The young black bear cub called Little Smokey has a new home.
The cub orphaned earlier this month near Seward will be a resident of Sitka’s Fortress of the Bear.
The non-profit educational center has featured only brown bears, but to give Smokey some company, the Fortress has agreed to adopt a second orphaned black bear to be donated by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
In a news release, Sitka Wildlife Biologist Phil Mooney said the cub arrived at his new home at 5 o’clock Friday morning.
The cub has become a social media sensation as people around the world monitored the animal’s capture.
His predicament started on Oct. 12 when law enforcement responded to reports of an adult black bear breaking into a vehicle outside Spring Creek Correctional Facility near Seward. The bear was wounded by police and disappeared into the forest.
Then authorities started receiving reports of two to three unaccompanied young black bear cubs in the Spring Creek area. A lone cub also was reported and captured by Alaska State Troopers, who asked Seward Animal Control to hold the cub until a home could be found.
Fortress of the Bear volunteered.
When Little Smokey arrived at the Fortress, Mooney said he was coaxed out of the shipping kennel with an apple slice. He ate several slices, drank some water and curled up on a mound of straw, Mooney said.
“It certainly appears to me that the cub has good care in Seward, given its disposition and condition, so kudos to the facility there,” he said.
Fish and Game estimates more than 100,000 black bears live in Alaska, with many more found in Canada. Black bears also live in about 45 of the Lower 48 states. Black bears have life spans of 15 to 20 years.
The nine men who were arrested this week in Unalaska and charged with felony drug offenses have made their first appearances in court.
On Friday afternoon, police led Lua Aiava, 28, Allan Bautista, 44, Neuthon Costantini, 28, Ioane Faasavalu, 25, Tofa Matautia, 28, Ernie Oxinio, 30, Brandon Rosa, 21, Tyson Rosa, 24, and Stephen A. Rosa, 49, into the Unalaska courthouse.
The court gallery was packed with more than 20 friends, family, and members of the public.
Magistrate judge Kay Adams reviewed the cases by phone from Cordova. Based on charging documents filed by the Unalaska police department, Adams found probable cause to allow all of the cases to proceed.
Adams set bail for all nine defendants with input from assistant district attorney Aaron Peterson, who also participated in the hearing by phone.
The lowest bail was $10,000 for Oxinio, who is charged with one count of a class B felony for allegedly possessing methamphetamine with intent to sell it. Several defendants’ bail was set at $50,000, with a required third-party custodian.
But the highest bail requirements by far were those for Stephen A. Rosa. Rosa faces the most serious charges of the group. He’s accused of operating ”a continuing criminal enterprise” involving the sale of meth.
The state alleges that in the course of six weeks, Costantini, Faasavalu, Bautista, Rosa, and his sons — Brandon and Tyson — all sold meth to a confidential police informant.
Stephen A. Rosa is accused of supplying the meth for those sales, which were valued at about $3,000. Police say they recovered about $40,000 in cash from Stephen A. Rosa’s home and workplace, along with several firearms.
The state combined all those offenses into the unclassified felony charge, which carries a sentence of up to 99 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000. Stephen A. Rosa is being charged with 13 additional felonies for associated offenses ranging from allegedly selling meth, to illegally possessing guns despite being a convicted felon.
Like many of the other defendents, Rosa requested a court-appointed attorney at the hearings on Friday.
“I don’t think I can afford an attorney now,” Rosa said. “I’m not this bigshot you guys think I am.”
Rosa was employed as a property manager at Tradewinds Apartments and a as truck driver for Radiant Heating Fuel Services before he was arrested. Rosa declared his annual income at around $35,000, which exceeds the state’s usual threshold for public defender services.
Peterson, the state attorney, encouraged the judge to assign an attorney anyways. He said Rosa requires immediate legal counsel.
The magistrate ultimately agreed. Adams told Rosa that his unclassified felony charge is “one of the maximum ranges of crimes that can be committed in Alaska. This is right below murder, to be honest with you.”
Adams signed off on the request for a public defender and set Rosa’s bail at $100,000 with a mandatory third-party custodian.
All nine defendants are scheduled to appear in court again on October 31 at 10 a.m. for pre-indictment hearings.
In the meantime, Unalaska police are still serving search warrants in connection with the investigation. By the end of the week, the department had served 20 warrants and expected to execute more in the coming days.
Public safety director Jamie Sunderland says he expects additional charges — and possibly arrests — to result from those searches.
Sundlerland encourages anyone with information about drug sales in Unalaska to contact police.
Pioneer Natural Resources is getting out of the Alaska market.
Last week the company announced that it’s selling 100-percent of its Alaska subsidiary to Caelus Energy, which is headquartered in Dallas, Texas. The price-tag is $550 million and the deal is expected to close by the end of the year.
Pioneer Natural Resources announced that the sale is expected to result in a non-cash loss of about $350 million.
In a written statement the President and CEO of Caelus Energy-Alaska is quoted as saying that the company was attracted to Alaska because of the enormous geologic opportunity as well as the incentives, such as SB 21, that the state has put in place to encourage energy investment by independent oil and gas companies.
On Saturday Alaska Governor Sean Parnell issued a statement labeling the announcement as great news for Alaskans and the economy.
If you take a walk through the wetlands around Gustavus in the fall, it’s hard to hear yourself over this noise of thousands of sandhill cranes. The Dude Creek Critical Habitat Area is an important resting place on their migration route. The rest of the year, the reserve doesn’t look like much. It’s a soggy parcel of land just outside of town. But it’s special to the small community, which asked the state to protect the area 25 years ago.
Now, the cranes aren’t the only thing causing a fuss at Dude Creek. The wetlands have become an unlikely battleground in a fight that could decide how millions of acres of sensitive land in the state are managed. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez has this story.
In the same way that pet owners start to resemble their dogs, Hank Lentfer kind of looks like a sandhill crane. He’s a bit gangly and angular, with sharp eyes. For most of his adult life, Lentfer has been in love with the bird population and its habitat in Gustavus.
“I first came here as a high school student with a biology class from Juneau,” says Lentfer.
That was in 1983. Now, Lentfer lives in Gustavus year-round. He’s a steward for the Nature Conservancy and has a spot on an advisory group for some state habitat in Gustavus. The team’s job is to give input on how to manage the Dude Creek Critical Habitat Area to best protect the sandhill cranes that feed there during their migration.
Here’s how the planning process is supposed to go: The Department of Fish and Game’s Habitat Division sits down with stakeholders, and they go back and forth on what rules should apply to the land. Once division staff, state biologists, the Fish and Game commissioner, and — ideally — local residents are satisfied with what comes out of the meetings, the rules are then turned into state regulations.
Lentfer says it had been a collaborative process until this year.
“It was amazingly non-controversial,” says Lentfer.
The Habitat Division issued their first draft in 2011, and it was pretty standard. In tone, and level of strictness, it didn’t deviate much from the state’s other management plans. The new version that was issued this May did. A lot.
“It was totally out of the blue,” says Lentfer. “It was just — it just came in e-mail, saying ‘This is it. This is the new draft,’ radically different from the one that not only the planning team had signed off on, but all the members of the community that had been given a formal opportunity to comment. All those comments had been very thoughtfully summarized and included in that plan. And that’s all been gutted.”
The management plan had been cut in half and was covered in red edits. Whole sections on scientific research and local knowledge had been stripped. When it came to things like geological exploration or hazardous waste disposal, phrases like “will not allow” were replaced with “may allow.” Everything that was prohibited before could now be permitted on a case-by-case basis and without public notice.
Dude Creek is not desirable land for development. The ground beneath it is made of clay, and it’s hard to imagine any resource extraction or even building construction happening there. The most high stake issue the planning team had been dealing with was whether to allow four-wheelers. Alaska is full of controversial protected areas — Susitna Flats where there’s a nearby mining project, Kachemak Bay where there are jackup drill rigs, Bristol Bay where there are productive salmon streams. But Dude Creek’s just not one of them.
Lentfer says it felt like the state went from working with the community to working against it.
“It seems ironic that a plan developed in such strong collaboration with local people is being taken apart by the very state government that is trying to wiggle free from federal control.”‘THERE’S A LOT OF RED INK’
To find out why these changes were made, I talked to Randy Bates, director of Fish and Game’s Habitat Division.
Bates has plenty of experience in land management issues. He spent more than a dozen years in the Department of Natural Resources working on coastal zone management, and he directed that program until it was dismantled. So it’s not a surprise to him now that this new plan from Habitat has put Gustavus residents on edge.
“There’s a lot of red ink in this draft, and I think it’s created a lot of public angst over what we’re doing,” says Bates.
Over the course of two hours, Bates walks me through the draft. During our conversation, he distances himself from the process.
“I didn’t have a hand in the redlining of this.”
Bates’ explanation for what happened is he gave staff his vision, and they went overboard. Still, there’s one principle he stands by when it comes to any sort of human activity.
“The idea is can we get to yes instead of can we justify no,” says Bates.
Bates says that because technology — and even the land itself — can change, he wants to move away from hard restrictions on land use that could block development decades from now. Instead of denying activity outright, he wants biologists to look at a permit application and ask:
“Is that oil and gas exploration activity or placer mining operation or gravel extraction operation, is that going to prohibit the use of that area by the cranes or the moose or the fish, the reason for its designation? If it is, Habitat’s first desire is to modify the project.”
The changes made to the Dude Creek plan aren’t just about Dude Creek. Habitat manages 32 special areas that stretch from the Bristol Bay region up to the Interior and then down to Southeast. That’s 3 million acres of land that the state set aside for ecological reasons. Only about half of the management plans for these areas have been completed.
Dude Creek happened to be the one that Habitat staff was working on when Bates called for a new approach to management. And he says that yes, some of this language is “precedent setting.”
“The concept of these changes was unfairly foisted upon Dude Creek. Dude Creek is … I mean even talked to our regional sup[ervisor], and said, ‘What kind of activities do you expect to occur out there?’ ‘Randy, I don’t expect to see much in the next 20 years. There’s probably not a lot going on. We’re going to see four wheelers. We’re going to see tree stands or wildlife viewing platforms — that’s what we’re going to see.’ We’re not going to see oil and gas operations. We’re not going to see miners out there. So, the concept of these changes has really affected a really small-focused plan, and it’s really raised a stir. If we were to implement this on the Susitna Flats, or the Redoubt Bay, or Kachemak Bay, it would have been the same sort of blow up, but this is much ado about nothing in this plan in many ways. It affects these other plans to a much greater extent.”
Part of why Lentfer and other Gustavus residents are troubled by this new approach is that it’s coming at the same time the Parnell administration is making an aggressive push to reform permitting. One of the governor’s big priorities is a bill that sets a higher bar for appealing a permitting decision and makes it easier for the state to issue general permits that don’t need public notice. The idea is to shrink a permitting backlog while encouraging development. But conservation groups describe the policy as an effort to limit public involvement on management decisions.
Bates says Habitat’s new permitting strategy has nothing to do with that.
“We’re not changing the planning process to exclude the public and just notify them. We still have every intention to run the process the way it was, soliciting input, sitting down, understanding the concerns. We’re not cutting anybody out of this process.”‘UPHEAVAL’ AT HABITAT
But internal Fish and Game documents obtained by APRN contradict that statement and show even more drastic changes ahead.
As of this month, work on all new management plans, including Dude Creek, has been put on hold. Instead, Habitat has been directed to revise all completed management plans in the Dude Creek style. Rather than go through the old process — which involved public scoping meetings, collaborative interagency planning teams, and a series of comment periods — Habitat will put multiple plans into one big regulatory review packet that will go out for comment once a year.
According to an e-mail Bates sent to the division, staff cannot discuss the management changes with the public without getting his approval. Even when talking with other Fish and Game workers, they are required to report that communication and there are restrictions on what they can say. Sources within the department characterize it as a “gag order.”
The documents also show internal strife within the division. During a meeting this summer, Bates talks about staff “upheaval” and how things have gotten “relatively out of control” with the special areas planning process. During that same meeting, a staff member notes that the overhaul to the management plan process doesn’t just cut out public input — it overrides language agreed to by state biologists.
During a May meeting, a regional supervisor asks if the new planning approach is putting federal funding for two staff positions at risk, since they aren’t fully complying with requirements about public and agency engagement. That concern was again addressed during an October 22 meeting:
Mike [Daigneault, Anchorage regional supervisor] asked Randy [Bates] about funding issue, noting that the State Wildlife Grant (SWG) funding for special areas planning has specific restrictions and cannot be used to pay for the development of State regulations … He noted that SWG funding had never been used to pay for staff time devoted to adopting plans into regulation, only the collaborative inter-agency development of those plans.
Randy requested that Mike send him the SWG requirements, stating that “it may just be a creative writing exercise where we have to justify how what we’re doing now will improve communications with federal agencies down the road” …
Mike stated: “to be completely honest, Randy, given the fact that we’d be the ones charging our time, I’d have an ethical problem with that.”
Randy stated: “if I decide to go forward with it, then that’s my issue, but if you choose not to do the work, then that’s an issue you and I will have to deal with.”
In e-mails, staff question the direction to mark any document that isn’t explicitly public as “privileged and confidential,” which means someone would have to sue to get them released. (While APRN originally filed a public records request in an effort to obtain these documents, they were ultimately submitted by a source within the Department. APRN was told that the fee would exceed $2,000 and that many of the requested files would either be redacted or denied because of attorney-client privilege.)
Fish and Game Commissioner Cora Campbell says the friction between Habitat staff and its leadership may be due to an internal misunderstanding of the new policies. The changes are in response to an order from the governor to make regulations more efficient, and that there’s no attempt to limit public involvement. She says the move away from prohibitions is meant to give more discretion to state biologists.
“When you have special area plans that are not flexible at all, that can become problematic,” says Campbell. “There is nothing deeper than that here. This is not anything sinister.”‘YOU WANT TO DETERMINE YOUR OWN DESTINY’
It’s hard to think of Dude Creek as some politically fraught place when you’re actually standing in the crane flats. I’m with Morgan DeBoer, who represented the City of Gustavus on the planning team.
DeBoer helped work through some of the original questions on snow machines and hunting accessibility. He jokes that their original plan wasn’t terribly strict, even with the cranes themselves.
“You can still shoot them over there,” says DeBoer. “It’s just their habitat we’re protecting.”
DeBoer’s got more of a claim on the land than most. In the history of Gustavus, only a couple of families tried to homestead in those meadows, and they didn’t have any success.
“The first party back in the ’30s was an aunt of mine, and her nickname was ‘Dude,’” says DeBoer. “That’s why it was called Dude Creek.”
DeBoer’s kind of a dude himself. He comes from a line of prospectors, and he makes his living by operating a sawmill, a few cabins, and a nine-hole golf course that is fertilized with goose droppings.
While we’re out on the crane flats, we talk about the planning process. The changes make him nervous. DeBoer’s not worried about the near-term, because the land is so inhospitable to development. There haven’t been many user conflicts over the years, even without a formal management plan in place.
“But if there isn’t one and it’s not a real solid one with good teeth to it, you’re opened up to problems down the line is the way I see it,” says DeBoer.
Plus, he thinks it’s important for locals to shape whatever document comes out, since they’re the ones who have to live with the outcome.
As he’s telling me about the crane flats, I realize DeBoer’s kind of a funny advocate for them. The sort of things his ancestors did — homesteading, mining for gold — are exactly the kinds of activity that would be prohibited with a stricter management approach.
But at the same time, DeBoer’s position makes sense. His family ended up settling in Alaska to establish a life under their own rules.
“Yeah, you want to determine your own destiny,” says DeBoer. “You bet.”
We finish talking and spend a few minutes listening to the wind. When we leave the flats, I nearly trip on something that’s covered in grass. It turns out to be a small sign that reads “Dude Creek Critical Habitat Area” — the only indicator you’re anywhere special.
“It needs some trimming,” says DeBoer as he starts clearing the weeds. “I hope this isn’t symbolic like I’m cleaning the headstone in the cemetery, and this is the cemetery.”
After he finishes, DeBoer smiles. He’s not ready to go into mourning yet. He thinks — he hopes — this habitat should be around for a long time. He would just like a guarantee on that.
Dan Coffey has filed a letter of intent with APOC to run in Anchorage’s 2015 mayoral election.
A 65-year resident of Anchorage, Coffey says this decision has been in the making for a long time.
“I have a lot of knowledge and experience in local government level, and I thought I’d try to bring that to the office of the mayor of Anchorage,” he said.
Coffey says the city’s housing and homeless issues played a part in spurring him to run for office.
The Alaska Federation of Natives Convention entered second day today. On the agenda: Affordable Care Act opportunities, arctic policy and suicide prevention.
Attendees are also hearing a lot this year about a topic that isn’t usually associated with native issues- immigration. Sealaska President and CEO Chris McNeil has been at the helm of the Southeast Alaska Native corporation for the past 12 years. Now, the Native community is investing energy into immigration reform.
McNeil-“The immigration issue is about human rights, it’s about civil rights. If you think about the Alaska Native Brotherhood started over a 100 years ago at this point. It was a civil rights organization, it was about the right of our Native people to be able to vote and to be able to have the franchise. And we have common cause with others, the Hispanic community is a growing community in Alaska, it’s very large outside of Alaska. Given the changes in Congress over time it’s very important to have alliances and that’s also part of our involvement.”
Townsend-Every year at AFN there is discussion and debate around perennial problems and issues that Native people face. Is that productive, do you see change coming out of the annual gatherings and the resolutions that get passed?
McNeil- “Yes, I do. There was a very powerful presentation that was just made on Alaska Native suicide and suicide prevention. These are issues that are important and systemic but it’s very clear that they’re only going to be solved if people do something about it, namely we do something about it. I think it really does provide an inspiration and a means to be able to help with these kinds of issues.”
Townsend-I remember several years ago, former North Slope Borough Mayor Edward Itta got up at AFN and gave a very passionate speech about the need to recognize the problem of drugs and alcohol and to address it and when he got done with that speech, you could have heard a pin drop it was so quiet and then everyone erupted in applause. I talked to him later and he said, wow, I thought I was in trouble there , but it seemed like that almost was a turning point. How would you characterize that? I know that I’ve talked to people in the past who said you could not talk about those things in the village because of the anger and hurt and shame that surrounded them and suddenly he opened that door.
McNeil-“Well I think that was in fact a very important moment but I do think all the regions are approaching this in a very creative, innovative way in their own regions. For example, within the Southeast region, we’re very interested in the health of our communities. And we created an organization called Haa Aani LLC, to be able to stimulate the economy to be able to try to create sustainable entrepenurship among our communities because we also believe you have to have a healthy economy to be able to have a healthy culture to have good health in the communities.
Townsend- You’ll be retiring next year. What do you think the future looks like for the next crop of Alaska Native leaders. How will it be different than what leaders of your generation have faced?
McNeil- “Well I think every generation has different kinds of challenges. I don’t think there any less or easier as you go along, they’re just different. As both society, politics and the economy all evolve, well the corporation leadership has to be able to perceive that, adjust to it to be able to take a leadership position on those types of issues. Just as an example, so far as communications is concerned, the advent of social media is everywhere and you have to be adept about understanding these kinds of vehicles in order to do well in the future. So I think it’s fair to say there’s a new set of challengees for the next generation of leadership and it will just be different than the ones that were faced by the first generation of ANCSA leadership and the second and now we’re on to the third or fourth at this point.”
Bryce Edgmon with the Bush caucus of the Alaska legislature spoke to AFN delegates this morning.
Edgmon, a Democrat from Dillingham, said the caucus took a forceful stance against the photo ID mandates for voter registration and against the proposal to amend the state constitution for using state dollars for non public schools.
“Our schools are struggling as it is under the current funding formula and we’re very concerned about making sure that we can get every state dollar possible to our schools so that our children get the quality education that not only they deserve but that our constitution mandates,” Edgmon said.
Edgmon introduced legislation in April that would allow communities along with their local non-profits, to have the authority to arm Village Public Safety Officers. He said they are the first responders in the villages.
“But they do so in a manner in rural Alaska that unfortunately is changing. A lot of our communities are featuring more violent episodes of domestic violence. And we’re seeing our VPSOs having to go in to communities, into situations where they’re facing off with a perpetrator who has a hunting rifle, or armed otherwise and our VPSOs are going into this situation armed with pepper spray, a tazer gun, handcuffs, a baton, I believe they’ve got,” Edgmon said.
Edgmon said Governor Parnell supports the bill and Senator Donny Olson introduced the senate version. He said bush caucus members are writing an op ed piece urging strong support for Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act to bring 40,000 Alaskans under the coverage.
“And under a seven year period according to ANTHC’s numbers, the state of Alaska would receive about 1.1 billion dollars without having to put up a whole lot of money to match that, so it makes complete sense to do it. We think the Governor should allow Alaska to take advantage of this program and by golly if the federal government goes under and can’t keep up their end of the Medicaid program, we’re going to be in a lot worse problems than just Medicaid, trust me on that,” he said.
He closed by thanking village administrators, saying they work hard to clarify the community needs across rural Alaska to their state representatives.
The traditional knowledge from Native groups in the circumpolar North may be a key part of mitigating rapid climate change. That’s according to a report released Wednesday by the Arctic Council.
The AFN Convention is focused in serious issues and politics, but it also provides a venue for Native arts and crafts. The craft show offers a lot of traditional works, with a few surprises.
A several hundred foot long heated tent is packed with people checking out wares displayed by hundreds of artists. The most common items feature colorful beadwork, and a few really stand out for their fine detail.
“They’re like pinpoint,” Mary Jane Darendoff of Fairbanks said, displaying a butterfly patch with super tiny beads. “And so that’s what I sell, nobody’s gonna want to take the time to do that – it’s my trademark.”
Darendoff has already sold the butterfly to a customer who is going have it turned into a hair clip. Darendoff operates her table with a friend.
“Mable Smith, I’m from Barrow.”
Smith has spent the last 6 month making 40 of big eyed snowy owl dolls.
“I make them out of rabbit skin and buy the eyes on e-Bay – real popular especially with little kids,” she said.
Smith and Darendoff are former high school roommates who teamed up to sell crafts at AFN.
“She keeps me going, she’s got more energy than me…She’s crazy just like me, so we get along fine.”
The two say they aren’t competitive, but there are a lot of vendors vying for shoppers money, and things are expensive.
“I just sold one the other day for $1,500,” George Albert, referring to a pair of traditional Athabascan birch frame snowshoes, with moose hide webbing, one of several varieties he’s been making at his home in Ruby for over 35 years.
“A lot of people buy these for art, to hang on the wall, but they’re completely useable…you could strap them on and walk away with them,” he said.
Albert has a dozen pairs of snowshoes on hand at AFN and expects to sell them all.
Last time they had AFN here, I sold 14 pairs, I sold snowshoes I didn’t even have yet,” Albert said.
“I don’t know 100 percent, I can’t give you a number, but I’m pretty sure we’re not gonna have enough by the end of the week,” Hydze Clothing owner Rico DeWilde said, displaying a new t-shirt design. DeWilde’s company specializes in tough looking Native themed graphics, like an angry looking skull draped with feathers and flames.
Rico: “It’s called “bad medicine.”
Bross: “That’s pretty scary looking design.”
Rico: “It kind represents that bad side of medicine.”
Bross: “Where does this stuff come from?”
Rico: “The younger generation sets the trends with clothing, so it’s gotta be strong, it’s gotta be loud and a lot of times, it’s gotta be mean.”
One of DeWildes neon colored hoodies depicts a bear claw ripping through the chest. It’s just an image, but another AFN vendor offers a traditional plant based salve she says can help heal the real thing.
“This is Flo Kenney, K-E-N-N-Y, I’m from Juneau, Alaska, and I sell a pain killer, really a powerful pain killer, called caribou leaf slave…this is the plant they used to use to treat big gaping wounds, like bear maulings, to cut the pain down and prevent infection.”
Kenny’s table is stacked with dozens of little tins, she says she sells thousands of worldwide every year, mostly for arthritis and general pain relief. So, with so many choices, what are people buying at AFN?
“A lot of earrings,” Lynette Winfrey of Minto said. She is in her element having bought two pairs of earrings. “I just got abalone, and silver with amethyst. It’s really pretty.”
Another shopper, Victor Joseph of Fairbanks is also smiling but a little concerned.
“It’s costly,” Joseph said. He says the experience is as much about picking up gifts, as connecting with vendors and other shoppers. “It’s a beautiful time. You get to really see an expression of our people, and each year you get to see a little something new that you haven’t seen before, and hopefully you don’t spend too much money, you know?”
Although it isn’t a standard village, AFN is a community that pops up for a few days each fall, bringing together people from across the state. Attendees talk about why that community is so important.
Wildlife troopers say they’ve charged the Sea Mountain Golf Course groundskeeper for attempting to poison brown bears. The poison could be what killed two dogs that died after visiting the area.
One month ago, the bears tore holes in the golf course. At the request of golf course groundskeeper, Kevin Taranoff, the Department of Fish and Game set a bear trap.
But, troopers say Taranoff ended up taking matters into his own hands. Jake Abbott is an Alaska Wildlife Trooper in Sitka.
“At that time the grounds keeper had made some comments along the lines of if you don’t deal with the bear I will. So upon hearing that I became suspicious that this person had mostly likely attempted to poison the bears as a way of dealing with the bear problem.”
Abbott says, the poison used to target the bears is thought to be the same anti-freeze mix that killed two dogs earlier this month. Both dogs had roamed the Sea Mountain Golf Course the night they died.
Abbott says Taranoff told several Sea Mountain employees about his attempt to poison the bears. After the dog deaths and conversations with employees Abbott filed charges.
“Because of that I found that I had sufficient probable cause to charge him with one count of unlawful method and means – attempting to take big game by use of a poison.”
Abbott issued Taranoff the citation Wednesday night.
“He subsequently admitted that he was the person who had tried to poison the brown bears.”
Taranoff is facing a maximum penalty of a $10,000 fine, or one year in jail, or both. He will be required to appear in court. The golf course managers couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.
Nearly one month after the federal government launched its new online health insurance marketplace, few Alaskans have been able to sign up. We’ll discuss the frustrations and the successes with the marketplace and look ahead at how the Affordable Care Act will roll out in 2014.
- Alaska Edition: Navigating The Online Health Insurance Marketplaces
- A Few Successes For Alaska’s Health Insurance Marketplace
- High Web Traffic Cripples Federal Health Insurance Marketplaces
- Groups Work To Educate Alaskans On Health Insurance Marketplace
- Premera Braces For Upheaval In Health Insurance Market
HOST: Annie Feidt, Alaska Public Radio Network
- Jeff Davis, Premera Alaska
- Valerie Davidson, ANTHC
- Josh Weinstein, Enroll Alaska
- 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: Tuesday, October 29, 2013 at 10:00 a.m. on APRN stations statewide.
A massive landslide has blocked the Denali Park Road near mile 37.
Crews are already working to clear the road, but they aren’t likely to finish the job until next spring.
A 200-foot long section of the road approaching Sable Pass is covered by soil, reaching depths of up to 35 feet.
Denali Park Public Affairs Officer Kris Fister says this is the largest landslide in recent memory at the park.
“Both our road crew supervisors have been here for 30 years and the only thing they can remember that’s even close is a landslide that was around the Polychrome area in the late 80s – I think it was 1989 – and they said was maybe was more of the road involved, but not nearly as much debris,” she said.
Crews have already begun staging personnel and equipment in the area to start clearing the road. Fister says they are planning on working seven-days-a-week until winter sets in.
“We’ve got mild weather conditions; things aren’t frozen yet, so we are going to do as much work as we can while we have these favorable conditions,” she said.
Fister says the road won’t be fully cleared until the spring, because it’s such a huge undertaking.
Though the road is closed to driving past mile 30, Fister urges hikers and bikers in the area to avoid the work zone.
The Alaska Federation of Natives Convention got underway this morning in Fairbanks. The keynote speaker today was Nelson Angapak, retired as Senior Vice President of AFN. He urged young people to work hard to achieve success, to listen to their elders and for Native people to come together to confront big challenges like threats to subsistence and federal cuts to programs.
Governor Sean Parnell announced at AFN today that he’s preparing to launch demonstration projects to allow tribal courts to process more alcohol and domestic violence cases. He said tribes “can often provide local, culturally relevant justice services.”
Jerry Isaac is President of the Tanana Chiefs Conference, which has one of the most active tribal court systems in the state. APRN’s Lori Townsend asked for his reaction to Governor Parnell’s announcement:
The theme at AFN this year is Traditional Native Family Values. KUAC’s Emily Schwing was at the convention this Thursday morning and found out the Native value of subsistence is very much on attendees minds.
The United Fishermen of Alaska’s Board of Directors is meeting in Sitka this week.
President Jerry McCune says the board will work on priorities for legislative and government-agency action.
“We’re always looking for little tweaks in the (state) Division of Investments or things that would be more helpful to fishermen for their loans, especially with a lot of young folks getting online now,” McCune says. “That was one of the reasons we fought so hard to up the (loan) limit for permits to $200,000, because prices nowadays are a lot higher today than when it started out.”
The United Fishermen of Alaska is an umbrella organization of about 35 commercial fishing and processing groups.
McCune is also president of Cordova District Fishermen United.
He says the UFA board will discuss Alaska Board of Fisheries appointments. It’s been a hotbed of controversy over the balance among gear-group, subsistence and sport representatives.
“Right now it’s pretty much up to the governor to pick who’s going to be on the board of fish. Sometimes you end up with really, really good board members and other times people realize it’s way over their heads with what they’re talking about statewide,” he says.
Some governors’ nominations have been blocked by the Legislature.
The UFA board meets Oct. 23-25 at Sitka’s Harrigan Centennial Hall.
The organization won’t take up election endorsements during this meeting.
Board President McCune says it’s too early because the latest redistricting plan is being challenged in court.
“Of course that might be just down in Southeast and north. But it would make a change in who’s running against who and who would end up where. So I don’t think we’ll probably bring up any of that until (next) fall,” he says
The UFA is urging its members and others in the business to attend another meeting later this month.
The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute is holding its “All Hands” Meeting October 28th through 30th in Anchorage.
It will include updates on marketing efforts as well as species-specific sessions.
Yachting Magazine’s readers originally nominated Alaska’s Little Norway for the title during the publication’s 3rd annual “50 best towns” competition. Editors narrowed the nominees down to a list of ten this summer and readers then voted for their favorite in an online poll.
“Petersburg pretty much ran away with the competition,” says Yachting Magazine Associate Editor Dan Harding. He says 410 people chose Petersburg which was 44 percent of the votes. Petersburg is named as number one in the magazine’s November edition. Oxford, Maryland and Beaufort, North Carolina were previous contest winners.
Petersburg had some tough competition this year, including Seattle and New Orleans. Harding was glad to see so much support for a smaller community.
“Anytime we get a location like Petersburg or even Oxford, it’s a real treat for us. I think it’s a real treat for the readers because these are great locations that don’t get the recognition that maybe they deserve. Sure, they’re not as popular or might not have a dozen marinas with a triple digit number of slips but I mean what they lake in amenity is made up for in natural beauty and I think that’s really what the competition’s all about. We set out to hopefully find a gem of a town and so far we’ve done that and I think we found a real great destination in Petersburg,” Harding said.
Petersburg Chamber of Commerce and the Petersburg Economic Development Council tried to encourage voting with frequent facebook postings. PEDC coordinator Liz Cabrera was excited to hear that Petersburg won.
“It’s really neat to see people get behind their home town and make this happen. So, it was kind of a community wide effort. Plus I think it was friends and family around the country all voting for Petersburg that made it happen.” says Cabrera.
That was in competition with much larger towns that had the same opportunity to get out the vote.
“Somehow we pulled ahead of much bigger towns like Seattle and New Orleans. So, Petersburg had something special about it that encouraged people to vote. So, its really nice to see that,” she says.
Cabrera was hopeful the publicity would translate in more boaters choosing to visit Petersburg, maybe stay a while, and spend some money in town.
Harbormaster Glo Wollen was also happy about the news. She says Petersburg has seen an increase in private pleasure boats stopping here in recent years.
“Probably more noticeable is the fact that they want to spend a little more time so a lot of us get contacted all along the southeast area [by boaters interested in] spending the winter so they can take a couple of summers to look at Southeast,” says Wollen
She says about 50 percent of the pleasure boats that stop in town each year are coming here for the first time.
Petersburg is located on Mitkof Island about a hundred air miles south of Juneau in the heart of the Tongass National Forest. Some of the local attractions include sport fishing, watching whales and other wildlife, hiking, sea kayaking, and trips to nearby LeConte Glacier. Petersburg’s harbor has space for about 500 vessels, large and small. While it accommodates many pleasure boats, its primarily a fishing town. There is no deep water port, which means it does not get visits from the giant cruise ships that bring tens of thousands of tourists to some of southeast’s other towns.
Yachting Magazine is based in Rhode Island and has 350 thousand US subscribers.
A multi-year, international investigation into illegal bear and goat hunts has resulted in the sentencing of a longtime big game guide from Haines.
Seventy-two-year-old Ronald Martin pled guilty and was sentence Tuesday in U.S. District Court after admitting to multiple illegal hunts, falsifying documents and importing illegally taken wildlife between Canada and the U.S.
Martin has been a big game guide in Haines for more than 30 years. On Thursday morning he was at a downtown bar discussing the case with friends and patrons, but he wouldn’t comment to KHNS for this story.
According to assistant U.S. attorney Jack Schmidt, the joint U.S. and Canada investigation was dubbed “Operation Bruin,” the Old English word for brown bear.
Law enforcement documented 10 illegal brown bear hunts, three illegal black bear hunts and four illegal mountain goat hunts. The violations involved Martin allowing his Canadian and U.S clients to take brown bears after illegally baiting them, hunting without proper licenses and failure to be present with the clients during some of the hunts.
Schmidt said it was also discovered Martin and his clients would then falsify records to smuggle wildlife hides, furs, horns and meat between the two countries. The violations spanned nine years, from 2002 through 2011.
Transporting illegally taken game across state and international borders triggers a violation of federal law, known as the Lacey Act. That’s when the U.S. Attorney’s office got involved, Schmidt said.
“The Lacey Act is to prevent the commercialization of wildlife trafficking. Lacey violations can occurred in several different ways. In this particular case there was underlying state law violations. When those state law violations include the trafficking of those illegally harvested wildlife then it becomes in the purview of the federal government,” Schmidt said.
Besides Martin, the investigation resulted in 17 Canadians being charged with 55 violations. Some of them have also been charged in the U.S., Schmidt said.
State law enforcement worked with federal and Canadian officials for several years, says Alaska State Trooper spokesperson Beth Ipsen. She called it one of the most extensive wildlife investigations she has seen at the state level.
As many as 10 wildlife troopers from across the state worked on the case, including serving state and federal search warrants and conducting interviews in Alaska and the Lower 48.
“This was a big operation and the different federal, state and Canadian entities were pretty interwoven and worked well to put this together, because this was huge,” Ipsen said.
Martin was sentence to four years probation and fined $40,000.
During his probation he can’t hunt in the U.S. or anywhere else in the world for two years or provide any guiding- related services.
The investigation also brought about state charges.
As part of that conviction earlier this year, Martin forfeited his Piper airplane, a pickup, an ATV, several weapons and he surrendered his guide license for life.
Another Haines guide is also facing charges in the investigation. Martin’s half-brother, John Katzeek, and three of his Canadian clients have been indicted in U.S. District court also charged with conspiracy and smuggling violations related to illegal hunts. That case is ongoing.
Enrolling in the new federal marketplace is off to slow start in the capital city. Ongoing technical issues with the insurance website have made it difficult, but those charged with helping Juneau residents enroll expect interest will pick up.
Tyann Boling, Enroll Alaska’s chief operating officer, says, “I’ve stopped enrollments.”
But that hasn’t stopped Alaskans from trying – four have been successful on the federal marketplace.
“We have well over 1,700 individuals that we will be working with to get enrolled once the marketplace is up and going,” Boling says.
Of the 1,700, more than 75 are from Juneau.
The Affordable Care Act allows each state the opportunity to build its own marketplace. Governor Sean Parnell opted not to do this, so Alaskans are dealing with the same difficulties as others dependent on the federal website.
Enroll Alaska currently has one agent in Juneau. Boling hopes to eventually add two more.
“We will have more join that team there; however, we are not deploying agents to our locations because the marketplace is not functioning. We don’t want to discourage the consumers. We’re definitely in a holding pattern,” she explains.
When the Marketplace is functioning properly, Boling says Enroll Alaska agents will be placed at Bartlett Regional Hospital and Wal-Mart.
“We’re ready,” says Boling. “Our spaces are ready and we’d love to be there today, but we don’t want it to be a service that we’re not able to provide.”
United Way navigator Crystal Bourland has been stationed at the National Alliance on Mental Illness office in Juneau since earlier this month. Bourland has been educating people on the marketplace, eligibility for subsidies, and the difference between insurance plans. Each week, she’s getting more and more calls.
“The interest is growing especially as people are finding their way to me. Even today, I’ve set up several appointments for the coming week,” Bourland says.
Bourland has not enrolled anyone from Juneau in a healthcare plan yet, but she’s not discouraged.
“There may be some frustration out there, but I’m finding in the interactions that I’ve had that people are really in the information-gathering stage and they just have a lot of questions about the marketplace and what options are available to them,” says Bourland.
Alaska has 140,000 uninsured residents – more than 5,000 are in Juneau – and Bourland’s main job right now is reaching out to those people.
“We’re still getting started so just continuing to create awareness and outreach opportunities to see what that need is,” she says. “There are thousands of people in Juneau and thousands of people in Alaska that are uninsured so knowing that there are new healthcare options out there, I think the interest is strong.”
Bourland says the majority of calls she gets are from people looking for individual plans, a few have asked about plans for dependents, but there’s been no interest in Juneau from small businesses, businesses with fifty or less full-time employees.
Bourland hopes this will change.