Alaska News Nightly: May 14, 2008

The Interior Department announced today it will list the polar bear as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act, but the decision comes with conditions. Plus, a new study shows many of the state’s rural residents are choosing to move to urban areas. Those stories and more on tonight’s Alaska News Nightly, broadcast statewide on APRN stations.

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Polar bears officially a ‘threatened’ species
Joel Southern, APRN – Washington, DC
After months of delay and wrangling over what to do, the Bush Administration announced today that it’s listing polar bears as ‘threatened’ under the Endangered Species Act-but with conditions that won’t hamper Alaska offshore oil and gas development, Alaska Native subsistence and other activities.

Alaska’s natural gas tentatively shopped to China
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
An unofficial group of Alaskans has returned from a brief visit to China and Japan to look at the Asian potential as developers and customers for the state’s natural gas resources.

Alaska prison problems up for legislative audit
David Shurtleff, APRN – Anchorage
A legislative committee is calling for an audit of the State Department of Corrections amidst a no-confidence vote by Corrections staff, overcrowding and increased infection rates among prisoners and officers.

Alaska Airlines asks for Juneau airport expansion delay
Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO – Juneau
Alaska Airlines has asked the Juneau International Airport Board to delay the terminal expansion project, cut the airport budget or reduce staff to cover the increased cost of electricity over the next few months. The airline says it fears for its bottom line and is concerned it could get stuck with higher fees in the aftermath of avalanches that severed Juneau’s connection to comparatively inexpensive hydropower.

Fishermen petition Congress for fuel-cost assistance
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau
Alaska commercial fishermen are petitioning Congress to help them with their high diesel bills. Organizers say fuel costs are keeping fishermen closer to home — in some cases tied up at the docks.

Alaskan rural-to-urban migration rates increasing
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
More and more rural Alaskans are migrating to the state’s urban centers. According to a new study from the Institute of Social and Economic Research, the number of people leaving villages has more than doubled since 2006. Actual numbers jumped from 1,200 to 2,500 in a year — not a record, but a statistic researchers will watch over the next few years.