Rick Sinnott

In op-ed pieces published in September and January , the former director of the Alaska Division of Wildlife Conservation decried federal overreach in the management of wildlife on national preserves and wildlife refuges. Doug Vincent-Lang’s commentaries complained about recent National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regulations that will pre-empt state hunting regulations on national preserves and refuges, lands managed by the federal agencies. This is standard fare for Vincent-Lang, as it has been with other political appointees of former governors Frank Murkowski, Sarah Palin and Sean Parnell. Most of these appointees have followed the conservative agenda of their leaders, and some -- like Vincent-Lang -- seem to blame federal overreach for every conceivable failure in...Rick Sinnott
Like many girls, my daughter Erin dearly wanted a horse. It didn’t help that her stepmom grew up in a barn. Figuratively speaking. Lisa scratched her itch riding ponies and quarter horses at shows in Kentucky until she was about 13 years old. Living in urban Alaska, we couldn’t have handled a horse without a significant shake-up in lifestyle and family finances. It helped assuage my occasional twinges of guilt that Erin didn’t linger too long on the notion. But when I’m shopping for gifts before Christmas, I always recall the ghosts of Christmas ponies past. Instead of the real deal we bought her Breyer model horses , and she acted out whatever fantasies girls have about horses without the need to clean stalls or shell out money for hay bales. Now that my little girl has little girls of...Rick Sinnott
After a couple of hours of exhuming a bear carcass from its muddy grave in Midtown Anchorage, the sickly sweet smell of mortified flesh pervaded the woodlot. A graduate student helping supervise the dig, Danielle Ellis, summed up the olfactory experience: “When you inhale, you can taste it in your mouth.” But nobody complained. Anyone who enrolls in a forensic anthropology class expects to encounter dead bodies, with all the associated perks. Out of the classroom Forensic anthropology is the study of human remains, particularly bones. It’s an exacting science because in digging up remains anthropologists destroy much of the context. This context must be recreated during and after the dig through precise examination of the bones and surrounding objects, many measurements, drawings and...Rick Sinnott
Most Alaskans I know applauded the recent announcement that Mount McKinley will heretofore be identified as Denali on official maps . As a symbolic gesture, a nod to Native Americans who gave the continent’s highest peak a name long before another name appeared on a map, it was hard to beat. Restoring Native American names to geographic features is trending. A flurry of name changes has taken place in Alaska this summer. This raises important questions. How will we know when we’ve gone too far, and is any Native American place name preferable to one concocted after Columbus sailed the ocean blue? Shortly after President Obama authorized the switch back to Denali, the Alaska Historical Commission, the state’s geographic names board , received an application from Dr. James Kari to rename a...Rick Sinnott
Call of the American Wild: A Tenderfoot’s Escape to Alaska By Guy Grieve; Skyhorse Publishing, 2012, $17.99 Steeped in the stories of Jack London from an early age, Guy Grieve felt stuck in a rut selling advertising space for a newspaper in Edinburgh, Scotland. He longed for his own life-changing adventure. With plenty of time to ponder alternative lifestyles during his daily four-hour commute to and from work, Grieve settled on, of all places, Galena, Alaska. Boatloads of young men (and women) have come to Alaska, usually hoping to strike it rich. But a more profound, personal motive is often involved: the idea of proving oneself capable of surviving in a hostile environment. If they survived, their stories of deadly cold, rogue bears and a lawless society were sometimes the only...Rick Sinnott
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When I was Anchorage’s wildlife biologist and dealt with wildlife and people on a daily basis, I could never fully appreciate the onset of spring like normal folks. With bears emerging from hibernation and humans stampeding to local trails, I braced myself for the inevitable seasonal spike in bear...
Rick Sinnott,Loren Holmes
When I was Anchorage’s wildlife biologist and dealt with wildlife and people on a daily basis, I could never fully appreciate the onset of spring like normal folks. With bears emerging from hibernation and humans stampeding to local trails, I braced myself for the inevitable seasonal spike in bear encounters. Some trails, I soon realized, were worse than others for bear attacks. I’m not a big fan of signs — they clutter up the environment and people frequently ignore them — but I often wondered if I shouldn’t hang permanent signs over these trails with the admonition Dante inscribed in stone at the gate of Hell: “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” Even more worrisome was the perennial push by well-meaning individuals and groups to improve these trails to attract more people or to build...Rick Sinnott
Survivalists, take note. The most practical shelter for surviving in a post-apocalyptic landscape is the “portable igloo,” according to Alain Saury , author of “Back to the Wild: A Practical Manual for Uncivilized Times.” I recently read Saury’s book, all 474 pages recently translated from French into English, because the publisher, Feral House, asked me to review it and I was intrigued. Saury was a French actor, filmmaker, poet and songwriter. I can’t think of a résumé less likely to include an instruction manual on how to survive “any rapacious disaster to the modern world.” Case in point: Saury’s portable igloo is a piece of Styrofoam that looks like an inverted cereal bowl -- made by mixing the two components of Styrofoam and pouring the viscous liquid over a large boulder or homemade...Rick Sinnott
There’s no other bike trail quite like it. The Eklutna Lakeside Trail – a relatively flat, gravelly trail ringed by mountains – hugs the pristine, preternaturally turquoise waters of Eklutna Lake for 8 miles. The lake is both a boon and a bane to the trail. Despite offering stunning views and occasional close encounters with wildlife, Eklutna Lake has been known to turn on the trail with vengeance. Trail destroyed The lake’s surface, at its lowest every year just before spring breakup, can rise 50 feet or more by fall. In both 2012 and 2013, Eklutna Lake was full of water when hit by strong autumn winds. The resulting storm waves chewed up and swallowed large chunks of trail. Long and short sections disappeared into the lake along its length. Although Eklutna Lake is located in Chugach...Rick Sinnott
EKLUTNA -- In 1929, the Eklutna River was dammed, forever it seemed. A 61-foot-high dam impounded the river about 1 1/2 miles upstream of the old Anchorage-Palmer highway. And few man-made things appear to be as immutable as a concrete dam. On a recent hike through the Eklutna River canyon, slipping on boulders coated with brown algae, wading back and forth between the banks to avoid sheer cliffs or deep pools, I considered what it would be like to be a salmon growing up in such a river. Imagine overwintering as one of thousands of translucent, orange eggs buried in the gravels of riffles or deep pools. Maybe I’d hatch into an alevin, become a fingerling and survive another year or two in the frigid water, constantly alert to predators like rainbow trout and American dippers. One day,...Rick Sinnott