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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska
July 25, 2018

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National: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries Seek Public Input on Proposed Endangered Species Act Reform - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries are proposing revisions to certain Endangered Species Act (ESA) regulations to ensure clarity and consistency. According to a news release, the changes incorporate public input, best science and best practices to improve reliability, regulatory efficiency and environmental stewardship.

“The Trump Administration is dedicated to being a good neighbor and being a better partner with the communities in which we operate. One thing we heard over and over again was that ESA implementation was not consistent and often times very confusing to navigate. We are proposing these improvements to produce the best conservation results for the species while reducing the regulatory burden on the American people,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Principal Deputy Director Greg Sheehan. “We value public input and have already incorporated initial public comments we received in response to our notices of intent published in 2017. We encourage the public to provide us additional feedback to help us finalize these rules.”

“We work to ensure effective conservation measures to recover our most imperiled species,” said Chris Oliver, NOAA Assistant Administrator for Fisheries. “The changes being proposed today are designed to bring additional clarity and consistency to the implementation of the act across our agencies, and we look forward to additional feedback from the public as part of this process.”

Several proposed changes relate to section 4 of the ESA, which deals with procedures for listing species, recovery and designating critical habitat (areas essential to support the conservation of a species). First, the agencies propose to revise the procedures for designating critical habitat by reinstating the requirement that they will first evaluate areas currently occupied by the species before considering unoccupied areas. Second, the agencies propose to clarify when they may determine unoccupied areas are essential to the conservation of the species.

While the agencies recognize the value of critical habitat as a conservation tool, in some cases, designation of critical habitat is not prudent. Accordingly, they are proposing a non-exhaustive list of circumstances where they may find that designation for a particular species would not be prudent. The agencies anticipate that such not-prudent determinations will continue to be rare and expect to designate critical habitat in most cases. - More...
Wednesday PM - July 25, 2018

National: Study finds most Americans support Endangered Species Act; Political and business interests don't appear to align with public's view - Just about any news story about the Endangered Species Act includes a prominent mention of the controversy around the 45-year-old law.

But when you ask ordinary Americans about the act they're mostly supportive, according to survey data reported in a new study led by Jeremy Bruskotter of The Ohio State University.

Roughly four out of five Americans support the act, and only one in 10 oppose it, found a survey of 1,287 Americans. Support has remained stable for the past two decades, the researchers report in the journal Conservation Letters

"Every time the ESA is in the news, you hear about how controversial it is. But the three most recent studies show that, on average, approximately 83 percent of the public supports it, and that's sort of the opposite of controversial," Bruskotter said.

Survey respondents who identified with a range of eight interest groups - including hunters and property-rights advocates - were all at least 68 percent supportive, the study found. And support was consistent throughout various regions of the United States.

About 74 percent of conservatives, 77 percent of moderates and 90 percent of liberals said they supported the act. 

The highest percentage of active opposition to the act was found in the property rights advocates group - 21 percent said they're against it.

Bruskotter, an associate professor of environment and natural resources and a conservation policy expert, said he suspected the public's impression of the Endangered Species Act might not align with the perspective of business and political interests debating its future and seeking to roll back its reach. - More...
Wednesday PM - July 25, 2018


Diverse salmon populations enable ‘resource surfing’ bears to eat tons of fish - Research shows that Kodiak brown bears that sync their stream-to-stream movements to salmon spawning patterns eat longer and more than bears that don't, with one bear in the study consuming greater than 2 tons of fish in one summer.

Alaskan Brown Bear
Photo courtesy Oregon State University

Individual sockeye salmon populations spawn for about 40 days, but "resource surfing" bears can fish for three times that long, biologists have learned.

Worldwide, prolonged salmon availability is increasingly under threat from hatchery supplementation that tends to reduce the genetic diversity underpinning different spawning times. In addition, bears' ability to follow salmon waves is hampered by industrial development such as mining.

Findings were just published in Scientific Reports.

"This study is the first to link actual metrics of bear consumption to their foraging behavior and movements," said co-author Jonathan Armstrong, assistant professor of fisheries and wildlife in the Oregon State University College of Agricultural Sciences.

Armstrong collaborated with corresponding author Will Deacy and scientists from the University of Montana, Washington State University and the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge to collar 33 female bears and track them for a year over a 1-million-square-kilometer portion of Kodiak Island.

At the end of those 12 months, the team recaptured 18 of the bears and took hair samples that they measured for mercury. Salmon absorb mercury from what they eat in the ocean, and the amount of mercury in a bear's hair indicates how much fish it dined on - the more mercury, the more salmon it ate.

"Salmon consumption ranged from around 300 kilograms for one bear up to almost 2,000 kilograms for the biggest salmon eater," said Deacy, a postdoctoral scholar at OSU. "This study complements our other research to show how bears depend on diverse salmon populations." - More...
Wednesday PM - July 25, 2018


Alaska Science: Parting a sea of Fortymile caribou By NED ROZELL - Floating down the Fortymile River, we heard the roar of a rapid just ahead. At the same time, we noticed the caribou, about 50 of them, clustered on a cliffside near the water.

It was too late to pull over. I aimed the canoe for the bumps of frothing brown water. As we plunged in, six antlered heads bobbed single-file in front of us. Caribou were swimming across the river at the pinch point.

My neighbor, 8-year-old Nora Carlson, watched from the bow of the canoe as we parted the sea of caribou. As we splashed through, three caribou swam on toward the far bank. Three others saw the red canoe and U-turned back to the rocks from which they had stepped into the water. Nora could have combed the coarse hair of their backs with her paddle.

A few seconds later, we were past the splashy water, and the caribou. We spun into a river eddy and turned to watch the two other boats in our party slip past.

The adult caribou were shedding their hollow winter hair, leaving a dark circle over their vital zones that resembled a target. The calves, born a few weeks ago, were the size of large dogs. Like the adults, the new caribou were good swimmers.

The Fortymile, one of Alaska’s 31 herds of caribou living from the Canada border west to Adak Island, is at a modern high number of about 71,400 animals, according to a July 2017 count by biologists for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. When we encountered the creatures in mid-July 2018, they were grouped up, which is typical behavior a few weeks after cows give birth.

We were fortunate to be in the thick of them. Before dodging gray/black bodies in the rapid, we named a campsite on a forested lobe of land Caribou Crossing. Just downstream, after sniffing the air, caribou swam across in singles, tens and twenties. They shook off water at the far bank. We saw them whenever we pointed the binoculars that way. The parade continued for 10 hours.

Those moments made me think of the incredible expanse of intact tundra hills, forested valleys and graveled river bottoms that enable the presence of such a large gathering of big wild creatures. It is a rare experience, even in Alaska, where caribou outnumber people. - More...
Wednesday PM - July 25, 2018


jpg Tom Purcell

TOM PURCELL: Wearing Out Longevity's Welcome - Boy, are Americans getting old.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median age - the age at which half of the population is older and half is younger - hit an all-time high of 38.0 in 2017.

Why is it rising? Because our massive baby-boom generation continues to go geezer, while young moms and dads are having way fewer kids than American parents used to.

What's more interesting is that the number of Americans who were 100 years or older also hit a record in 2017 - a number that is poised to explode. 

According to the World Future Society, we are in the early phases of a superlongevity revolution. Thanks to advances in nanotechnology and cell and gene manipulation, scientists may eventually learn how to keep humans alive for 120 to 500 years.

Though it's great that Americans are living longer, I'm not sure I'd ever want to live THAT long.

Look, I'm 56, a tail-end baby boomer. If I was confident I'd be vibrant and healthy for another 44 years, I might finally get around to marrying and starting a family! 

My parents are of the silent generation. They're in in their 80s. I'd love for them to live well beyond 100, so that I can enjoy their company at Sunday dinners for another 20 years or more. 

But there are downsides to living so long. - More...
Wednesday PM - July 25, 2018

jpg Danny Tyree

DANNY TYREE: Nonverbal cues ain't what they used to be. - Once upon a time (unless you were Mr. Oblivious), a little common sense would tell you that a yawning, wristwatch-obsessed listener was bored or that a jittery teenager had probably been caught red-handed at something. 

Back in my factory days, we amateurs could even surmise that one co-worker had a casual attitude about authority when he would plop his manure-caked boots on the desk while chatting with his brother-in-law the supervisor. 

Not so in 2018. Now the world revolves around a cottage industry of "body language experts" ("earning" an average salary of $65,000 a year, according to the Indeed job site) who pontificate about every handshake, neck tilt, nose scratch and extra inch of stance width. 

I suppose there is a legitimate need for thoughtful examination of nonverbal cues when a police detective is struggling to establish the veracity of a murder witness or when the board of directors must choose the absolute best candidate for CEO; but so much of the body language expert business nowadays is keyed toward titillation of couch potatoes who, ironically, display no, well, BODY MOVEMENT.

Too many body language experts prostitute themselves by embarrassing movie stars who are on a goodwill tour to salvage their marriage, or by fueling some partisan political agenda. ("See? While he's 'absent-mindedly' drumming his fingertips, the index finger is definitely giving a Nazi salute and the other fingers are goose-stepping right along!") 

We used to aspire to the maxim "Don't judge a man until you've walked a mile in his moccasins." Now it's "Don't reveal your estimation of a man's character to millions of Americans until you've glanced at his 8x10 glossies as you hop a plane to appear on 'Ellen.'" - More...
Wednesday PM - July 25, 2018

jpg Political Cartoon: Endangered Species Act

Political Cartoon: Endangered Species Act
Adam Zyglis, The Buffalo News, NY
Distributed to paid subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.


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jpg Letter / Opinion

Open Letter: Announcement By Austin Otos - To the residents of the Ketchikan Gateway Borough, Throughout my years as a borough resident, I have seen our island based-community exponentially grow into a flourishing travel destination for tourists and a stable home base for long-term residents. The unique environment our town provides - such as a sense of community - creates local residents who are committed and engaged in the betterment of our neighborhoods, schools, and fellow citizens. This tight-knit social fabric has had a significant impact on my life upbringing by investing my personal time in community service. Since pursing higher education and re-planting my roots back in Ketchikan, I’ve recognized areas our community could focus and build upon, thus creating a stable community-based environment. Economic and social cohesion are the building blocks of a society in which our local government should invest in, attracting entrepreneurship and providing a safe environment for local residents to prosper. Economic development is the backbone of any community; it fosters long-term employment and a healthy local business environment. I believe it’s the duty of our local Borough to facilitate private-public partnerships that establish new jobs for residents and attract locally-based business opportunities. By investing in tourism, seafood, forestry products, healthcare, shipyard expansion, and nonprofit organizations, we can spur long-term economic growth for local residents. - More...
Wednesday PM - July 25, 2018

jpg Letter / Opinion

Simple Answers By Ghert Abbott - Contrary to what Alaska’s officials and legislators have told us, the solution to our current fiscal crisis is relatively simple and straightforward. All we need to do is reestablish the 1975 progressive income tax and end the tax deduction currently being given to each barrel of oil. The income tax would bring in a median return of $1.25 billion, while the increase in oil taxes would have a yearly return of between 900 million and 1.1 billion. These two measures, taken together, would supply enough revenue to largely fill in our state’s budget deficit.

There would consequently be no need for the state to confiscate money from your Permanent Fund Dividends, the most regressive and unfair system imaginable. There would be no need to for the state to draw money from the Permanent Fund’s Earnings Reserve, which is both freezing and endangering the long term value of the Fund. And there would be no need for the state to make further destructive cuts to essential public services and vital infrastructure: education, healthcare, policing, roads, and the marine highway system. Should the price of oil return to the point where the state government could be fully paid for with oil tax revenue, the income tax could be refunded. - More...
Wednesday PM - July 25, 2018

jpg Letter / Opinion

The Mind Reels By Winslow Myers - I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest." — Winston Churchill

Equally enigmatic is how Mr. Trump went about representing the national interest of the United States at Helsinki. Until Mr. Mueller is ready to provide possible clarification, the fog around the president’s motivation persists: narcissistic ineptitude almost surely; perhaps also kompromat, collusion, and/or fear of money laundering becoming exposed.

All the confusion provides an object lesson in the plasticity of enemy-imaging. As someone old enough to remember the lame British-American interference in Iran in the fifties, the hysteria of McCarthyism, Hoover’s clandestine harassment of Martin Luther King Jr., and far greater debacles like the wanton destruction of Vietnam and Cambodia, I persist in my skepticism concerning the degree of competence we can expect from the bureaucrats and generals to whom we reluctantly entrust our safety.  - More...
Wednesday PM - July 25, 2018

jpg Letter / Opinion

Trump Is A Security Threat By Donald Moskowitz - Trump is a threat to our security because he continues to befriend Putin, who is an adversary of the U.S. and the Western world; and Trump continues to condemn our intelligence agencies.

Trump refuses to condemn Russia for interfering in the 2016 election, and he demeans Special Counsel Mueller, while trying to weaken the investigation into possible Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. Trump fired FBI Director Comey and had Attorney General Sessions fire Deputy Director McCabe. They were heavily involved investigating the Russian interference in the election. - More...
Wednesday PM - July 25, 2018

jpg Letter / Opinion

Reelect Governor Bill Walker By Gil Stokes - The 1st Alaskan Combat Intelligence Platoon was assembled to defend Alaska during WWII. The members of this platoon gave themselves the name “Cutthroats” as a nod to the special freedoms the military granted them in their operations. Fisherman, trappers, and hunters; these men were chosen because they had demonstrated an ability to survive and thrive in the harshest situations, to dig in amidst the heaviest storms. In times of peril, they could be counted on to run towards the fire. - More...
Friday PM - July 20, 2018

jpg Letter / Opinion

The Three Components of the PFD Tax By Ghert Abbott - The PFD tax that the state government has imposed on Alaskans is composed of three components. The first is the $1,000 dollar head tax that is taken directly out your Dividend. This is a quintessentially regressive tax – working and middle class people pay a far greater portion of their total income to the state then the rich, who pay practically nothing. This is perhaps the worst system of revenue the state could have devised and enacted. It penalizes families, taxing them higher then single individuals. It hurts young people trying to make a start and save for their future. It burdens retirees trying to live on a fixed income. Its regressiveness also discriminates against small, rural communities, such as Ketchikan, where the cost of living is higher. This results in wealth, population, and power further being concentrated in Anchorage and the rail-belt.- More...
Tuesday PM - July 17, 2018

jpg Letter / Opinion

Dunleavy for Governor By Jim Minnery - The 2018 race for Governor could be the most consequential state election in Alaska’s history.  The gravity of Alaska’s problems helps explain why—an economic recession, skyrocketing crime, and a state government that is in a perpetual budget crisis.  - More...
Tuesday PM - July 17, 2018

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