Alaska News Nightly: March 19, 2008

Scientists are hoping a new study will help them figure out what’s causing a steady decline in the fur seal population on the Pribilof Islands. Plus, Fairbanks leaders have a plan to create thousands of high-paying jobs in the city. Those stories and more on tonight’s Alaska News Nightly, broadcast statewide on APRN stations.

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Legislators will get long weekend, then it’s back to work
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau and Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
The Alaska Legislature is starting to wind down for its spring vacation this weekend. But quite a few things have been left hanging as members expect to return next week for a dash to adjournment three weeks later.

Senator Stevens comments on Alaskan oil development, prices, ANWR and natural gas
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
U.S. Senator Ted Stevens is hopeful that the proposal to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) if oil hits $125 per barrel will gain traction with critics of drilling there. Stevens says he believes oil prices will go over $125 this year, especially considering the recent price of oil topping $108 per barrel and the continuing growth of fuel consumption in the developing world.

Fur seal numbers dropping 5% per year in Pribilofs; researchers looking at fishing and warming
Annie Feidt, APRN – St. Paul Island
Most of the world’s northern fur seals live on the Pribilof Islands. But the number of animals on St. Paul and St. George has been steadily dropping for more than a decade. A new study could provide fresh insight into what’s causing the decline. But island residents say they already know what’s to blame and want the federal government to take action.

Fairbanks creates “445” plan to collect better jobs
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
Fairbanks area leaders announced an initiative yesterday to increase the number of high-paying local jobs. The plan, called 445, is aimed at adding 4,000 jobs in 4 years that pay at least $50,000 a year.

Should Alaska’s forestry rules require new public safety provisions?
Matt Lichtenstein, KFSK – Petersburg
A group of property owners in Petersburg wants state forestry rules to include protections for public safety. The issue stems from local concern over the possibility that an Alaska Mental Health Trust logging plan could cause landslides on the steep slopes above the town’s main road, where many homes and businesses are located. The state Board of Forestry has been discussing the proposal, which has the support of at least one lawmaker in Southeast.

Alaska Native roads could get federal funds — if tribes agree on formal borders
Dixie Hutchinson, KNBA – Anchorage
Alaska tribal transportation managers are meeting in Fairbanks this week to help define borders between communities or regions for tribal roads programs. The definition is critical to win federal dollars that support tribal transportation projects in the state.