Alaska News Nightly: February 8, 2011

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Pacific Walrus Joins ‘Candidate’ Species List
Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the Pacific Walrus should be listed under the Endangered Species Act. But the agency says it doesn’t have the resources to add the species to the list right now. Instead, walrus will join a long list of “candidate” species.

Public Allowed More Testimony in Determining Status of Seals
Associated Press
A federal agency will extend the comment period on its proposal to list two ice-dependent seals as threatened because of climate warming. Julie Speegle of the National Marine Fisheries Service says the state of Alaska and representatives of the petroleum industry requested the extension. The agency in December proposed listing ringed seals, the main prey of polar bears, as threatened because of projected sea ice loss and reduced snow cover. The original 60-day comment period would have ended Tuesday. The public will have an additional 45 days to comment.

Hugh Neff Leads Pack in Yukon Quest
Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks
Hugh Neff was the first to Dawson City today as he led mushers on the Yukon Quest trail in what has turned into an extremely fast race.

Closing Arguments Begin in Waterman Trial
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
Closing arguments in the state’s matricide trial against Rachelle Waterman began today, after prosecutors briefly brought three witnesses back to the stand for further questioning.

Fairbanks Looking to Expand Recycling Program
Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau
Juneau residents pay a $4 monthly surcharge for recycling services as part of their garbage bill. That helps pay for the recycling center at the landfill, junk vehicle round ups, and collection of hazardous materials – all of which the city provides in conjunction with private companies.

For a couple years now city officials have been looking to grow the recycling program, citing increased demand and the need to keep the landfill in check.

The amount of recyclable material shipped out of the Juneau landfill has increased nearly four-fold since 2005. This month the city will issue a request for proposals to gauge interest in consolidating or expanding recycling in the Capital City.

Program Helping Rural Residents Improve Diets
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
A Fairbanks based program is helping rural residents improve their diets.  The University of Alaska Fairbanks Interior Aleutians Campus Troth Yedha Nutrition Project offers certificate and degree course programs that cover a range of food related topics. Student and mom Caroline Dillard of Northway says the course has changed how she shops.

Dillard says when her kids get home from school instead of eating chips and cookies they’re eating celery or cucumbers.  She says the switch to healthy foods has changed life for family members, including her teenage daughter.

Dillard works as a cook at the Northway School, and she says the same approach has improved the menu for the students she serves. She says school lunches and snacks are giving village kids the food they need to be healthy.

Dillard says the Tok School District is very supportive of her efforts at Northway.

In the western interior village of Nikolai, student and mom Tamara Roberts says cost is also a major barrier to buying healthy food in the Kuskokwim River community, where everything has to be flown in on small planes.

Roberts says the nutrition class has taught her about diabetes, and what not to eat.

Roberts says she’s also learned about the danger of saturated fats in store bought pork and beef, and the healthy attributes of locally harvested meats.   She says they’ve always hunted, fished and picked berries, but now understands the nutritional benefits of the local foods.

Juneau Elementary Schoolers Learn to Ski
Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO – Juneau
Over the last 30 years, more than 1,000 Juneau elementary school children have been the recipients of a weekend of free ski lessons at Eaglecrest Ski Area.

As long as they’ve never skied before, the third, fourth, and fifth graders can apply for the Learn to Ski program, and hope their name is pulled in a drawing.  The ski area provides transportation, skis and boots, lessons, lift tickets and lunch for both days.

32 enthusiastic kids were on skis for the first time last weekend. KTOO’s Rosemarie Alexander skied along with some of them.