gen. Mike Bridges on Thursday asked for the resignations of Brigadier Gen. Catherine Jorgensen and Col. Edie Grunwald.

Parnell’s spokeswoman Sharon Leighow tells the Alaska Dispatch News that the officers had applied for the same leadership job that Bridges is seeking.

She says by email that Parnell wanted to avoid any appearance of impropriety on behalf of Bridges and directed him to rescind the terminations.

A federal investigation released Sept. 4 found ethical misconduct in the guard. Parnell fired its adjutant general and the civilian deputy commissioner
On Thursday, Parnell said three others would be fired.

Monday, Parnell named a new special assistant for military issues. Reitred Lieutenant Colonel Jay Pullins will serve as the governor’s liaison on the team handling National Guard reform efforts.

Categories: Alaska News

Conservation Group Sues to Block Controversial Timber Sale

Mon, 2014-10-06 17:42

The Forest Service awarded a contract this last week to log two-thirds of a controversial Southeast Alaska timber sale. Officials say it’s the first of several contracts for what’s called the Big Thorne timber sale.

Download Audio:

Prince of Wales Island’s Viking Lumber Co. beat out four other bidders for what’s called the Big Thorne Stewardship Integrated Resource Timber Contract.

That name means the Forest Service sells timber to Viking, but reduces its cost in exchange for trail repair, stream restoration and other stewardship work.

Tongass Forest Supervisor Forrest Cole oversees such sales.

“Typically, we’ve put up timber-sale contracts and we award them to the highest bidder. This being a stewardship contract, it not only has a timber component, but it also has service work that we expect,” Cole says.

The Forest Service won’t release the amount Viking will pay, the value of the stewardship work or the contract itself. Cole says that’s because the contract has not yet been signed.

Viking, meanwhile, does not respond to interview requests.

But Cole shared some details.

The contract calls for almost 3,800 acres to be logged between Thorne Bay and Coffman Cove. About half would be clear-cut, the other half selectively logged, including some thinning.

“So they can log and generate credits, do the service work and it gets covered that way. Or they can do the service work and then stumpage will be offset to cover that payment.”

The contract calls for about 85 miles of new or repaired roads. About 15 miles of that will be removed once logging is done.

The full Big Thorne sale includes more than 6,000 acres of old-growth forest, plus around 2,000 acres of second-growth.

Cole says logging won’t start until spring. That’s part of a deal cut with environmental groups challenging the entire Big Thorne sale in court.

“What we have agreed to is a briefing schedule to try to get a decision out of the District Court by April 1. And April 1 is significant because that’s the beginning of operating season.”

Viking was the winner bidder on last year’s version of the Big Thorne sale. Court challenges kept that from happening.

The Juneau-based Southeast Alaska Conservation Council is one of the parties suing to block this year’s sale.

SEACC Communications Director Daven Hayfe says the sale, and those like it, are costing the Forest Service government millions of dollars.

“So, when we’re talking about federally subsidizing a 6,100-acre clear-cut, and exporting half of that overseas to Asia without any local processing, we’re very literally talking about a giveaway,” Hayfe says.

Hayfe supports stewardship work. The goal is to restore streams, rivers and other fish and wildlife habitat damaged by past logging.

But he says the contract is the wrong way to do it.

“Repairing bridges, replacing culverts, trail maintenance, thinning, all that is very important work on the Tongass. But it should not be paid for with continued, large-scale, old-growth clear-cut logging.”

The Ketchikan-based Alaska Forest Association, a timber industry organization, isn’t objecting to a combined contract.

But Executive Director Owen Graham says it’s too small.

“The sale’s only two-thirds as big as it’s supposed to be. But at least it exists,” Graham says.

Graham says Viking could run out of the timber it has before the contract’s spring starting date. And that’s only if the sale makes it through the courts.

He says officials are not making enough of the Tongass available.

“We also need to work with the Forest Service to get a continuous stream of additional timber, so they have some longevity and they don’t have to liquidate that Big Thorne timber sale quicker than planned.”

Tongass officials will soon announce contracts for at least three smaller sales within the Big Thorne area.

Cole says it’s all part of a new direction for forest management in Southeast Alaska.

“The whole intent of this transition is to keep the current industry alive, which would allow them to have sufficient volume to generate revenues to create a retooling effort to get to this young growth timber supply,” Cole says.

The agency’s Tongass Advisory Committee is meeting to consider how to make that transition. Its report is due out in May.

Categories: Alaska News

Texas Police Chief Chosen To Lead In Fairbanks

Mon, 2014-10-06 17:41

The Mayor the City of Fairbanks has chosen a man with extensive law enforcement experience in the south to lead the police department.

Listen now:

Mayor John Eberhart announced his nomination of Randall Aragon as chief Thursday citing Aragon’s long and diverse experience as the key factor.

Aragon, who currently serves as chief of police in La Marque, Texas, was chosen over longtime local police officer, Lieutenant Eric Jewkes, following a forum Monday, during which members of an interview team, a diverse group of community leaders and the public asked the 2 finalists questions.

Mayor Eberhart says Chief Aragon will be charged with improving the relationship between local police and the community, including various cultural groups.

Mayor Eberhart will ask the City Council to concur with his nomination of Aragon at a council meeting Monday night.  If approved, Aragon will start in Fairbanks December 1st. The chief’s job pays around 108 thousand dollars a year. Eberhart says he’ll recommend Aragon consider Lieutenant Jewkes for a deputy chief position.

Categories: Alaska News

55 Left Without Care After Juneau Daycare Abruptly Closes

Mon, 2014-10-06 17:40

Infant and toddler care facility Spunky Sprouts Too in Juneau shut down abruptly at the close of business Wednesday after key staff members quit. Its preschool, Spunky Sprouts Learning Center, is closing at the end of the month.

Listen now:

Heather Carlton and 2-year-old son Theo were at home Thursday after Spunky Sprouts Too suddenly shut down. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

Parents of 55 infants and toddlers have been scrambling to find childcare after Spunky Sprouts Too shut down.

Heather Carlton stayed home from work Thursday morning to figure out where her 2-year-old son Theo will now go to daycare.

She says she got a call early Wednesday from a Spunky Sprouts employee about the imminent closure.

“I was in a state of panic trying to figure out, ‘What am I going to do? How am I going to find somebody to watch him on such short notice?’ You know, there’s already very limited options in Juneau anyways,” Carlton says.

Carlton also has a 4-year-old named Arlo who’s been going to Spunky Sprouts for a few years. She says she’s been happy with the care.

“He was very quickly potty trained. His reading skills – very satisfied with it. He’s moving along very well so I’m very sad about having to make any sort of change and possibly disrupt his education,” Carlton says.

Carlton found spots at another daycare for both kids, but other parents haven’t been as lucky.

Spunky Sprouts administrator Shamila Scalf says staff members started quitting in September. She says some worried they wouldn’t be paid. Scalf has worked at the center for three years and says, as long as she’s been there, Spunky Sprouts has always had budget issues.

This sign was found on the door of Spunky Sprouts Too located on 9315 Glacier Highway. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

Administrators say they received instructions by email from owner Adam Hendren to distribute three letters to parents on Sept. 29 about downsizing and a change of facility.

Spunky Sprouts Too for infants and toddlers was located off Glacier Highway in the Mendenhall Valley. The preschool, Spunky Sprouts Leaning Center, is in Aldersgate United Methodist Church, also in the valley.

One letter says the infant program would end Oct. 31. The other letters say the toddler andpreschool program would move to the Church of the Nazarene.

So, according to the letters, three programs in two buildings were supposed to become two programs in one building.

Instead, the infant and toddler programs shut down Oct. 1 when the main administrator quit and other staff members followed. And, Scalf says, the preschool center is not moving as indicated in the letter – it’s closing at the end of the month.

But due to lack of staff, she’s already turning some children and parents away at the start of each day. Scalf is the only staff member remaining at Spunky Sprouts with a Child Development Associate credential. State regulation says there can be no more than 30 children under her supervision.

“I have 37 registered, paying their fee every month, and I have to send home at least seven. Whoever comes in, number 31, I have to say, ‘I’m sorry, I cannot provide care for you because there’s nobody else,’ and it’s embarrassing,” Scalf says.

Childcare center Puddle JumpersDevelopmental Learning Center closed in August. After both Spunky Sprouts centers close, only six licensed full-day childcare centers are left in Juneau, according to the Association for the Education of Young Children. There are two part-day childcare centers. Their total capacity is 288 kids.

There are 15 licensed in-home childcare providers with capacity for 143 kids.

“We have the worst situation in the state for childcare right now,” says Joy Lyon, executive director of the Southeast chapter of AEYC.

“The number of parents searching for care is way, way off the charts in Juneau. There was only one space for every five children that needed care and now I think that’s dropped to one space for every six children needing care,” Lyon says.

She says her office has been flooded with calls, emails and visits from Spunky Sprouts parents, many in tears.

“We do regular updates of all the programs to find out what openings are available and there are very few openings,” she says.

Lyon says there’s a group working on starting a childcare program to serve the Spunky Sprouts families, a process that could take anywhere from one to three months.

Every first Tuesday of the month, AEYC hosts a networking opportunity for parents struggling to find childcare. The next event is Oct.7.

Spunky Sprouts Learning Centers owner Adam Hendren did not return calls for comment. His wife Jennifer started Spunky Sprouts. According to state records, the first business license for childcare in her name dates back to 2007.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska Book Week: ‘Pup & Pokey’ and A Journey Into Kid Lit

Mon, 2014-10-06 17:39

Alaska author Seth Kantner publishes his first children’s book, “Pup & Pokey.”

Author Seth Kantner has published his first children’s book. Pup & Pokey tells the story of a wolf pup and a young porcupine that strike up an unusual friendship. Kantner chose first time illustrator Beth Hill to bring the characters to life. Hill worked out of her home in the village of Kokhanok on a tight deadline, producing oil paintings that took two weeks to dry for each illustration.

Kantner says he and Hill both had opportunities to study porcupines in the wild as they were working on the book:

Download Audio: 

Seth Kantner’s latest book is Pup & Pokey. The children’s book is illustrated by Beth Hill. Kantner will signing books at the Orca book store in Cordova Tuesday evening and at the Homer bookstore on October 11th from 1-3pm.

Hear Kantner read a short excerpt from Pup & Pokey: listen now

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: October 6, 2014

Mon, 2014-10-06 17:38

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

Download Audio:

HUD Grants Aimed at Alaska Native Housing Projects

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro announced Monday the award of millions of dollars in housing grants to American Indian and Alaska Native tribes nationwide. Castro made the announcement while in Anchorage.

Gwitch’in Translators Scramble to Ready Election Materials

Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks

After a U.S. district court order, the Alaska Division of Elections has until October 10 to provide outreach and poll workers in three remote regions of the state with election materials and voting information that has been translated from English into either Yupik or Gwich’in.

Gov. Parnell Rescinds Termination Order for 2 Guard Officials

The Associated Press

The acting top official of the Alaska National Guard fired two high-ranking officers last week but reversed the action a day later at the direction of Gov. Sean Parnell.

Conservation Group Sues to Block Controversial Southeast Timber Sale

Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau

The Forest Service awarded a contract this last week to log two-thirds of a controversial Southeast Alaska timber sale. Officials say it’s the first of several contracts for what’s called the Big Thorne timber sale.

Texas Police Chief Chosen To Lead In Fairbanks 

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The Mayor the City of Fairbanks has chosen a man with extensive law enforcement experience in the south to lead the police department.

55 Left Without Care After Juneau Daycare Abruptly Closes

Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau

Infant and toddler care facility Spunky Sprouts Too in Juneau shut down abruptly at the close of business Wednesday after key staff members quit. Its preschool, Spunky Sprouts Learning Center, is closing at the end of the month.

Alaska Book Week: ‘Pup & Pokey’ and A Journey Into Kid Lit

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

Author Seth Kantner has published his first children’s book. Pup & Pokey tells the story of a wolf pup and a young porcupine that strike up an unusual friendship. Kantner chose first time illustrator Beth Hill to bring the characters to life. Hill worked out of her home in the village of Kokhanok on a tight deadline, producing oil paintings that took two weeks to dry for each illustration.

Categories: Alaska News

Mat Su Borough Election Propositions

Fri, 2014-10-03 17:01

 The ballot propositions will appear areawide on the Matanuska Susitna Borough’s election ticket on October 7. Proposition 1, a reapportionment plan sponsored by Mat Su Assemblyman Steve Colligan, would align the Borough’s voting districts more closely with state division of elections voting precincts. The Borough Assembly approved an ordinance earlier this year that allows the reapportionment, pending voter approval. Assemblyman Steve Colligan

“To me it’s pretty simple. It really helps the public understand, clarifies where their voting precinct is, and it aligns those with the Assembly boundaries.”

 He says Prop 1 is an effort to avoid split precincts.  Colligan says the reapportionment changes Borough district boundaries to better fit the lines of state polling precincts. At present, state polling precincts include voters from two or more Borough voting districts.

“And the initiative before the voters is basically to align the Borough’s boundaries so they more closely match the state boundaries on people’s voter cards. Right now, in order to manage elections in polling places, the boundaries cut through precincts, two or sometimes three times, and the Borough clerk has had to come up with a colored ballot process and have people go point on a map where they live. “

Prop 1 eliminates fourteen polling locations, and allows only one split district near Willow to remain. According to Borough clerk Lonnie McKechnie, the proposition affects fewer than one thousand voters.   If prop one passes, three hundred and fourteen voters will be moved from Borough District 3 to District 5 in the biggest change afforded by the ballot proposition.  If passed, the ballot initiative goes into effect at next year’s Borough election.

Colligan, a mapmaker by profession, is running unopposed for the Borough ‘s District 4 seat.

Borough Proposition 2 increases the amount of assessed real property value a senior citizen or military veteran would be able to claim as a Borough tax deduction. At present, seniors, disabled veterans and widows or widowers of a person who qualified for an exemption can claim a 150 thousand dollar real property tax exemption on a permanent abode. Prop 2 adds an additional 68 thousand dollars to that for a total exemption of 218 thousand dollars.

Prop 2 would allow the increase in exemption along with any other exemption applicable to the property.

Critics of Prop 2 say, if passed, it will eat into Borough revenues.

 

 

 

Categories: Alaska News

Profile: Rep. Young, Still Punching, Seeks Another Term

Fri, 2014-10-03 16:14

Don Young doesn’t hold back. At 81, he still thunders his opposition to the federal government when he gets worked up about it.  A speech last month to the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce had the ring of a call to arms. He said the feds have been increasing their chokehold on freedom since the enactment of Social Security in 1935.

Download Audio

“Do you believe you’re in the Last Frontier when you see the Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife, the Forest Service …. walking around with flak jackets and M16 rifles and 9mm Glocks on their hip?” Young asked. “They are supposed to be working for you! And yet they appear as the enemy.”

Young has been a Congressman for more than 41 years, spending much of each year in Washington D.C., and he’s not always the firebrand.  In an interview in his congressional office, where the walls are crowded with animal heads and hides, he says a lot of his work is helping individual Alaskans solve their difficulties with federal offices.

“It’s amazing what happens when you pick up the phone and say ‘why isn’t this occurring?’ and then all of a sudden it happens,” Young says. “Makes you feel very good.”

But in a hearing, when it’s Young’s turn to question an Interior Department or Forest Service official, it often becomes a browbeating.

“Who brought up this harebrained idea? Whose idea was it?” he bellowed one Interior Department witness earlier this year.

He may come across as a charging bear, but former Alaska Teamster leader Jerry Hood, says Young is more Teddy bear than grizzly.

“I think Don’s the kind of a guy that he probably cares more about the result than he does the way he gets there. May be people take offense to that from time to time. But he gets the job done,” says Hood, who has worked with Young since the 1970s, and worked for him, as his state director. Now, he’s managing Young’s campaign.

Of the events that have put Young in the national news, some of the most memorable involve props. Like the time Young stuck his hand in a leg-hold trap, or the time he waved an oosik in a committee hearing. Hood says people misinterpret Young in these moments and don’t realize that he’s drawing national attention to issues of great importance to Alaska.

“There was an episode with a beanie hat in committee,” Hood recalls.  ”He made the point that a propeller on a hat is not an energy policy. It was very accurate and it got people talking about the lack of a national energy policy in this country.”

Hood points out that some of the most powerful Democrats Young has worked with on committees, like Congressman George Miller of California and the late Jim Oberstar of Minnesota, have attested to Young’s willingness to work across the aisle, to hear people out and to seek opposing views, at least behind the scenes.

“He’ll tell you — and I agree because I’ve watched him work for all these years — if you ask any member of Congress whose the congressman from Alaska, they’re going to know his name,” Hood says. “They may not like him, but honest to God when it comes to the bottom line, they respect him because they know how effective he is.”

But Forrest Dunbar, the 30-year-old Democrat running against Young, recounts other episodes of Young’s that he says are an embarrassment: Last year, when Young used a derogatory term for Latinos. This June, when he caught on C-SPAN with his thumbs in his ears, making faces on the floor of the House. This July, when Young announced his disgust that a Maryland Congresswoman supported the EPA in a bill related to the Pebble mine.

“I’ll be damned if I’m going to watch somebody from Maryland or any other state, start telling me or anybody in Alaska how we should be running our state!” Young shouted during a committee meeting.

Dunbar says that style doesn’t work now that Young is no longer a powerful chairman of a congressional committee, as he was for a dozen years, ending in 2007.

“He was effective once,” Dunbar says. “Now, not only is he not powerful, but he’s also counterproductive, because he still has that same style, so when he’s getting up there and yelling at people and he’s belittling people, they know that he’s speaking loudly and carrying a small stick, and that’s not effective.”

Dunbar also says Young has lost clout because of an ethics case that hung over his head for years. What began as a Justice Department investigation fizzled down this summer to a House Ethics Committee letter of reproval. It says Young  accepted improper gifts, including hunting trips, and misused campaign funds. To make it right, Young had to repay less than $60,000, half to his own campaign.

It was Republican-imposed term limits, though, that forced Young to step down as chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, and then the Transportation Committee. He’s now chairman of the subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs, and Young says that’s more than Dunbar would be if he were elected.

“Can I be a chairman of a full committee? Probably not,” Young says. “It’s not an impossibility. But that does not make me ineffective. I’m very effective in what I do. I probably get more done than, very frankly, anybody else in the delegation.”

In fact, so far in this two-year Congress, three bills Young sponsored became law. In a Congress that passes very few bills, only one member has done better. The non-partisan website GovTrack gave Young high marks for bipartisanship last year, and says he was one of the best at getting bills through committee.

Young has, on occasion, apologized for things he’s said or done. At the Anchorage Chamber luncheon, he said those who say he’s obnoxious and a bit of a bully are right, but Young says he’s doing it for the good of the state.

“You don’t need somebody who is timid,” he told his constituents. “You don’t need somebody who’s slick. You don’t need somebody that’s going to do everything to make people happy. You need somebody who is going to fight for you and I’ve been able to do that.”

Categories: Alaska News

Fire Briefly Flares Up At Offshore Gas Platform

Fri, 2014-10-03 16:13

The Coast Guard says a contained fire flared up this morning at an offshore natural gas platform in Alaska’s Cook Inlet, but it was quickly tamped down by responders.

Download Audio

Civilian spokesman Mike McNeil says no one has yet boarded the structure, called the Baker platform.

The fire broke out yesterday, destroying the crew’s living quarters and forcing four workers to evacuate before the blaze was contained. The platform is owned by Hilcorp Alaska LLC.

Hilcorp spokeswoman Lori Nelson says the fire remained contained later Friday.

There were no reports of injuries or a spill.

Aerial assessments took place today at the scene. Responders will board once it’s deemed safe.

Nelson says the cause of the fire is under investigation, but isn’t believed to be production-related.

Categories: Alaska News

Unalaska Residents Weigh In on Aleutian Climate Trends

Fri, 2014-10-03 16:12

Study facilitator Chris Beck looks over audience members’ votes on what kind of seasonality changes they’re seeing in Unalaska. (Photo by Annie Ropeik/KUCB)

Scientists know that the climate in the Aleutian Islands is changing. But they’re making observations from a distance — while on the ground, the story is sometimes very different.

Download Audio

That’s what a team of researchers found earlier this month in Unalaska, when they talked to locals about the climate change they’re seeing in their own back yards.

About 40 people packed into Unalaska’s Museum of the Aleutians to answer a simple question:

Chris Beck: We’re wondering, if — particularly for those of you who’ve been here for a while, or you’ve heard through other folks — you’ve been seeing changes or have heard of changes in the local environment that seem to go beyond the normal range.

Beck is a facilitator for the Aleutian and Bering Climate Vulnerability Assessment. It’s being done by the government groups and nonprofits who make up the Aleutian-Bering Sea Islands Landscape Conservation Cooperative, or ABSI-LCC.

Beck got a few clear messages from his audience — that yes, the weather’s getting warmer and wetter, and some fishing seasons are moving around. But when he asked more detailed questions, like about wind patterns or new kinds of bugs, people’s observations were all a little different:

Frank Kelty: You know, we’ve had white Thanksgiving for the past couple of years. But traditionally, we used to play softball and it’d be snowing on Memorial Day. And we haven’t seen that type of event.
Bobbie Lekanoff: Last year, if you walked out front here, you would have seen about 40 whales. This year, not a whale.
Suzi Golodoff: We seem to be seeing more algae blooms, more red tide, much more frequently.
Jeff Dickrell: I’ve seen jellyfish, but I’ve never seen the abundance of them. And I know people on the research vessels that are going out for pollock trawls and pulling up nothing but jellyfish.
Lekanoff: Everything everybody’s saying is showing how variable it is.

In fact, the main thing the audience agreed on was that they couldn’t agree for sure on what was changing, or why. And that impressed University of Washington meteorologist Nick Bond, who’s part of the ABSI research team.

“Those questions were designed to get at some of the data we only have in anecdotal form,” he says. “Especially people noticing types of spiders they hadn’t seen before, let’s say. I thought that was fascinating.”

People were also quick to recognize that climate change may not be the only factor affecting things like fisheries and wildlife. Karen Pletnikoff, of the Aleutian-Pribilof Islands Association, is the chair of the ABSI steering committee.

“Knowing that we have all these different variables, and understanding what people’s priorities are and what their perspective is, helps us frame those questions in a better way,” she says, “so we can get the information that people really need to be able to make management changes or protect themselves from the impacts.”

For the Unalaska audience, the most visible changes were in air temperature and precipitation. They were most concerned about the health of their fisheries — commercial and subsistence. And they were worried about increased vessel traffic, as melting sea ice opens up new shipping routes in the Arctic.

But residents weren’t exactly panicking about all the unknowns surrounding climate change. Nick Bond, the meteorologist, says that’s a good thing.

“In some of the public lectures that I give about climate change in the Pacific Northwest, where I’m based, people will [go], ‘What’s the answer? Just tell me what’s going to happen.’ And when I tell them I can’t, then they go, ‘Well, get out of here,’” he says. “But here, the audience, I think, appreciated the uncertainties, and that we can’t say … anything like that with a great deal of specificity.”

Bond says folks in the Aleutians are more “tuned in” to their environment. They’re seeing climate changes firsthand — and they can tell how tough those changes are to quantify.

“Here, it’s just kind of in your face all the time — this morning, rain was blowing into my face, anyway,” Bond says. “And so I think there’s that appreciation for the importance of it, and everybody is so reliant on it. It’s a little bit different if you live in Phoenix, and you go from your air-conditioned house to your air-conditioned car and office, and you’re kind of removed from it. So I think that connection is partly why people can appreciate what’s happening.”

Bond and the research team are planning a Q&A like they did in Unalaska for the Pribilof Islands, too. The anecdotes that all the region’s residents have to offer will help the ABSI group tailor their report to the people it affects the most — those who live and work in the changing place. The draft of their vulnerability assessment is due out in February.

People can get in touch with the research team and offer their own input at www.absilcc.org. To see more of Unalaskans’ responses to the ABSI team’s questions, click here.

Categories: Alaska News

Book Chronicles Young Man’s Commercial Fishing Experiences

Fri, 2014-10-03 16:11

Being a deckhand can be tough, especially if you work for a boat owner who acts like a tyrant. In his new book Dead Reckoning, blank based author Dave Atcheson has written about his experience as a young man with no commercial fishing knowledge, trying to learn the business. His first job was really tough.

Download Audio

Categories: Alaska News

Pages