Alaska News Nightly: March 6, 2008

The North Pacific Right Whale get unique status under the endangered species act. Plus, the shorter legislative session ratchets up pressure on legislators and the US Coast Guard begins planning for operations in the arctic. Those stories and more on tonight’s Alaska News Nightly, broadcast statewide on APRN stations.

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North Pacific Right Whale gets further federal protection
Charles Homans, KIAL – Unalaska
The North Pacific right whale is now a unique species in the eyes of the law. The right whale has been on the endangered species list for nearly forty years, but until today the North Pacific and North Atlantic populations were lumped together and protected as a single species. It’s a technical change, but one that could have big implications in Alaska.

Palin baby due in May
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
The Palin family is growing some more. Governor Palin late yesterday
announced that she is seven months pregnant. The announcement was a complete surprise – even her top staff didn’t know until she mentioned it to a few reporters after a press conference.

Shorter session puts legislators under pressure

Matt Lichtenstein, KFSK – Petersburg
The fast pace of this years session has prompted concern among legislators. Some lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are questioning whether too much public process is being sacrificed in order to meet the new 90-day deadline. Supporters of the shorter session say it’s making the process more efficient.

Coast Guard evaluating potential new role in the arctic
Joel Southern, APRN – Washington, DC
The US Coast Guard will have to extend its reach into the Arctic Ocean as climate change and retreating sea ice open access there.  Commandant Thad Allen says there’s a lot the Coast Guard needs to learn as it prepares for its new Arctic responsibilities.

Iditarod leaders into Cripple
Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage and Libby Casey, KUAC, Cripple
On the Iditarod trail, DeeDee Jonrowe was the first into the Cripple Checkpoint at 6:22 this morning.  She was followed in rapid succession by Paul Gebhardt, 6:30;  Zack Steer, 6:36; Martin Buser, 6:40 along with Ed Iten at 7:20 and Ken Anderson at 7:42.  As of late afternoon, the Iditarod report shows 10 mushers in Cripple.  All appear to be taking their mandatory 24 hour layover, perhaps reflecting a difficult trail between Ophir and Cripple.

US Senate passes bill strengthening Consumer Product Safety Commission

Joel Southern, APRN – Washington, DC
Today the U.S. Senate passed a bill to modernize and beef up the Consumer Product Safety Commission. And tucked inside it, are provisions to improve the safety of new all terrain vehicles. The bill would make safety measures developed by the Specialty Vehicle Institute of America the mandatory standard for 4-wheeled ATVs. It would be unlawful for manufacturers or distributors to import new 4 wheelers or commercially sell them unless those standards were met.

Denali National Park wolves suffer losses
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
Independent wildlife scientist Gordon Haber is again calling for more protection of Denali National Park wolves that wander onto state land.  A buffer zone already exists along a portion of the Park Boundary near Healy, but wolves continue wander onto state lands where wolf trapping and hunting are legal.  Haber says several of the 15-20 National Park Service wolf study groups have suffered major losses this winter.

New state hatcheries struggle to find funds

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
Skyrocketing costs have created a hurdle for new state fish hatcheries in the works for Fairbanks and Anchorage.  A Senate Finance committee this week restored money for the projects, but Fairbanks Senator Joe Thomas says they’ve been in peril due to unanticipated cost hikes.