Alaska News Nightly: July 28, 2011

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Arctic Scientist Under Investigation

Associated Press

A federal wildlife biologist whose observation in 2004 of presumably drowned polar bears in the Arctic helped to galvanize the global warming movement– has been placed on administrative leave and is being investigated for scientific misconduct, possibly over the veracity of that article.

Charles Monnett is an Anchorage-based scientist with the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement.

He has not been informed by the inspector general’s office of any charges or questions related to the scientific integrity of his work, according to Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

Monnett was told on July 18 that he was being put on leave, pending results of an investigation into “integrity issues.”

Ruch’s watchdog group plans to file a complaint on Monnett’s behalf.

Officials Hammer Out Details on U.S. Russia Polar Bear Treaty

Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage

U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials are in Moscow this week to work out more details on the treaty for managing the polar bear population that roams between the U.S. and Russia. The treaty allows Native groups on both sides of the Chukchi Sea to harvest bears for subsistence. But implementing that aspect of the treaty has been difficult.

UAF Researchers Unlocking Secret of Hibernation

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

University of Alaska Fairbanks researchers are unlocking the secrets of hibernation. The studies are aimed tapping the mechanism that safely slows down metabolism, as a tool to save humans from heart attack and trauma. UAF neuro-scientist Kelly Drew says a chemical in the brains of hibernating and non-hibernating animals has been identified as a trigger for torpor state.

Drew and fellow UAF researcher Tulasi Jinka have been practicing on rats. Natural hibernators like bears and arctic ground squirrels only go into the torpor state during the winter. Drew says experiments on arctic ground squirrels have shown receptivity to adenosine has a seasonal element.

The next steps in Drew and Jinka’s work probe how season increases receptivity to adenosine and whether artificially inducing the torpor state can increase survival of cardiac arrest. An article on their research is published in the July 26 edition of the journal Neuroscience.

Young Argues to Strip Park Service’s Power in Yukon Charley Preserve

Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC

A bill before the U.S. House would strip away the National Park Service’s power to enforce regulations on the waters of the Yukon Charley Preserve in the Interior. Congressman Don Young says it’s the first volley in a battle over who rules Alaska’s waterways.

Young inserted language into a funding bill now being voted on in the House. He did so in response to what Interior Alaskans call heavy-handed treatment by park rangers.

Young’s anti-Park Service provision wasn’t popular among Democrats, and Representative Norm Dicks of Washington State floated an amendment to get Young’s issue stripped from the bill.

“We have people in the law enforcement area who make mistakes.  But we don’t get rid of law enforcement; we don’t say we’re no longer going to protect people, the other people.”

Democrats also complained because Young inserted a local, pet-issues line into a national appropriations bill. But Young fought back, and Wednesday evening Dicks’ amendment was defeated and Young’s language against the Park Service was kept.

“Think about this very carefully. Do you want an agency that does not respect the rights of individuals because they work for the government? Does not respect the rights of history? I don’t think you do. I don’t think you do. So I’m asking that the amendment be defeated, asking for my colleagues to understand this is a big issue in my state. This is very very important. Not only to me but my people. People of state who have been using it for centuries.”

The Republican-dominated house supported Young’s issue, including Congressman Mike Simpson of Idaho.

“The problem is you say you’re trying to save Mr. Young from himself by offering this amendment, we’re trying to save the Park Service from itself and the actions that it’s taken.”

Debate on the floor heated up as Congressmen Dicks and Young sparred over who would have jurisdiction on the Alaska waters – the Coast Guard or the state:

How does the Coast Guard have jurisdiction. That’s another federal agency. The gentleman changed his story down in the gym.


And told me that it was the state that had authority.


I would wonder who in the hell has authority.


Again the chair requests that members use the proper yielding to each other for time.  The time is controlled by the gentleman from Virginia.

Despite their shouting, Young and Dicks have served together for decades and were periodically laughing as the other spoke.

The fight between the Park Service and Alaskans who live near the Yukon Charley Preserve is no laughing matter though – it hit a fever pitch last fall when a 70-year-old man from Central was charged after a scuffle with Park Rangers who tried to do a boat safety check on the Yukon River. A decision is pending in that case.

The Park Service did try to ease tensions with residents by replacing the two rangers accused of strong-arming locals and eliminating on-water boat inspections. But Young says that’s not enough and the entire structure of who regulates the local waters should be changed.

Votes are continuing Thursday in the House on amendments to the Interior Appropriations bill.

Lake and Peninsula Borough Will Get to Vote on Anti-Pebble Mine Ballot Measure

Daysha Eaton, KDLG – Dillingham

The people of Lake and Peninsula Borough will get to vote on a ballot measure that would prohibit mining projects that ruin salmon streams. A judge decided to allow the vote and decide later about whether such a decision is within the power of an initiative or needs to be made by government.

Anchorage’s Economic Future Marked By Slow Growth

Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage

The Anchorage economy in 2011 is growing and that’s a trend likely to continue through 2014.  The Anchorage Economic Development Corporation also says some sectors are actually stronger than expected.

UAF Hosts International Arctic Ocean Policy Workshop

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The international waters over the high arctic are a new horizon for human activity. That was the driving force behind an Arctic Ocean Policy workshop this week in Fairbanks. University of Alaska Fairbanks professors, and counterparts from a Canadian university, organized the event, which focused on the central arctic, or “donut hole,” outside the 200-mile zone along national boundaries. UAF geography and Arctic policy professor Lawson Brigham says there’s growing interest in the global commons of the high arctic.

Brigham is a former ice breaker captain, and chair of an Arctic Marine shipping assessment. He says secondary to economics, climate change and the retreat of sea ice are helping foster interest in the central arctic. He says impending use and development are being paralleled by an international push to regulate and protect the area. Sixty people from 12 countries participated in this week’s arctic workshop in Fairbanks. UAF vice chancellor and geography department director Mike Sfraga says the conference is part of the university’s effort to be a leader in arctic research.

Sfraga says UAF infrastructure like the new arctic research vessel under construction, and faculty with arctic expertise, position the university to be a player as interest in the polar region increases.  He says UAF is working to develop international partnerships, like the one with Nova Scotia’s Dalhousie University, that spawned this week’s conference.

Pioneers Make Innovative Use of Fish Waste

Melati Kaye, KDLG – Dillingham

In Alaska, fish is an important component of daily life-as a form of food, the base of the seafood harvesting and processing industry and the target of a sport fishing tourism industry. But a few pioneers are testing out whether it might be a perfect supplement to farming in the state.

First Fall Chums Heading up Yukon River

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The first fall chums are heading up the Yukon River. Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist Jeff Estensen says the run, which began on the lower Yukon last week, is expected to be stronger than recent years.

Estensen says the fall chum run is below average but better than 2009 and 2010, when it was around 500,000 fish. He says there’s a strong correlation between summer and fall chum runs on the Yukon, and the summer run was relatively strong.

Estensen says strong chum runs on the Kuskowim and to Norton Sound also have managers optimistic about the fall run on the Yukon.  He says the Yukon’s weak king salmon return is nearly over, and will not affect fall chum management. The fall fish are bigger, and have more fat, than summer chums.  The early fish have subsistence and commercial value, while later fish are harvested for dog food.