Alaska News Nightly: March 11, 2010

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Wolves Likely Suspects in Teacher’s Death
The Associated Press
An autopsy has concluded that a rural teacher was killed by animals and the head of the Alaska State Troopers says wolves are the likely suspect.  However, Col. Audie  Holloway says the autopsy could not say for sure what animals are to blame.

Fish and Wildlife Assessing Land-Swap in Izembek
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is looking at the environmental impacts of a proposed land-swap and road project in the Alaska Peninsula’s Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. Congress passed legislation signed into law last year calling for the land exchange and allowing for a road to connect two communities.  But environmentalists are still fighting the plan.

AK House OKs Operating Budget
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
The House on Thursday passed its version of the operating budget that will go into effect July first.   But it did so leaving questions unanswered about the future of a gas line from the North Slope.

Bunde Won’t Run Again
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
Senate Minority Leader Con Bunde will not seek re-election. The Anchorage Republican made the announcement on Thursday Bunde, a retired commercial pilot, has served in the Alaska Legislature since 1993.  He spent nearly a decade in the House before winning election to the Senate.

Musher’s Best Friend – It’s Obvious
Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage
The Iditarod leaders were camped out at the remote Cripple checkpoint late Thursday afternoon. Dallas Seavey still tops the standings, ahead of John Baker and Martin Buser. But all three have to wait until early morning to leave the checkpoint, after they’ve completed their 24-hour layovers. In the meantime, Jeff King is likely to take back the lead, with Hugh Neff, Mitch Seavey and Lance Mackey close behind. Every musher will tell you the real athletes on the trail are the dogs.  And on every team there are always a few standouts.

Ruby’s Master Sled Maker: Billy McCarty
Tim Bodony, APRN
The wood sled has all but disappeared from the Iditarod trail.  Mushers now prefer to use sleds made from aluminum or composite materials, which are lighter and more flexible. But in the villages, locally-made wood sleds are still common, and a few dedicated craftsmen still make them in the traditional style. Billy McCarty is one such craftsman.

Petersburg Takes Up Smoking Ban
Matt Lichtenstein, KFSK – Petersburg
A reading of a proposed smoking ban ordinance has passed a first reading with Petersburg city council approval, and the ban could go before voters this fall. The sweeping non-smoking ordinance is thought to be too restrictive by some, and the measure could see some changes before the public gets to decide on it.

Halibut Season Opens
Aaron Selbig, KBBI – Homer
The 2010 season for halibut opened on Saturday and despite a nasty blizzard that kept most boats in port, Homer stayed true to its reputation as “halibut capital of the world” by taking in the first large load of the year. A whopping 42, 500 pounds of flatfish was offloaded in Homer Saturday from the Kodiak-based F/V Jenoah and was auctioned online Tuesday by Auction Block Seafood.