Northwest Digest

Posted: Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Mitkof Island timber sale moves forward

JUNEAU - Tongass National Forest officials announced Monday that 4.1 million board feet of timber would be made available from approximately 190 acres on a portion of Mitkof Island, about 15 miles south of Petersburg.

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"Economic timber sale offerings such as this one can help contribute to community stability throughout Southeast Alaska by providing a variety of opportunities for employment," states a press release.

This decision by Forest Supervisor Forrest Cole comes as a result of extensive analysis carried out by numerous officials representing a cross-section of interests. The team emphasized "partial cut harvest prescriptions" to minimize potential effects to wildlife and to scenery in the area. The team also worked to concentrate harvest activities away from popular recreation areas, according to the release.

Officials also responded to input by subsistence users, who expressed concern about the effect it could have on the harvest in the Big (Bear) Creek Watershed. It also includes changes of the size, location and configuration of two small old-growth habitat reserves in the area. The initial decision for the project had been issued in November 2005 and was later withdrawn pending clarification of road maintenance activities that occurred in the area during the previous summer.

The decision is subject to a 45-day appeal period.

UAA offers graduate degree in Seattle

ANCHORAGE - Alaska is now exporting graduate degrees.

The University of Alaska Anchorage is offering a master's degree in project management in Seattle, where a group of 10 Alaska Airlines employees recently completed their coursework.

Jang Ra, chairman of UAA's engineering, science and project management department, and other UAA professors traveled to the airline's Seattle headquarters every other week. The program is accelerated so that students can finish the work in about 18 months rather than the two years it typically takes to earn a master's degree.

The program is geared toward working professionals, with regularly scheduled evening classes that also are available to students outside of Anchorage via UAA's distance learning videoconferencing systems, Ra said.

The Alaska Airlines class was different because it was the first time faculty actually traveled out of state to teach.

Angela Ursino, Alaska Airlines' director of training and development, said UAA's project management degree program fit well with the company's approach to running its business, and a wide range of employees from all over the company participated.

The company selected longtime employees with jobs such as director of site safety and director of stations operation control who could benefit from an advanced degree in project management, Ursino said.

Much of the course work also focuses on topics such as finance, marketing and human resources. Ursino said that made the UAA program even more appealing.

Alaska Airlines covered all the costs, including the cost of travel, lodging and meals for the university professors who traveled to its headquarters to teach the classes. That was logistically easier and more cost-effective than flying the class to Anchorage, Ursino said.

"It created a very flexible scenario for them to earn an advance degree," she said.

Since its start in 2003, the project management course has attracted more than 100 master's candidates, and by the end of this year Ra expects to have graduated about 20. He's proud of that record and expects the program to continue gaining traction as demand for project management skills grows.

New report may alter debate on land use

WASHINGTON - Federal land managers will issue a long-awaited report today detailing how much of the country's onshore oil and gas are available for drilling - data that could shape the debate over land-use restrictions on energy companies seeking access to prized reserves in Alaska.

The report comes three years after a study commissioned by a 2000 energy bill found that more than 80 percent of the reserves is already available for development.

That assessment was popular with environmentalists, who use it to argue that the industry does not need special breaks to get access oil and gas under federal lands, some of it locked beneath pristine Rocky Mountain wild lands.

But energy companies said the earlier study didn't tell the full story, and they lobbied for an updated tally, which was mandated by the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

Environmentalists and industry advocates expect the new inventory to show that energy companies face more restrictions than the Bureau of Land Management previously reported.

The updated study examines a wider geographic area, including regions east of the Mississippi River and a northern Alaska basin that includes the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, said Matt Spangler, a BLM spokesman. Lawmakers have battled for 25 years over whether to tap vast oil reserves on the 19-million-acre Alaska refuge.

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