Alaska News Nightly: March 30, 2011

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Another Fairbanks Militia Leader Charged
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
Another member of the Fairbanks militia group lead by Schaefer Cox has been charged with a crime.  Ken Thesing, a Major in the Peacemakers Militia and member of its command staff, has been charged with simulating legal processes, a misdemeanor. The charges relate to common law and sovereign citizen actions.  It’s unclear if Thesing is the command staff member referred to only as “Ken” in state documents charging Cox and four others with conspiracy to commit kidnapping and murder, and weapons offenses. The documents say that “Ken” appeared as a Cox’s representative and “legal counsel before god” at a Dec. 15 state court hearing for Cox on a misdemeanor weapons charge.

Two Bills May Increase School District Funding Across State
Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage
Two bills in the state Senate would provide increased funding for school districts across the state. One bill gives districts modest increases for the next three years. The other bill offers extra funding when North Slope oil prices are high. But it’s not clear if there’s enough legislative support for either measure.

Researchers Investigate YK Delta Archeological Find
Shane Iverson, KYUK – Bethel
Researchers investigating the largest archeological find in the Yukon Kuskowkwim Delta are concerned that a lack of funding may curtail their work.   Coastal erosion has already consumed the first dig-site there. Now archeologists hope to survey the entire village, before it’s gone.

Citizen Group Asks Fish and Game to Hold Off on Wolf Removal Program
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
A citizens volunteer group in Anchorage wants the state Department of Fish and Game to hold off on culling wolves that roam a popular state park.   The Chugach State Park Citizens Advisory board has contacted Fish and Game Region 2 supervisor Mark Burch with a request that a predator control program aimed at reducing the number of wolves in the Anchorage area avoid killing the Ship Creek pack of wolves.

Gary Gustafson, Chair of the Advisory board, says that the public has had little or no notice of a draft plan to eliminate all wolves in the area.

Gustafson says that the Ship Creek wolf pack is a separate pack from one that roams near Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson that has recently been blamed for attacks on dogs and threats to humans.

Last week, Burch issued a press release detailing the success of Fish and Game’s wolf removal program.  Burch said nine wolves from the base pack were eliminated through trapping and ground shooting. Tuesday, Burch said that in his viewpoint, the wolf control program is over

Burch said officials will continue to monitor the situation, and that researchers will study tissue and bone samples from the wolves to determine their dietary habits.

North Slope Science Initiative Holding Landmark Workshop
Jake Neher, KBRW – Barrow
The North Slope Science Initiative is holding a landmark workshop in Barrow this week. The event kicked off Tuesday and is meant to bring dozens of Arctic researchers, local stakeholders and government managers together to share their resources.

Harmless Levels of Radioactive Iodine Fallout Detected in Dutch Harbor
Associated Press
The Environmental Protection Agency says the harmless levels of radioactive iodine fallout from Japan detected at Dutch Harbor on March 19 and 20 were higher than other reporting stations in the United States. The director of the state health lab in Anchorage, Bernd Jilly, says the level remained near the background amount and were inconsequential. The EPA set up a portable monitor in Dutch Harbor because of the nuclear plant disaster in Japan following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. The fishing port in the Aleutians is about 2,700 miles from the nuclear plant site at Fukushima.

Legislation in the Works to Make Coast Guard Cutter Storis a Maritime Museum
Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau
Alaska’s United States Senators Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski re-introduced legislation Tuesday to preserve the Coast Guard Cutter Storis for use as a maritime museum in Juneau.

The bill would transfer ownership of the Storis from the U.S. government to the nonprofit Storis Museum, headed up by a group of Juneau residents. Attorney Joe Geldhof is a member of the museum’s board of directors. He says the legislation is a big step toward bringing the ship to the Capitol City.

Congressman Don Young plans to introduce a companion bill in the U.S. House.

Similar legislation was included in early versions of last year’s Coast Guard Authorization bill. But it was removed shortly before the bill passed Congress. It’s not certain if this new legislation will be able to pass as a stand-alone measure, or if it too will become part of a larger bill.

Attorneys Meet With Alaska Native, American Indians About Settlement
Joaqlin Estus, KNBA – Anchorage
Attorneys are holding meetings in Anchorage and Fairbanks tomorrow and Friday to talk with Alaska Natives and American Indians about whether and how they can take part in a $3.4 billion settlement.

Katie Hurley Turns 90
Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO – Juneau
Known as the grand dame of Alaska politics, Katie Hurley is 90 today. Hurley was chief clerk of Alaska’s Constitutional Convention, a former legislator and chair of the state education board. She’s been honored in events this past week in Juneau and Palmer, where at a birthday party on Sunday she was crowned Alaska’s Sweetheart.

House Names New ‘Ted Stevens Day’
Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage
Wednesday, the Alaska State House of Representatives passed House Bill 101, naming the fourth Saturday in every July Ted Stevens Day.

Last year, Governor Sean Parnell proclaimed Stevens’ birthday, November 18th, to be Ted Stevens Day. But Senator Stevens’ loved ones asked that Alaskans observe it in the summer, honoring his memory outdoors.

House Rules Committee Chair Craig Johnson, an Anchorage Republican, said, “Ted Stevens has meant more to Alaska, arguably, than anyone else in our state’s history… It is a small but significant gesture to enshrine his legacy and contributions as a day that we honor his memory.”

The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration.