Alaska Digest

Posted: Friday, April 30, 2004

Senate passes bill to control bear populations

FAIRBANKS - The state Senate passed a bill that would allow bear control permits to be issued in areas where the game board has determined that bears are causing declines in game animals.

Senate Bill 297, introduced by Sen. Ralph Seekins, R-Fairbanks, would have the state issue permits for brown or black bears in areas where the Board of Game has established an intensive management program and identified bear predation as a cause of declining numbers or productivity of game, such as moose and caribou.

Under the bill, permit holders would be allowed to take a nonresident hunting for bears, as long as the permit holder is 21 and has hunted big game for at least two years.

Current state law only allows a nonresident to be taken along if they are a close relative or spouse.

Seekins' bill also would allow permit holders to kill a bear without a tag fee. They would instead pay a $250 sealing fee.

Another section of Seekins' bill - which applies to all bear hunting, not just in bear-control areas - lets the Department of Fish and Game accept any legally taken bear hides or skulls as donations and sell them, with the proceeds split evenly with the donor. People also could donate skulls or hides to charities, which could then be sold.

Paul Joslin, the director of the Alaska Wildlife Alliance, said Seekins' bill is part of an "all out war on bears."

"Because bears eat moose and caribou does not make them vermin. They have successfully coexisted with these species for tens of thousands of years, and have done so in a manner that has enabled there to be over a million moose and caribou alive today in Alaska," Joslin said in a statement.

Senate hopeful Miller picks up endorsements

ANCHORAGE - The former state senator challenging Lisa Murkowski for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination has picked up two endorsements.

Alaska Right to Life announced that its board voted unanimously to support Mike Miller of North Pole. Also former Anchorage Mayor Tom Fink joined his campaign as state chairman.

Miller said their support, along with that of former Wasilla Mayor Sarah Palin, who endorsed him earlier, "carries a lot of weight with Republicans throughout the state."

Miller is facing Sen. Murk-owski in the Aug. 24 Republican primary.

Miller acknowledged he would be outspent by Murkowski, whom he called the "establishment" candidate, but vowed he would not be outworked.

Justin Stiefel, Murkowski's campaign manager, said neither endorsement was a surprise.

Fink said Miller, with a record of nearly two decades in the Legislature, had a proven conservative record. Fink said he would support whoever won the Republican primary in the November election against Democrat Tony Knowles.

"It's critically important that Republicans not lose control of the United States Senate," Fink said. "I certainly would not like to see Senators Daschle or Kennedy or Leahy or any of those people in the role of majority leader of the Senate."

Ed Wassell, president of Alaska Right to Life, said "it would be a travesty" for the organization's 15-member board to endorse anyone but Miller "because Senator Miller has carried the water for the unborn and the pro-life causes for almost 20 years now."

Inspectors review Air Force base readiness

FAIRBANKS - A team of 117 military inspectors has landed at Eielson Air Force Base to evaluate whether the base's 354th Fighter Wing is ready for war.

The weeklong inspection consists of a simulated combat situation complete with mock intelligence briefings, jet fighting and even a chemical attack. Mock war protesters can also be a part of the simulation.

Results of the inspection will not be available until Tuesday, though fighter wings rarely fail, said Col. David Fadok, inspector general for the Pacific Air Forces.

"If wings are out there training for war, they'll be able to handle what we throw at them," Fadok said.

A base spokeswoman said the simulation is set in Southeast Asia.

About 70 airmen from Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, which received its combat readiness inspection last week and was deemed "excellent," are playing the aggressors in the simulation. Most of the inspectors are from Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii.

During a mock chemical attack Wednesday, airmen donned gas masks as they went about their work. Also, airmen traveled around the base on shuttle buses because in a wartime situation, they would not have personal vehicles.

One airmen had to pretend to be an embedded journalist. In other scenarios, described by base spokeswoman Valerie Trefts, an airman might be handed a card from inspectors stating that he had just suffered a major illness. Surrounding airmen are then judged on their response to the medical emergency, Trefts said.

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