Alaska News Nightly: November 16, 2010

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Murkowski Maintains Lead Going Into Final Day
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
Elections officials have counted all the ballots they have from the general election held two weeks ago and with only a small number of absentee ballots to be computer counted tomorrow, Lisa Murkowski’s write-in campaign is leading Joe Miller by 10,380 votes. The total ballot count for Murkowski now stands at 100,868 compared to Miller’s 90,448. Murkowski’s votes include 8,153 ballots that have been challenged by Miller observers. This means Lisa Murkowski is winning without the challenged ballots. Miller has not conceded. His campaign is awaiting the final few hundred absentee ballots to be counted.

Johansen’s Answers Haven’t Alleviated Concerns
Maria Dudzak, KRBD – Ketchikan
Tuesday night, Ketchikan constituents wanted answers from their representative Republican Kyle Johansen about his reasons for stepping away from a House leadership position. As KRBD’s Maria Dudzak reports, his answers didn’t do much to alleviate their concerns.

Eagle Residents Voice Dissent With NPS Law Enforcement
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
Eagle residents, upset about National Park Service law enforcement in the Yukon Charley Rivers Preserve, have voiced their concerns in a letter.   Members of the Yukon River community’s city council have written to the Park Service, Alaska’s Congressional delegation, Governor Parnell and state legislators, about what they call a heavy handed approach of Park Rangers who enforce Coast Guard regulations on the Yukon River.  Park Service rangers enforcing boat registration and safety regulations resulted in some confrontations and arrests this summer. Eagle City Council member Don Woodruff says the agency is stepping out of bounds to harass boaters.

Woodruff says the actions have destroyed 20 years of good relations between the Park Service and the regions small group of local residents.  The letter accuses the agency of bringing in military trained rangers who violate local’s subsistence rights guaranteed under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.  It challenges federal authority on the river’s navigable waters, and asks the state attorney general to join an action to prohibit Park Service law enforcement on the Yukon River, suggesting the job would be better handled by state sanctioned village public safety officers.  Woodruff says an intermediate step would be to at least base Park Service officials in Eagle.

Woodruff says the community is also pushing for establishment of local committee that would regularly meet with Preserve mangers to talk about issues. Fairbanks based Yukon Charley Superintendent Greg Dudgeon says he’s only seen unsigned email copies of the letter and will not comment on the issues it raises. He says the agency is awaiting the result of a court case involving a Central man arrested by Park Rangers during a boat safety check on the Yukon this summer.

Subsistence Management Board Investigating Possible Violations
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
Members of the federal subsistence management board last week heard comments from a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service enforcement agent who said a two-year investigation is looking into allegations that subsistence fish is being sold to non-subsistence users. Although the agent, Stan Pruszenski spoke at the board meeting, he was not allowed to be interviewed because the case is still ongoing.

The investigation centers around salmon from the Yukon River. Subsistence Management Assistant Regional Director Pete Probasco says customary trade is the legal selling of fish for cash.

Probasco says it became a big enough issue that Fish and Wildlife reports say an investigation was needed and some sales were large.

Probasco says agent Pruzenski wouldn’t share all of the information because the investigation is continuing but he says sales of that size are going beyond the federal users the program was intended for.

Probasco says that concerns legitimate subsistence users.

Probasco says the amount of cash that can be exchanged is handled on a case by case basis. He says some areas such as Bristol Bay and Cooper River have set cash limits, but others allow cash sales as long as it doesn’t constitute a significant commercial enterprise.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife spokesman Bruce Woods said he couldn’t discuss whether other areas beyond the Yukon were being investigated, nor could he say how long it may be until information can be released.

Federal Subsistence Board Chairman Tim Towarak says Fish and Wildlife has their investigation into alleged abuses, but he says during the recent Alaska Federation of Native’s convention in Fairbanks there were reports from some Alaska Natives of over-reaction from agents who confiscated fish. Towarak says board members need more information.

The next meeting of the Federal Subsistence board will be in January in Anchorage. Proposed fishery regulation changes are on the agenda for action.

Yukon Eel Run Starting Soon
Angela Denning-Barnes, KYUK – Bethel
The annual eel run will be starting any day now on the Lower Yukon River. The Lamprey Eel is not only an important subsistence resource, it’s a chance for some villagers to make a little money too.

Obama Hosting Second Tribal Nations Summit in December
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC
The Obama Administration will host a second Tribal Nations Summit next month. White House senior policy advisor for Native American issues, Kimberley Teehee, announced plans for the gathering Monday at the National Congress of American Indians annual convention, the country’s largest gathering of tribal leaders and governments.

The Dec. 16 summit will be held in Washington, and each of the nation’s 565 federally recognized tribes will be invited to send one representative.

The Obama Administration hosted a first Tribal Nations Summit last November at the Interior Department.  President Obama addressed the attendees, who’d come from all over the country, including Alaska.

Longer Fire Season Ups Costs for State
Tim Ellis, KUAC – Fairbanks
This year’s wild fire season began early and stretched late into the fall, and that’s upped the state’s cost of managing fires.

National, International Press Pour into Juneau for Ballot Count
Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau
For a few days last week, the nation’s eyes turned to Juneau where the counting of write-in ballots in Alaska’s U.S. Senate race attracted members of the national and even international press.  They’ve all packed up and gone now, leaving local media to cover the outcome. But for a time, the state capital was swarming with more reporters than it’s seen since maybe the heyday of Palin-mania.

Alaska Mining Association Talks Fish
Jay Barrett, KMXT – Kodiak
The Alaska Miners Association held its annual convention recently in Anchorage, though a lot of the talk was about fish. KMXT’s Jay Barrett explains.