Alaska News Nightly: December 17, 2008

Alaskans react to President-elect Barack Obama’s pick for Interior Secretary. Plus, environmental groups are criticizing the Bush administration’s plan to provide critical habitat for Alaskan sea otters.

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Racist Obama jokes circulating via State of Alaska e-mail
The Associated Press
Alaska officials are investigating racist jokes about President-elect Barack Obama that have been circulating on state government e-mail accounts. One of the e-mails obtained by The AP asks what the outcome of the Democrat’s victory was after all the time and money spent, and concludes: “Another black family living in government housing!” State officials were unaware of the e-mails until asked about them. Administration Commissioner Annette Kreitzer says she alerted the office of Gov. Sarah Palin about the e-mails. Palin’s office had no immediate comment. Kreitzer says state workers involved could face discipline.

Obama appoints ‘independent thinker’ to cabinet’s Interior post
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington, DC
President-elect Barack Obama has named Colorado Senator Ken Salazar as his Interior Secretary. Salazar comes from a ranching family, and as a first-term Democratic Senator sits on the Energy Committee. He’s considered to be a moderate who is against drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), but has supported limited offshore oil drilling and subsidies for ranchers on public lands. Salazar said at a press conference he’ll work to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil.

‘Critical habitat’ designated for Alaska sea otters
Anne Hillman, KUCB – Unalaska
Earlier this week the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated 5,879 square miles of nearshore waters as critical habitat for sea otters. The area spans from the Western Aleutians to the Alaska Peninsula.

Palin administration launching subcabinet focused on rural issues
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
Governor Palin had hoped to sign the administrative order officially creating the Rural subcabinet in Hooper Bay today, but weather foiled the event. The 8-member group will be chaired by Attorney General Talis Colberg and gathers commissioners from labor, military and veterans affairs, education, public safety, Commerce and others in an effort to develop a plan for helping rural Alaska deal with rising costs and little opportunity for jobs.

State of Alaska exploring ferry dock takeover in Prince Rupert, BC
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau
The Palin administration wants to buy the Prince Rupert, BC ferry dock. The Governor’s proposed public works spending plan includes money toward taking over and rebuilding the structure. But the budget does not include funds for new ferries.

Marten trapping banned on Kuiu Island
Robert Woolsey, KCAW – Sitka
Both the state and federal governments have shutdown the trapping season for marten on Kuiu Island indefinitely. Studies conducted over the last two years indicate the marten population on Kuiu is now among the lowest in Southeast Alaska. Biologists are concerned that trapping pressure combined with natural mortality could lead to even greater declines.

Palin budget retains Fairbanks military cemetery plan
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
Planning for a veteran’s cemetery in Fairbanks survived Governor Plain’s budget ax. Fairbanks State Representative David Guttenberg has been shepherding the project through the legislature. Guttenberg says he was happy to see support for the cemetery in the proposed fiscal year 2010 budget draft released by the governor Monday.

Craig may soon erect memorial to lives lost at sea
Jay Marble, KRBD – Ketchikan
The City of Craig could soon have a memorial for fishermen and others who have lost their lives at sea. Although having a memorial of this type has been on the community’s wish list for some time, the cash donation to get the plan in action came only recently. And it came from an unexpected source.

Yukon Quest seeking $10,000 to fill funding hole
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
Yukon Quest organizers will hustle to replace a $10,000 hole in the 2009 race budget. Officials planned on $20,000 in support from the city of Fairbanks, but are only getting half that after missing an application deadline. Race Director Tania Simpson says she’s grateful for the city council’s move to support the Quest, and optimistic about covering race expenses before February’s start.