Alaska News Nightly: February 13, 2008

The Interior Department says it can’t meet next year’s deadline for transferring federal land to the state and Native corporations. Plus, Fairbanks musher Ken Anderson is right on the heels of defending champion Lance Mackey as the Yukon Quest nears the halfway point. Those stories and more on tonight’s Alaska News Nightly, broadcast statewide on APRN stations.

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Federal lands for state and Natives remain in limbo
Joel Southern, APRN – Washington, DC
Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne acknowledged today that his department can’t meet the goal of completing land conveyances to the state, Native corporations and individual Native allotment holders by Alaska’s 50th anniversary early next year. But Senator Lisa Murkowski says she’ll keep prodding to make Interior complete the job.

Murkowski pushing for national arctic policy revisions
Joel Southern, APRN – Washington, DC
Senator Lisa Murkowski has been pushing several years for the Bush Administration to draw up a new set of Arctic policies. But she now questions whether it will happen before President Bush leaves office. Murkowski once again raised the issue with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at a budget hearing today. She clearly wanted to hear more after Rice said the U.S. is mainly expressing its interests in the high north through the multi-national Arctic Council.

Admiralty Island mine sold by Rio Tinto to Hecla
John Ryan, KTOO – Juneau
The Greens Creek Mine on Admiralty Island has been sold to Idaho-based Hecla Mining Company. Hecla already owns 30% of the silver, gold, zinc and lead mine. It paid $750 million to London-based Rio Tinto for the remaining 70% of the mine. The sale is expected to close this spring.

Palin signs bill clearing way for legislative kidney transplant
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
Governor Palin today signed a bill lifting the limits on compassionate gifts that can be given to legislators within the state’s ethics rules. The change was the result of a determination that anyone assisting Nome Democrat Richard Foster meet the needs of having a kidney transplant would be in violation of the state’s ethics law — which limits donations to $250. Sue Stancliff, the legislative staffer who has offered and been approved to donate her kidney to Foster, said the bill and the support that is anticipated speaks well of Foster.

Global warming to change parasite and disease threats in Alaska
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
A workshop today looking at the potential for new parasites and diseases in animal and human populations as a result of climate change was part of this week’s forum on the environment taking place in Anchorage. State veterinarian Dr. Bob Gerlach says state and federal biologists are holding meetings to gear up for spring bird testing for avian flu.

Hydro power is cheap — when you have enough water
Melissa Marconi-Wentzel, KCAW – Sitka
At about 9 cents per kilowatt hour, Sitka’s hydroelectric energy is some of the cheapest in the state. But hydro power is only as abundant as the water supply, a limitation felt keenly in recent months in Sitka and other parts of Southeast Alaska.

Jewelers speaking out: “No Dirty Gold”
Anne Hillman, KDLG – Dillingham
Jewelers, including Tiffany & Co., are speaking out against the proposed Pebble Mine. The companies are part of the No Dirty Gold campaign, which aims to inform consumers about how and where gold is mined. The campaign urges mining companies to ensure they don’t mine in fragile ecosystems and areas of high ecological value, such as Bristol Bay.

Vice President Lisa Murkowski?
Joel Southern, APRN – Washington, DC
First conservative pundits touted Governor Sarah Palin as a possible vice presidential candidate. Now political blogger Alan Katz is putting Lisa Murkowski on a list of Republican female lawmakers or government officials that GOP front runner John McCain should consider as a running mate. Katz says a woman on the Republican ticket would certainly make things interesting — especially if a woman is not on the Democratic ticket. Murkowski laughed off the idea today, but said one of her sons wouldn’t mind seeing Mom be the second-highest leader of the land because one of the perks that comes with the job.

Fairbanks moose attack reminds humans: stay alert, stay clear
Lacie Grosvold, KUAC – Fairbanks
A recent moose attack in Fairbanks has residents on alert. Cow moose are especially dangerous this time of year.

2,000-mile snowmachine race taking a breather in Nome
Paul Korchin, KNOM – Nome
Iron Dog racers are in the midst of a 36-hour layover in Nome, as the 2,000-mile race from Wasilla to Fairbanks throttles back for a spell.

Champion Mackey and Rookie Anderson battling for Quest lead
Dan Bross and Libby Casey, KUAC – Fairbanks
Lance Mackey and Ken Anderson are fighting for the lead in the Yukon Quest. Defending champion Mackey left the checkpoint of Eagle this morning at 7:10 a.m., followed just one minute later by Anderson. Anderson’s a Quest rookie, but he’s an experienced Iditarod racer, and he’s gotten guidance about the Quest trail from veteran mushers including his wife, Gwen Holdmann, who last ran the Quest in 2004. Mackey and Anderson should arrive at the next checkpoint of Dawson City tomorrow.