Alaska News Nightly: January 20, 2012

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Lynch Sentenced For Killing of Wife, Infant Daughter

Associated Press

A 22-year-old former soldier convicted of killing his wife and infant daughter will serve 80 years in prison.

Kip Lynch was sentenced Friday in the killing of his 19-year-old wife, Racquelle, and daughter, 8-month-old Kyirsta, in April 2010.

Prosecutors say the murders were pre-meditated and Lynch stood over his wife and daughter and fired additional rounds. But the defense argued Lynch was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Lynch survived a suicide attempt but was badly injured.

The killings took place about two months after Lynch had returned from a yearlong deployment in Afghanistan.

Researcher Suspects Predators Killing More Sea Lions Than Expected

Steve Heimel, APRN – Anchorage

Federal judge Tim Burgess ruled Thursday that the National Marine Fisheries Service may have cut some regulatory corners in ordering a costly closure of the Atka Mackerel and Pacific Cod fisheries in the western Aleutians, but he stopped short of reversing the order.

Judge Burgess said in his ruling that judges are not scientists and he would defer to scientific expertise. APRN’s Steve Heimel reports on one scientist who says the experts might be wrong.

Sen. Murkowski Seeking Answers On Japan Tsunami Debris

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

It’s been nearly a year since an earthquake in Japan triggered a tsunami that devastated whole communities in that country’s Northwest area. Debris was swept out to sea, and much of it is still afloat and is being carried by currents across the Pacific.  Some of it has already reached Alaska’s coast, but how much more can we expect?  And will the debris be contaminated with radiation from the damaged Fukushima nuclear facility?  Senator Lisa Murkowski wants answers on the wreckage that may be heading our way.

Anchorage Protesters Hold ‘Move To Amend Rally’

Daysha Eaton, KSKA – Anchorage

A group of about two-dozen protestors were chanting, “the corporation … the corporation … is not a person … is not a person … that word belongs to you and me … that word belongs to you and me,” in front of the Federal courthouse in Downtown Anchorage Friday.

They’re part of the national ‘Move To Amend Rally’ taking place at courthouses across the nation today and this weekend. Cindy Karns of Eagle River helped organize the Anchorage event. She says the protest marks the second anniversary of the Citizens United Supreme Court Decision.

“Citizens United was a court case, a supreme court case ruling two years ago tomorrow that citizens –  that corporations are people and money is speech, so now the corporations can make superpacks and spend as much money as they want on elections…94 percent of the time the person with the most money wins the election,” Karns said.

Karns says they want an amendment to the Constitution to limit the influence of corporations on politics. The protesters say they were inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Advisory Council Addresses Anterless Moose Hunts

Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks

The contentious issue of antlerless moose hunts drew a large crowd to a Fairbanks Fish and Game Advisory Committee meeting Thursday night.  The committee has to decide whether or not to recommend the reauthorization of antlerless hunts in two game management areas surrounding Fairbanks.  Fish and Game uses the hunts to manage the moose population and to prevent habitat damage.

Obama Appoints Alaskan to National Tourism Advisory Board

Daysha Eaton, KSKA – Anchorage

President Obama has appointed an *Alaskan to an advisory board for U.S. Travel and Tourism. He chose the CEO of Alaska Wildland Adventures. The appointment is part of a push to boost the tourism economy.

President Obama appointed Alaska Wildland Adventures CEO Kirk Hoessle to the national visitor industry advisory board this week, at the recommendation of Senator Mark Begich. Hoessle runs the Girdwood-based adventure travel company. He says he hopes to bring an Alaskan voice to the table.

“I felt a little bit outta place at first cause we’re such a tiny company. I knew that there are…were leaders of some very large companies that were usually involved with this sort of thing, but it was very encouraging. It appears that the secretary of commerce went out of his way to make sure that there were lots of viewpoints represented,” Hoessle said.

Hoessle’s is one of 32 people appointed to the board. The president is calling on the advisory board to help boost the U.S. tourism economy. His goal is job creation. Hoessle says, after years of developing a tourism business in Alaska that takes the environment into account, he hopes to share what he’s learned.

“One of the things that has always been a priority for us is for us to operate in a low impact manor, in a sustainable manor. As more and more people are conscious of choices they make in their lifestyle — trying to conserve energy, trying to have a lighter footprint on the earth … research is showing that more and people are setting out to purchase vacation services that leave a lighter footprint and I think that a lot of the concepts, a lot of the lessons learned over the years in Alaska we can share with our colleagues across the states,” Hoessle said.

Alaska’s Travel and tourism industry is driving more than $2 billion in spending annually and employing in excess of 40,000 people. It’s doing better than the Lower 48’s. But Hoessle says there are still challenges.

“Alaska’s a long distance destination for most people, therefore it can be expensive to get here, it takes more time. That’s why we had the downturns in travel and tourism after the events of September 11th – that’s why we had the downturn after 2008, 2009 – the recession. And while we have seen some growth we’re still on our way back as an industry,” Hoessle said.

Hoessle says one bright spot in his business over the past few years has been an increase in international visitors. Hoessle says making it easier for foreigners to visit the U.S. and bring their dollars here is something President Obama touched on when he addressed the Advisory Board.

“International travel is very important to Alaska, it’s a growing area. We’re seeing growth in countries where we really haven’t been able to do any marketing such as Brazil and India and Israel. I mean people are coming anyway and if we can help nurture these markets it’s going to benefit Alaska and all of the United States,” Hoessle said.

The advisory board had their first board meeting this week in Orlando. Hoessle attended and says they discussed an array of issues, of particular interest was an update on ongoing efforts by the federal government to streamline the tourist visa process.

“As I understand it, more and more employees are being added to facilitate that training on processing and streamlining the whole visa process is something that’s in the works right now which could be a very good thing — more and more travelers, especially from some of these emerging markets such as Brazil and China,” Hoessle said.

And Hoessle says he hopes he’ll be seeing more and more visitors to Alaska from Brazil and China by the time the upcoming tourism season rolls around again in April, that’s right around the same time he’ll meet again with the national visitor industry advisory board again in Los Angeles.

AK: Finding Inspiration In Alaska

Lori Neufeld, APRN Contributor

Singer, songwriter Jeff Kanzler first came to Alaska a decade ago to visit a lovely Alaskan girl. They didn’t end up together, but he still considers her to be something of his angel in life for introducing him to the Last Frontier. A few years back, Jeff moved to Vashon Island near Seattle to be close to family but a recent Alaska tour had him reminiscing about what inspired some songs he wrote. He told Lori Neufeld about the tune “Angel” which was written during an early adventure in Interior Alaska. He was living and working at a remote tourist destination at the very end of the Denali Park Road.

300 Villages: Tok

This week, we visit Tok, on the Alaska Highway, to find out just what folks there do during the deep freeze of winter, while we delve into the mystery of how Tok got its name. John  Rusyniak in Tok took a few minutes to talk with us.