Northwest Digest

Posted: Monday, October 15, 2007

Boy on bicycle struck by police vehicle

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JUNEAU - A 17-year-old boy riding his bicycle in the parking lot of the Nugget Mall was struck by a Juneau Police Department patrol vehicle just after 5 p.m. Saturday.

According to a witness, the patrol car had just turned into the parking lot from Old Dairy Road when the bicyclist crossed its path and was struck. The boy was taken to Bartlett Hospital and treated for minor injuries. The officer was not injured.

Plan for lights viewing station irks neighbors

FAIRBANKS - Plans for a commercial northern lights viewing station to capitalize on winter tourism has drawn concern from nearby homeowners north of Fairbanks.

America & Pacific Tours is building the station at the top of Skyline Drive in the hills north of the city.

The project, a deck connected to a small building, is designed to give tourists from Japan and other Asian countries a place to watch the aurora.

The viewing station is on land zoned to allow only housing. The company's proposal to rezone the land has sparked concern and a petition from neighbors.

Company general manager Mikio "Mike" Ito said he understood neighbors' concerns.

"I don't want to destroy what exists now," Ito said. "I really understand their worries about what we are doing, and they don't want a spot-zoning change. I quite understand."

Ito said his company plans to complete the project responsibly. The station would only draw vans carrying a few dozen visitors once or twice a week during the winter, he said.

Trips would correspond with charter flights offered by Japan Airlines that move thousands of tourists to Fairbanks each winter. Ito said the station would be one of a handful of optional activities offered to clients.

The company bought the property last winter. Since then, it has built a large outdoor deck to be used as a viewing platform, according to a borough report.

Neighbor Cheyanne Fleury said she appreciates Ito's letters to neighbors explaining the project. However, she said the residents' main concern remains.

"I just don't think a neighborhood is where it needs to be," she said.

Bering Sea crab fishery less deadly

ANCHORAGE - The Bering Sea commercial crab fishery isn't so deadly anymore. No crabbers have died in nearly three years.

That's a far lower rate than in the 1990s, when 70 crabbers lost their lives, according to figures from the U.S. Coast Guard.

Another crab season in the Bering Sea kicks off Monday. Dozens of boats are expected to sail out of Dutch Harbor and other ports in pursuit of the lucrative catch, worth at least $53 million at the docks last season.

The catch limit is up 31 percent this year to 20.4 million pounds.

According to the Coast Guard, two major changes in recent years have made the fishery less lethal.

In the fall of 1999, the Coast Guard began a campaign of dockside vessel-safety inspections and training. The program began following the capsizing of a Kodiak boat in which five people were killed. It makes sure, among other things, that boats aren't overloaded with traps and there are enough survival suits and life rafts on board.

Medlicott said violations are becoming uncommon.

The other change was in how the fishery is managed.

Until two years ago, hundreds of boats raced against each other to catch as many crab as possible before the limit was reached and the season closed. Sometimes the fishery lasted less than a week, and working hard in rough weather or without sleep could be the difference between a poor season and a killer payday for crabbers.

Now each boat goes to sea with its own individual catch limit, a percentage share of the available crab.

The result of dividing, or rationing, the crab has resulted in slower, more relaxed crab fisheries.

No deaths have occurred since the new management style began in the fall of 2005.

Idaho grizzly death raises questions

BOISE, Idaho - When a Tennessee hunter mistakenly shot and killed a male grizzly bear in the remote, rugged terrain north of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness last month, it marked the first time that anyone had confirmed a grizzly in that part of Idaho in more than six decades.

But the presence of a grizzly roaming the mountains of north-central Idaho may prove to be more than a passing biological fancy.

Within days of the kill, the rules and expectations for hunting the region changed. Grizzly experts from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, along with state officials in Idaho and Montana, are already plotting excursions next summer to see if other grizzlies have taken up residence in the Bitterroot.

Then there are the list of potential long-term implications. For example, what does one bear's presence mean for logging and ranching?

Or for plans to reintroduce grizzlies into the Selway-Bitterroot Ecosystem - a 5,600-square-mile expanse spread across Idaho and Montana considered vital to restoring grizzlies in corridors stretching from Yellowstone National Park to the Yukon.

"Certainly this provides a bump in the road we've been on," said Chris Servheen, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's grizzly bear recovery coordinator. "So far this has generated a lot of discussion. There are a lot of ramifications to this. And right now we're still trying to decide how it relates to everything."

The grizzly killed by an unnamed hunter on Sept. 3 was shot in the North Fork of the Clearwater Drainage, three miles from the Montana border, about 20 miles north of the wilderness boundary and within the grizzly recovery area defined more than 10 years ago.

While most grizzlies in the lower 48 states are protected from hunters under the Endangered Species Act, state and federal authorities are not pursuing criminal charges in this case. Idaho officials say they are willing to give the hunter and his two guides a pass considering the prolonged absence of grizzlies in the region.

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