A dark view of geopolitics in the Arctic

first_imgArctic | GovernmentA dark view of geopolitics in the ArcticJune 29, 2015 by Liz Ruskin, APRN-Washington Share:Irvin Studin. (Photo by Liz Ruskin/APRN)World leaders, including Russia’s Vladimir Putin, have talked of the Arctic as a zone of peace and co-operation. But continued tranquility is just one forecast for the region. A much darker scenario came Monday from a Canadian policy scholar who is also a professor at the University of Toronto and Russia’s Academy of National Economy and Public Administration.Irvin Studin says competing claims for Arctic resources are inevitable but those conflicts are unlikely to erupt any time soon. In a discussion at the Wilson Center, a Washington, D.C. think tank, Studin said he sees a much closer path to conflict in the Arctic, and it starts with Russia, in Europe.“Near term, and this is my primary message today: Escalation of fighting in Ukraine, or the collapse of Ukraine, or an accident or misread by the West, or the East, or between Russia and Ukraine, might have consequences through the Arctic as a thoroughfare,” he said.These “consequences” he speaks of are dire.“The Russians would bomb through the Arctic,” he said. “The rockets would go through the Arctic. I don’t think we’re talking infantry in the first instance. I think these are highly reachable targets for Russian interests.”Studin says Russians are well aware of the prospect while the U.S., in his view, is oblivious. He says the Ukraine problem can be solved, with neutral peacekeepers and a commitment that Ukraine must never join NATO. But, he warns, the solution has to come in the next six months.On the Arctic Council, international co-operation remains the operating principal, and Russia is still, by most accounts, working well with the U.S. Coast Guard. Studin says Moscow can strictly adhere to agreements, to what he calls “transactional” co-operation in the Arctic. The professor, though, says that’s just a veneer on Russia’s solid wall of strategic distrust.“So this can only last so long if the underlying game is incredible,” he said.Looking ahead, Studin says the government in Russia will change one day, and he cautions the U.S. to stay out of it.“It is in everybody’s interest that Russia remain stable and that there is a happy succession,” he said. “And let me repeat to my American friends: there is no necessary condition for this succession, in being happy, to be democratic and in our image, as it were. It just needs to be a stable, happy transition.”A troubled transition could create a power vacuum, he says, which would be bad for the Arctic and the rest of the world.“Any collapse of Russia, which is not unthinkable this century, is a hellish proposition,” he said. “It is a century long problem.”Retired diplomat Kenneth Yalowitz, another participant at the forum, doesn’t see the same conflict points that Studin does. But after hearing the analysis, Yalowitz sounded a bit tenuous in his optimism.“You’ve given a lot of reasons why this may not be the case, but my hope is that the very obvious and self-evident reasons for cooperation in the Arctic can have a spillover effect into other areas,” he said.In the back of the auditorium sat two top-ranking Arctic officials in the State Department: Admiral Robert Papp, the special Arctic representative, and Deputy Assistant Secretary David Balton. Papp called Studin’s perspective a “fascinating alternate view.”“To get someone who has an inside view of what the Russians are thinking is very helpful to us, and that’s why we attended today,” Papp said.Papp says for him, it reinforces the need for open communications with the Russians.Share this story:last_img read more

Bristol Bay revealed as Blob hotspot

first_imgClimate Change | Environment | Fisheries | Science & TechBristol Bay revealed as Blob hotspotJanuary 22, 2016 by Matt Miller, KTOO Share:A new animation shows how a mass of warm water in the northeast Pacific waxes in the summer and wanes in the winter.“Most of what we look at is monthly summaries, and it seemed interesting to do it on a daily time scale to see how dynamic its features were, and how they developed and moved over time,” says Tom Wainwright, research fisheries biologist at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Newport Research Station in Oregon.Video Playerhttps://media.ktoo.org/2016/01/TheBlob.mp400:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.To produce the visualization, Wainwright used two years of sea surface temperature data gathered by ships, buoys and satellites to show movement or changes in the strength of The Blob. In places where there were no surface measurements or where cloud cover obscured the ocean, Wainwright said the blended data set interpolated temperatures over time or an area.Wainwright said a big surprise is the mass of warm water that appeared in Bristol Bay and eastern Bering Sea during the summer of 2014.“It seemed The Blob spread across the Aleutian (Islands and Alaska) Peninsula and Bristol Bay,” Wainwright said. “Since I work down in Oregon and Washington, I hadn’t really looked at that before. I don’t know how it’s affecting Bristol Bay fisheries.”Wainwright said he primarily produces short-term salmon forecasts for fisheries managers and long-term modeling for endangered species listings. Salmon are a cold water species that can be stressed when summer temperatures are higher than normal.“Any periods of warm temperature – at least for the stocks down here – seem to reduce the productivity of salmon,” Wainwright said. “They get very high growth rates when temperatures are warm, but their survival isn’t as good.”Scientists are meeting this week in Seattle to discuss the effects of The Blob which may have dissipatedShare this story:last_img read more

Walrus hauling out at new Bristol Bay spot north of Ugashik

first_imgSouthwest | WildlifeWalrus hauling out at new Bristol Bay spot north of UgashikMay 8, 2016 by Dave Bendinger, KDLG Share:A large number of Pacific walrus have been spotted hauling out at a new spot in Bristol Bay.This spring, pilots and residents who fly frequently over the Alaska Peninsula coast north of Ugashik started noticing walrus hauled out a spot called Cape Grieg. The Fish and Wildlife Service was made aware, and though that spot is not on refuge lands, the Alaska Peninsula and Becharof Refuge staff took on the task of looking into it. Manager Susan Alexander was aboard flights last month that verified what residents were saying.“We have, since early April, seen concentrations of walrus hauled out at Cape Grieg, which as far as we know is a new haulout location for them,” she said Thursday. “They seem to be coming and going; we’ve seen as many as 2000 and as few as zero.”Those numbers have led the Fish and Wildlife Service to wonder if Cape Grieg is a temporary spot or something more permanent. Walrus also seem to have arrived at their Bering Sea haul outs early this year. In the spring and summer, the females and younger walruses follow the ice break up into the Chukchi Sea. It’s the big males distribute along the other main Bering Sea haulouts in Bristol Bay: Cape Seniavin further southwest on the Peninsula; capes Pierce and Newenham along the northwest coast; and of course the famous spots in the Walrus Island Sanctuary like Round Island.“You know, Round Island has been kind of declining for the last several years,” said Jim McCracken, a USFWS supervisory wildlife biologist. “I guess one of the leading thoughts there might be that they’ve been there a long time, and they’ve probably started to deplete the food that’s within range of their swimming and resting capacity. So maybe they’re looking for other places.”While US Fish and Wildlife Service is interested in the walrus behavior, there’s another reason why staff are monitoring this spot.“The chief concern is that walruses are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which makes disturbance of hauled-out walrus illegal,” said Alexander. “So we’re concerned that we need to keep an eye on these guys.”Cape Grieg is located between Ugashik and Egegik, which is a busy transit spot for marine vessels during the Bristol Bay salmon season. It’s also along common air routes. Planes flying too low and vessels traveling too close can disturb the animals, and even lead to dangerous stampedes.Share this story:last_img read more

House Resouces hears from United Tribes of Bristol Bay about Pebble

first_imgEnergy & Mining | Southwest | State GovernmentHouse Resouces hears from United Tribes of Bristol Bay about PebbleFebruary 28, 2017 by Dave Bendinger, KDLG-Dillingham Share:The proposed Pebble Mine site looking northwest. (Photo by Jason Sear/ KDLG)The United Tribes of Bristol Bay was invited to testify Monday before the Alaska House Resources Committee in Juneau.At issue was United Tribes’ allegation that Pebble has left a mess from exploration work at their mining claims northwest of Iliamna.Audio Playerhttps://cpa.ds.npr.org/kdlg/audio/2017/02/utbb_at_house_resources_pkg.mp300:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Anchorage Democrat Andy Josephson invited UTBB to share findings of their 2016 report to the committee members.Josephson has been leading the charge against Pebble in the state Legislature, and now has a bigger voice as co-chair of House Resources.“This is one of the most significant environmental issues of my lifetime, fifty-two year resident of the state of Alaska,” he said. “Critically important to the state, very divisive issue, strikes me as mandatory that we would have a hearing like this.”Last summer geophysicist David Chambers was contracted by United Tribes to conduct on the ground surveys of 107 of more than 1,300 test holes dug on the Pebble claims.Chambers summed up the problems he identified into four general groups.“First of all, we found that 17 sites that we looked at had acidic soils, that’s the sort of orange colored soil,” Chambers said, using a slideshow presentation to highlight the visuals from the fieldwork. “We also found artesian drill holes … and at those holes we found that there were elevated levels of sulfate, copper, and other heavy metals in the water.”“We also found a few locations with petroleum contamination which we documented in the laboratory,” he said.The last problem he documented was that some metal well casings still stand above the surface, posing a potential hazard to winter travelers.The sites were not randomly chosen, said Chambers, but were picked based on issues documented during prior inspections.United Tribes of Bristol Bay executive director Alannah Hurley told the House Resources Committee that Pebble’s exploration activities have already impacted the ecosystem.“This report has verified the concerns of our people that they have held for the last decade,” Hurley said. “Our elders have noticed less fish in the upper river systems of the Nushagak and Kvichak Rivers.”“Our local hunters have seen our game pushed further and further away from their communities and normal patterns, due to exploration activities,” she said. “These concerns come from our people and our communities, who are seeing real impacts to our way of life.”The United Tribes report was filed as a public comment to the state’s Department of Natural Resources, which is reviewing a land use permit renewal request from Pebble.The tribal consortium asked that if DNR does renew the permit, it limit it to just one year, and require Pebble to provide a reclamation bond to cover clean-up costs in the event the company folds.The assertions against DNR’s oversight and Pebble’s stewardship were strong enough that several committee members asked why neither had been invited to testify themselves.It was “unfortunate” they didn’t get the chance, Pebble spokesman Mike Heatwole said.“We’ve said regarding the UTBB report that the allegations are demonstrably false … there’s a lot of problems with the report,” he said after the hearing. “We run a very compliant program that’s been subject to 55 separate state inspections over the course of our time out there, and we’ve repeatedly been found in compliance with the requirements for an exploration project such as ours.”DNR did delay renewing Pebble’s land use permit while it reviews the large number of public comments received.Pebble was granted a temporary extension through the end of March.The Pebble claims are being operated under “care and maintenance” status, but Pebble has raised some $37 million to continue exploration work, which could get back underway this summer after a three year hiatus.Josephson said House Resources may consider supporting UTBB’s requests that DNR add more stringent oversight of Pebble’s exploration and site reclamation.He said Monday’s hearing was mostly for informational purposes.United Tribes of Bristol Bay is a political advocacy group representing 14 area tribal councils. A contingent of its staff and board traveled to Juneau for the 30-minute presentation.Share this story:last_img read more

Hughes to replace Dunleavy on Senate Finance Committee

first_imgPolitics | Southcentral | State GovernmentHughes to replace Dunleavy on Senate Finance CommitteeApril 11, 2017 by Andrew Kitchenman, KTOO and Alaska Public Media Share:Majority Leader Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, Sen. Mike Dunleavy, R-Wasilla, and Sen. Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer, (left to right) talk during an at-ease on the Senate Floor, on April 6. Hughes is set to replace Dunleavy on the Senate Finance Committee. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)When Sen. Mike Dunleavy left the Senate majority last week, he knew it meant he would lose some of his official positions of power.The Wasilla Republican found out what the fallout is likely to be Tuesday.The Senate Committee on Committees recommended that he lose two committee seats. The Senate is likely to make the changes Wednesday.If the Senate approves, then Dunleavy would lose his seat on the powerful Senate Finance Committee, and his seat as chairman of the Senate State Affairs Committee.Palmer Republican Shelley Hughes would replace Dunleavy on Finance.And Anchorage Republican Kevin Meyer replaces Dunleavy as chairman of State Affairs.Kodiak Republican Gary Stevens would replace Hughes as the Education chair.Dunleavy would gain a seat on the Judiciary Committee.Dunleavy left the caucus in order to oppose the budget. He called for maintaining Permanent Fund dividends and making deeper budget cuts.Share this story:last_img read more

High school seniors take spotlight in Juneau elementary schools

first_imgCommunity | Juneau | Juneau Schools | SpiritHigh school seniors take spotlight in Juneau elementary schoolsMay 28, 2017 by Quinton Chandler, KTOO Share:Juneau-Douglas seniors walk through Harborview Elementary School on Friday. (Photo courtesy Juneau School District)The Juneau-Douglas High School seniors are eating a barbecue lunch after visiting Gastineau and Harborview Elementary schools this morning. The seniors donned their caps and gowns and took a victory lap through the schools. The walkthroughs are supposed to inspire the school district’s younger kids to graduate.Rena Nauer and Sierra Ezrre were eating lunch together but this morning they paraded through different schools. Nauer visited the kids at Gastineau.“They (were) excited and I went to school there so it was kind of cool getting to do it as a senior and going back,” Nauer said.She thinks the walk was a good idea because it was fun and it might have a positive impact on the younger kids.“It’s probably, like, cool getting to see the older kids, like, realizing that’s where you’re going to want to be when you’re older and be, like, ‘Oh my God, that’s going to be me soon,’” she said. “So maybe they’re just, like, looking forward to it.”Rena Nauer, left, and Sierra Ezzre in the Juneau-Douglas High School Commons on Friday. Photo by Quinton Chandler/KTOO)Sierra Ezzre visited Harborview – also her old school. She agrees with Nauer because she admired older kids when she was in elementary school.“Yeah, I definitely looked up to them. Like, I thought they were so cool when I was little,” Ezzre said. “So, for us to go do that, I think that’s really important to them because I feel like quite a few of them look up to us.”The girls just cut to the heart of the reason for this new tradition. JDHS Assistant Principal Kim McNamara said Juneau educators plan to keep doing this every year to make sure the younger kids remember what graduation looks like.“The Gastineau kids had their yearbooks ready, they were asking all of the seniors to sign their yearbooks,” McNamara said. “The Harborview kids were equally enthusiastic, lining the halls, giving high-fives, cheering. It was really inspiring.”Juneau schools first considered doing this last year after they learned other school districts were doing it in the Lower 48. They didn’t get a chance to do it in Juneau until now.Juneau-Douglas Assistant Principal Kim McNamara leads the school’s seniors to Harborview Elementary School on Friday. (Photo courtesy Juneau School District)McNamara said these walkthroughs were also meaningful for the seniors.“Especially the ones that went back to their elementary school,” she said. “It was really meaningful for them to walk through the halls, think back to their experiences as a younger child, and see some of their teachers and be able to connect with them again.”She said it was a chance for the seniors to reflect on where they came from as they take their final steps out of high school into their next chapter.The Juneau-Douglas seniors weren’t the only ones who held walkthroughs. Thunder Mountain High School seniors held a similar one at Riverbend Elementary School on Friday.JDHS, TMHS and Yaakoosge Daakahidi are all holding their graduation ceremonies Sunday.Share this story:last_img read more

Southeast salmon seiner forfeits boat for creek robbing

first_imgCrime & Courts | Fisheries | SoutheastSoutheast salmon seiner forfeits boat for creek robbingJanuary 19, 2018 by Joe Viechnicki, KFSK-Petersburg Share:A commercial salmon seine fisherman from Klawock has to forfeit his boat, his catch and pay a fine for fishing too close to a salmon stream and other charges.Curtiss Demmert, 32, was sentenced Jan. 10. He must pay a $32,728.79 fine and received 180 days of suspended jail time. He also has to forfeit to the state the Tlingit Lady, skiff, nets, fishing gear and electronics along with the money from that catch.Demmert was charged after Alaska Wildlife Troopers received a report Sept. 13 that the 58-foot wooden limit seiner Tlingit Lady was fishing in a closed area in the headwaters of a bay on Dall Island in southern Southeast Alaska.Troopers investigated and learned that the vessel had caught about 23,000 pounds of chum salmon about 65 miles into an area closed to fishing.The area called Coco Harbor has been closed to commercial fishing for almost 30 years, according to the Department of Law.The catch was sold to a tender and Demmert reported the catch came from a different area.Officers seized the Tlingit Lady, its net and seine skiff along with proceeds from the catch, totaling $17,728.79.Demmert pleaded guilty to charges of fishing during a closed period, fishing in closed waters, unlawful possession of fish and giving false information on a fish ticket.Assistant Attorney General Aaron Peterson prosecuted the case and argued that Demmert’s actions put a salmon run in peril.Share this story:last_img read more

Southeast lawmakers agree on need for fiscal plan but differ on components

first_imgEconomy | Juneau | Southeast | State GovernmentSoutheast lawmakers agree on need for fiscal plan but differ on componentsJanuary 24, 2018 by Andrew Kitchenman, KTOO and Alaska Public Media Share:Sen. Bert Stedman, R- Sitka, talks about the Alaska Permanent Fund in March 2017. Stedman has joined with the Senate majority in supporting a draw from the Alaska Permanent Fund without additional taxes. Southeast Alaska’s other lawmakers say the draw should be part of a complete, sustainable plan. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)Southeast Alaska legislators all agree that the state needs to draw from the Alaska Permanent Fund to keep state government running. They also agree that a draw is only part of a fiscal solution. It’s the other parts of that solution that they disagree over.Independent Rep. Dan Ortiz from Ketchikan sees the permanent fund as a major asset for the state.“You know,  that permanent fund is the best thing’s that happened in the history of our state in terms of government action, and it’s really important that we preserve that fund,” he said.Ortiz said he’s willing to use the funds to run the state government, but he doesn’t want lawmakers to open the door to an annual process of deciding how much to take from permanent fund earnings.“No, that’s not acceptable,” he said. “We can’t do that to the public.”Sitka Republican Sen. Bert Stedman said doing that would be too risky.“The ad-hoc draws are very deadly because 21 and 11 – 21 members of the House and 11 members of the Senate – could clean everything out except what’s constitutionally protected in the permanent fund,” he said.To solve that problem, Stedman proposed a constitutional amendment that would limit the size of a draw from the fund and protect permanent fund dividends.“You wouldn’t have the permanent fund to go to and just rob chunks out of,” he said. “The door would be closed, and the lock on it would have been spun and you wouldn’t have the combination.”For Stedman, this could be enough for this year. He doesn’t see the need to pass a broad-based tax now as part of the fiscal plan.Juneau Democratic Rep. Sam Kito III disagrees. He said he’ll resist passing a bill drawing from the Permanent Fund – like the Permanent Fund Protection Act — if it doesn’t include a broad-based tax. He said including a tax as part of a comprehensive plan would ensure the plan is sustainable, and that its effects on different groups is balanced.“I do think that it’s only a piece,” he said. “And I do have a concern that if we pass the Permanent Fund Protection Act without additional broad-based revenue that it will be virtually impossible to get broad-based revenue at any point in the future. And so, there needs to be some balance to the fiscal plan.”The nonpartisan Legislative Finance Division estimated that if the legislature only draws from the permanent fund without additional revenue, there will be a budget gap of more than $560 million.Sitka Democratic Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins said this is why he supports taxes as part of a comprehensive plan to balance the budget in the long run. He’s concerned that if the Legislature draws from fund earnings without a plan, it will continue to draw from earnings unpredictably in the future.“This is one of the reasons why we need to pass a fiscal plan, because you can’t live in La La Land and think you can balance the budget simply talking about government waste and cutting government when there’s really no practical way to cut government anywhere close to the amount needed to balance the budget,” he said.Different versions of plans to draw from the permanent fund are currently being considered by the Legislature, including Stedman’s constitutional amendment bill. Some include taxes. Some don’t.Emily Kwong in Sitka, Leila Kheiry in Ketchikan and Berett Wilber in Haines contributed to this report. It is part of a CoastAlaska series talking with Southeast lawmakers about the start of the legislative session.Share this story:last_img read more

Central Michigan University on lockdown after shooting at dorm kills 2

first_imgNation & World | NPR News | Public SafetyCentral Michigan University on lockdown after shooting at dorm kills 2March 2, 2018 by Laurel Wamsley, NPR Share:Police are looking for a gunman who killed two people in a shooting Friday morning on the campus of Central Michigan University.University police said the victims were shot at Campbell Hall, a co-ed dormitory. “The deceased are not students and police believe the situation started from a domestic situation,” the university tweeted. It said there are no additional injuries.The campus is on lockdown as the suspect is still at large, and is considered armed and dangerous. The university identified James Eric Davis, Jr., a black male approximately 19 years old, as the person of interest.The university is located in Mount Pleasant, a town of about 26,000 people about an hour north of Lansing.All of Isabella County’s schools are also on lockdown, according to the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun, which reports that state police have sent a tactical team and a helicopter to look for the suspect.Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder tweeted that he is in contact with state police as they learn more about the incident. “The priority right now is the safety of those still on campus and I thank all first responders involved for their swift action,” he wrote.Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.Share this story:last_img read more

George Schaaf tapped to lead Juneau parks department

first_imgJuneau | Local Government | OutdoorsGeorge Schaaf tapped to lead Juneau parks departmentMarch 7, 2018 by Jacob Resneck, KTOO Share: George Schaaf will take over the City and Borough of Juneau’s Parks and Recreation Department in May. (Photo courtesy CBJ) Juneau’s next Parks and Recreation Director will be George Schaaf. That’s according to a Wednesday release from the City and Borough of Juneau city manager’s office.The department oversees and maintains the city’s parks and recreation facilities. It has about 275 workers, many of them seasonal and part-time employees. His starting salary will be $123,345.60.Schaaf replaces Kirk Duncan who is retiring in May after more than decade with the city. He was hired to run the Eaglecrest Ski Area in 2004 and also led the public works department.George Schaaf previously held a city management job as the parks and landscape superintendent. He also worked as director of the nonprofit Trail Mix. He currently works as a regional regional coordinator with the U.S. Forest Service.Both Kirk Duncan and George Schaaf sit on KTOO’s board of directors.Share this story:last_img read more