Alaska News Nightly: June 1, 2010

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Wet Weather Helps to Slow Interior Fires

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
Rain showers and higher humidity have slowed fire activity in the state, but there are still more than 90 active, 14 of which are staffed.  Fire Information Officer Pete Buist says the wet weather has not been enough so far to significantly hamper the fires’ advance.

Two blazes northwest of Fairbanks along the Elliot Highway are getting more attention.    Buist says the Cascaden and Applegate fires have grown to cover nearly 30,000 acres in recent days.

Buist says there are several pockets of development along the Elliot, where a beefed up force of over 160 firefighters are doing structure protection on private properties scattered from Livengood, west to Eureka and Manley.  He says if the Cascaden fire continues to grow it could impact the Trans Alaska Pipeline and the Dalton Highway.

Aggressive Blaze Burns Near Palmer
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
The fire burning by Eklutna Lake near Palmer has grown. It has now burned 1,300 acres. John See is with the division of forestry. He says the blaze was very aggressive yesterday.

See says the majority of the burn in on the east side of the lake, except for a 30 acre spot fire on the west side. He says there are some public use cabins about a mile from the fire, but they’re safe for now. See says cloud cover and higher humidity may help slow the growth of the fire, but wind gusts are also hitting the area. The lake is about 12 miles south of Palmer. Some area residents were ready to evacuate last evening but didn’t. See says there will be an informational meeting at the Eklutna Lake campground tonight, starting at 6:00 pm.

90 firefighters are currently working on suppression efforts. Another crew is arriving today.

Young’s Comments Draw Sharp Response
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
Opponents to Don Young’s bid for another term in Congress are responding to statements the Congressman made last week in which he said the nation should focus on learning from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico since – as he said – “it’s not an environmental disaster.”

Begich Calls for Comprehensive Energy Bill
Steve Heimel, APRN – Anchorage
Senator Mark Begich says the Senate can’t afford to wait and should take up a comprehensive energy bill when it returns from its Memorial Day recess.  Speaking on the public radio call-in show, Talk of Alaska, Begich said Democratic leaders wanted to change the subject until after the report comes in on the Gulf of Mexico spill, but that’s a bad idea.

The House has already passed a bill to cap and trade carbon credits, but that bill does not have enough support to make it through the Senate.  A compromise energy bill has been proposed by Democratic Senator John Kerry and independent Senator Joe Lieberman, and Begich says he’s getting closer to signing onto it.

Sitka Mayor to Challenge Murkowski’s Senate Seat
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
Sitka’s Mayor has filed to challenge Lisa Murkowski in her re-election campaign this year.  Scott McAdams says he’s joining the race  to take a local perspective to the nation’s capitol – and having someone connected to local communities would better serve the interests of Alaskans.

McAdams recognizes himself as the underdog candidate, saying Murkowski is better known throughout the state,  is intelligent and very articulate.  However, he believes his message of returning the seat to the people will get a better reception from voters than what he sees as national party leadership – or the views of one person.

Lost Whalers Found
Laureli Kinneen, KNOM – Nome
Thanks to an attentive pilot, four beluga hunters were found safe today. The men from Koyuk were reported missing last night.

Bear Shooting in Denali National Park First in History
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
The National Park Service is reviewing a bear shooting incident in Denali National Park.  A man shot and killed a grizzly he says charged his partner Friday night along Tattler Creek, about 35 miles out the park Road.  The Park Service reports it was the first bear shooting by a visitor in Denali history.

The National Park Service has not identified the hikers involved in the bear killing, but says they reported what happened immediately. Fister says the bear shooter may get a reprieve from the law, if the killing is determined to have been in defense of life.  She says the Park can defer to state statute which allows defense of life and property wildlife shooting, but an investigation will determine if that’s appropriate.

Land-Selection Legislation Talks Ended
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau
Sealaska and environmental groups have ended talks over land-selections legislation without reaching a compromise.

The Southeast Alaska regional Native corporation, the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council and others met on and off for about six weeks starting in April.

Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho moderated the meetings. He sent a letter to bill sponsor U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski last week.

It said, “the participants have not reached agreement and now recognize that they cannot make further substantive progress without a better sense of the likely framework of Congressional action.”

SEACC Executive Director Lindsey Ketchel says those seeking a compromise may be willing to try again, depending on changes made in Washington.

Forest Service Searches for Ways to Grow Southeast Economy
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau
The Forest Service is exploring ways to grow Southeast Alaska’s economy as the timber industry continues to shrink. It released a preliminary plan last week proposing trail, fisheries and energy projects in the Tongass National Forest.

Battling Marine Debris
Deanna Garrison, KRBD – Ketchikan
A Ketchikan-based organization is hoping to take its battle against marine debris statewide. As KRBD’s Deanna Garrison reports, the group “Keep Alaska Beautiful Southeast” is looking to study the effects of marine garbage while also educating the public about the severity of the problem.