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Alaska Editorials

August 8, 2018

Here is a sampling of Alaska editorials:

Aug. 4, 2018

Ketchikan Daily News: Time for a law

The Roadless Rule, which prohibited road building and timber harvest on nearly 60 million acres of roadless areas in the national forest system, is a good example of a bad executive order.

It’s resulted in about 20 years of discord, with lawsuits and court costs into the millions of dollars. It has cost Alaska and its communities the opportunities that come with accessing natural resources and building an economy.

But that might be about to change. While the Roadless Rule was accepted and welcomed in some states, it was anything but in Alaska, particularly when it came to the Tongass National Forest. It also pertained to the Chugach National Forest.

Congressman Don Young, perhaps Alaska’s most passionate congressional member, has done a yeoman’s job of attaching an amendment that would exempt Alaska from the Roadless Rule to the House version of the Farm Bill. That bill has moved from the House to the Senate where Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan will do the heavy lifting.

Discussions that led to the 2001 Clinton-era Roadless Rule started about 1998. Bill Clinton established the rule as an executive order at the conclusion of his presidency. It was entered into the Federal Register a couple weeks before former President George W. Bush entered office.

Bush immediately delayed implementation of the Roadless Rule. But after consideration, his administration decided to allow the rule and amend it later.

The Roadless Rule brought litigation from multiple states. Some favored it and fought for it to stand. Others, like Alaska, fought against it.

The Bush Administration decided to exempt Alaska from the Roadless Rule in 2003. It wanted to give states authority to determine whether to adopt the rule. That same year a federal court in Wyoming determined the rule to be illegal and issued an injunction.

The Roadless Rule was reinstated by the federal court system in 2006.

Meanwhile, the Tongass Land Management Plan was being discussed, and it was released in 2008.

By then former President Barack Obama was in the White House. His administration started to review all plans for building roads and for timber harvest in roadless areas. The administration didn’t interfere with previously planned timber sales and, such as it was, Alaska had a reprieve until 2011 when an Alaska District Court vacated the Tongass exemption and reinstated the Roadless Rule.

Alaska challenged the District Court’s vacation. In 2013, a Washington, D.C. District Court ended Alaska’s case and ruled that no further challenges to the rule would be allowed due to the statute of limitations.

But, once again, another court intervened. This time in 2014, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals — three members — reversed the Alaska District Court and exempted the Tongass from the Roadless Rule. But before year’s end the 9th Circuit agreed to rehear the case of the Tongass exemption and its larger contingent ruled in 2015 that the exemption was illegal.

Yet again another court weighed in. In 2017, the District of Columbia court’s ruling regarding statute of limitations was overruled on appeal.

This week the U.S. Forest Service and the State of Alaska announced they would create an “Alaska state-specific” roadless rule over the next 18-24 months.

But the ultimate goal is to enshrine the Alaska exemption into law, which is what Congressman Young has been attempting, and with success when it concerns the House. The Senate’s concurrence might be difficult to achieve, but it is imperative for the future of communities in and around the Tongass and Chugach national forests.

The Roadless Rule isn’t a one-size-fits-all way of doing business. It’s one way for some states. It’s completely inappropriate for others; Alaska is one of the latter.

The Roadless Rule exemption for Alaska should be settled once and for all — and to end the discord and expenditures in time and money — by becoming law.


Aug. 5, 2018

Anchorage Daily News: Setting the bar on homelessness

1,100. That’s the approximate number of people experiencing homelessness in Anchorage today, according to Mayor Ethan Berkowitz and members of the municipal government. On the one hand, that’s not many: It’s barely one of every 300 residents, about one-third of 1 percent of the population. On the other, it’s a great many: enough to pack the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Wendy Williamson Auditorium to capacity and still have 200 waiting outside. But whether you see it as many or few, that’s where we are today. And as anyone who has ever been lost can tell you, knowing where you are is a very important step toward getting where you want to go.

Make no mistake, the path out of the woods on the issue of homelessness is likely to be a winding one. If there were a single easy answer to reducing the number of people without homes in Anchorage, we would have found it long before now. But just because a problem is hard doesn’t excuse us from working to solve it. To his credit, Mayor Berkowitz and his administration have recognized the importance of this issue and made it a major focus. For the past several years, they say, the number of people experiencing homelessness here has been flat, hovering at or around that 1,100 number. It’s hard to call that progress in a positive direction, but it’s also important to recognize that our city and state have been in the throes of a serious recession that threatened to sunder our economy. Under some conditions, it’s hard to do better than tread water.

Now, however, economists are forecasting an end to Anchorage’s recession early next year. The state’s fiscal picture is beginning to look less dismal with the budget gap considerably reduced, and the price of oil is back up to about $75 per barrel. A rosier economic outlook and a strong focus on the issue by the municipality mean we’re at a point where we can begin to expect actual reductions in Anchorage’s homeless population, and the next months and years will prove instrumental in telling if we’re on our way out of the woods or heading in the wrong direction.

When it comes to addressing the issue, we all have roles to play. The municipality has outlined its plan of action: Clear illegal camps in public areas more systematically, expand availability of housing for those in need and move forward on solutions to address unmet behavioral and mental health needs. “There is a crushing imperative for us to be functional and get things done,” Mayor Berkowitz said in a meeting with the Anchorage Daily News July 30, citing his frustration with funding cutbacks to Alaska’s mental health services. He says the municipality is exploring partnerships and new financial avenues such as social impact bonds to expand services to combat homelessness.

As a news outlet, we have a responsibility, too. Ours is to illustrate the dimension of Anchorage’s homelessness issues, and to hold our leaders accountable for finding solutions. As Mayor Berkowitz and his administration work to chart a course out of the wilderness, we’ll report fairly on the success or failure of those efforts.

And as residents of Anchorage, we all have individual roles to play. It’s important for all of us to keep in mind that while Anchorage residents experiencing homelessness may not have a roof overhead, they have the same essential dignity and are owed the same respect as everyone who lives here. We should do what we can, individually, to support the organizations such as the Food Bank of Alaska that serve those in need. Donations to such groups may not offer the same instant gratification of soothing the conscience achieved by giving a dollar to a person on the corner holding a sign, but they can stretch that dollar further and serve people in need more effectively.

So 1,100 is the number to watch. Achieving zero homelessness isn’t realistic, but it’s not unreasonable to expect that number to start ticking downward as we move forward with initiatives to combat homelessness. Although it’s a big number (depending on your perspective), we’re a big state. We have the tools to find our way out of the woods together.


Aug. 7, 2018

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Keep invasive ticks out of Alaska

Invasive ticks are hitchhiking to Alaska, and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game does not want them here. Neither should you.

These bloodsucking arachnids can spread a variety of diseases, including Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever to humans and animals.

There is only one tick species native to Alaska. That’s fine. It can really only latch on to hares and squirrels and should not warrant any concern. It is the invasive ticks, such as the American dog tick, the brown dog tick and the Rocky Mountain wood tick — all of which have been found on dogs in Alaska — that we should worry about.

This makes it crucial to encourage our friends and family who visit with pets to give their dog a tick treatment — a type of shampoo that repels the parasites — before coming to Alaska. You may also want to consider getting your own dog a tick treatment in case it comes across one of these parasites in the wild.

We do not want ticks infesting our moose in Alaska either.

Fish and Game officials are most worried about the deadly moose winter tick. Scientists have documented how this species of ticks is killing moose in Maine. Winter moose ticks can infest a moose — numbering in the tens of thousands — until the moose takes on a pallid, white appearance, which is why they have been dubbed “ghost moose.” A moose becomes a ghost moose as it scratches its itching tick bites against trees to the point that the moose’s hair is scrubbed away, leaving large bald patches. As the tick infestation increases, so does the blood sucking. To exacerbate the situation, the moose spends too much time itching its tick bites and not enough time foraging for food. Blood loss, heat loss and decreased foraging time is a combination that leads to the ghost moose’s eventual death.

The Department of Fish and Game is asking that people bring ticks to local Fish and Game biologist for further studies. Whether the tick was pulled from your body, your dogs, or the game you’ve hunted, Fish and Game wants to know what types of ticks are out there. The ticks can be brought in alive, frozen or preserved in alcohol, while also being put in a tightly sealed container.

Ticks can make people, dogs, livestock and wildlife sick. It’s time to be on the lookout for ticks in Alaska and take preventative measures. If you do find ticks, notify a Fish and Game biologist by emailing dfg.dwc.vet@alaska.gov.

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