Posted: Sunday, March 13, 2005

Board OKs fall hunt of 4 Hillside moose

ANCHORAGE - The state game board has approved a fall hunt of four moose in Chugach State Park, in a popular hiking area above the Anchorage Hillside.

The limited hunt will be centered on the upper fork of Campbell Creek east of the Powerline Pass trail, said area biologist Rick Sinnott of the state Department of Fish and Game.

"The problem in Anchorage is we have too many moose," Sinnott told the Board of Game.

Details must be worked out by April 1 for the hunt to start in September, Sinnott said.

The growing population of urban moose, estimated to number 700 to 1,000 around the Anchorage Bowl this winter, has raised concerns. A Muldoon boy recently was kicked in the face by a moose that had been fed by neighbors. Police killed the animal.

The fall hunt would be the first Hillside moose harvest since a bow hunt in 1983. That event was a public-relations nightmare, with gut piles left in suburban yards and wandering wounded moose with arrows protruding from their bodies.

The fall hunt would be restricted to permit winners using muzzleloaders or shotguns at least a half mile from any private land, Sinnott said.

Sitka, white spruce dubbed 'Alaska spruce'

KETCHIKAN - Sitka spruce and white spruce will get their own grade stamp and trademark as "Alaska Spruce," a development that should help open new markets for Alaska wood.

The American Lumber Standards Committee accepted Alaska Spruce as a unique timber species designation in February after testing by the Ketchikan Wood Technology Center.

Sitka and white spruce grown in Alaska are being grouped together because their properties are very similar, "even though they're somewhat dissimilar woods," said Kevin Curtis, director of the wood-technology center. He said their values are high, "so the mixed-species group was an improvement over what they have now."

The designation will allow Alaska wood producers to reach new markets and command higher prices, he said.

The two woods had been grouped with other, weaker species in engineering design tables.

Sitka spruce is found along the Pacific coast, extending inland about 50 miles. White spruce is the most common timber species in Interior Alaska, according to the center.

"A lot of customers already knew about our quality. This will make it easier and more widely known," said Owen Graham, executive director of the Ketchikan-based Alaska Forest Association.

In the past, producers have had to prove where the wood came from, he said.

Board rejects hunting of McNeil River bears

ANCHORAGE - The famous McNeil River brown bears won't be hunted during the next two years on state lands adjacent to a state game sanctuary.

The Alaska Board of Game made that decision Thursday, temporarily ending a controversy that attracted comments from across the country.

The board, however, took several steps that could allow people to kill the bears on nearby lands as soon as 2007 if it doesn't get what it wants from the National Park Service.

The panel approved a proposal by Naknek-area hunters to open state land south and southeast of the sanctuary to bear hunting, effective July 1, 2007.

Board member Ron Somerville of Juneau said it would be a way to push the federal agency to resume talks with the state about trading land for certain Katmai National Park parcels closer to Naknek, a request important to hunters in that community.

The McNeil River sanctuary, located across Cook Inlet from Homer, next to Katmai National Park and Preserve, is one of the best places in the world to watch brown bears.

The move surprised the Park Service and the state Department of Natural Resources, the two agencies that would negotiate such a trade.

The state has no active proposals to trade that land, and staff is swamped with other issues, such as the proposed natural gas pipeline corridor, said DNR spokeswoman Nancy Welch.

Judge lifts order barring fishery

KETCHIKAN - A judge has lifted his order blocking a commercial fishery on geoduck clam-farm sites in Southeast Alaska.

Judge Peter Michalski said his decision was based on the Alaska Board of Fisheries' adoption of an emergency rule authorizing a commercial fishery on wild geoducks at the aquafarm sites.

Etolin Enterprises LLC, which has leased two farm sites from the state, had challenged the state's authority to allow the fishery.

Michalski said the plaintiff had not proven that its argument against the commercial opening would prevail.

The preliminary injunction Michalski issued Monday was based on state regulations outlining steps the state Department of Fish and Game must take when opening a commercial fishery at each geoduck fishing area.

Yukon Flats tribes oppose land trade

FAIRBANKS - Six tribes in the Yukon Flats have issued a statement opposing a land trade between the Native corporation Doyon and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Doyon owns about 1.25 million acres within the 11 million acres encompassed by the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge boundaries. It obtained the land in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971.

Doyon wants the swap to consolidate its holdings in an uplands area with high oil and gas potential. The Fish and Wildlife Service, in turn, wants some of the high-quality wildlife habitat in wetlands owned by Doyon.

Chiefs representing five tribes and one tribal representative say they want more time to comment. They also contend the Fish and Wildlife Service hasn't consulted with them to the extent required by a federal executive order.

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