Alaska News Nightly: November 30, 2011

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Alaska Natives Voice Concern Over National Tribal Consultation Policy

Joaqlin Estus, KNBA – Anchorage

A 2000 executive order directs federal agencies to consult with tribes on actions affecting them, and in 2009, President Obama directed federal agencies to work out how to carry that out. As the Secretary of Interior prepares to sign off on a national policy on tribal consultation Thursday, representatives of Alaska’s 229 federally recognized tribes continue to raise objections to part of it.  They’re concerned about an addendum that outlines a consultation process for corporations created under ANCSA, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971.

Push Beginning For State To Help Pay The Cost Of Student Meals

Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau

The number of students receiving free or low cost school lunches and breakfasts is increasing around the nation and in Alaska this year.   And that’s leading legislators to prepare for an extra push during next year’s session for a bill that would help local school districts feed those children by providing state money for the nutrition programs.

Feds Continue With Legal Actions Against BP

Associated Press

An Environmental Protection Agency investigator says BP ignored alarms that warned of the likelihood of a 13,500-gallon oil spill in 2009 on Alaska’s North Slope. A Federal Court in Anchorage will determine whether BP’s actions leading up to it were criminal.

Matt Goer of the EPA’s criminal division in Anchorage testified at a hearing on the matter on Tuesday. Federal prosecutors are asking a judge to revoke the probation of BP Exploration (Alaska) Inc. so the company can be hit with additional fines and another probation term.

Prosecutors say BP is a recidivist offender of environmental laws and the company remained negligent in monitoring pipelines.

BP contends the 2009 spill was an accident that could not have been anticipated and not a criminal act. The company’s attorneys will argue that the probation from the 2007 conviction should end.

The hearing could take at least four days.

Salmon Eating Sled Dogs Show Higher Levels Of Mercury

Angela Denning-Barnes, KYUK – Bethel

A new study by an environmental group shows that sled dogs on the Yukon River have higher levels of mercury than other sled dogs eating a commercial diet.

Mt. Edgecumbe Student Recognized for Work to Reduce Young Alaskan Suicide Rate

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

An Alaska teenager will be honored at the White House Tomorrow. Teressa Baldwin is a senior at Mount Edgecumbe High School in Sitka. She is one of 11 Native American Youth leaders who are being recognized as part of President Obama’s Champions of Change initiative. Baldwin started a non-profit called Hope For Alaska to work toward reducing the high rate of suicide among young Alaskans.

She told Lori Townsend she thought it was important to bring her message to a national audience.

Rare Bird Sighted in Seward

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

The sighting of a rare redwing thrush in Seward recently highlighted the extremes to which birders will go to add to their life lists.  The redwing is common to Europe and Asia, but not Alaska.

The bird was spotted November 15 according to Carol Grizwold, who was first to notice it while walking her dog on the beach.

Grizwold says the bird was probably blown to Seward’s Lowell point beach by a storm and pinned there by wind for about twelve days.

Grizwold posted the sighting on a birdwatcher’s website, and Birders drove down to the Resurrection Bay town from Fairbanks to see it, others flew in from Kodiak and Juneau.

People even flew in from as far away as Colorado and Texas to get a look, but the bird left the area before they could see it.  The redwing stayed around Seward for about a week and a half,  but hasn’t been sighted since November 25, but Griswold says she’s hopeful it’ll appear again.  The sighting of the redwing is only the second in North America.

Aniak Pilot Died in Crash Tuesday Night

Angela Denning-Barnes, KYUK – Bethel

An Aniak pilot died in a plane crash Tuesday night. Stephen Hill, who is the owner of Inland Aviation, was flying a Cessna 207 to Chuathbaluk (Chew-awth-buh-luck), when he crashed. The 61-year-old pilot was the only one on board. He departed Aniak for the village at about 7 p.m.

The run-way lights activated in Chuathbaluk, according to individual reports, but the plane never arrived. At that time, a significant snow squall had started. The blowing snow made it impossible to land.

Alaska State Troopers and Wildlife Troopers searched for the plane near Chuathbaluk. They found the plane about three miles southwest of the village in a heavily forested area. The plane was a total loss, and it appeared that Hill died on impact.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration will be conducting investigations.

Glenallen Couple Gets Prison Time for Buying, Selling Illegal Animal Parts, Guns

Tony Gorman, KCHU – Valdez

A Glenallen couple was sentenced to prison Tuesday after admitting to illegally buying and selling animal parts and guns.

Controversial Totem Pole Returns to Sitka Square

Ed Ronco, KCAW – Sitka

The totem pole that gives Sitka’s Totem Square its name is once again standing.

The pole was removed last year while state workers rebuilt a seawall and changed landscaping to the greenspace across from the Sitka Pioneer Home. The totem pole underwent restoration and was put back in place during a small ceremony Monday afternoon.