Rick Sinnott

This is the second of a two-part series. You can read the first part here . The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is repealing and rewriting every management plan that regulates development in the state’s wildlife refuges, sanctuaries, and critical habitat areas, known collectively as special areas. These areas were established by the Alaska Legislature to protect valuable concentrations of fish and wildlife and their critical habitats from incompatible land uses. Gov. Sean Parnell and his director of Habitat Division, Randy Bates, are revising the regulations in secret, with no public input. Fish and Game biologists issue land-use permits in accordance with the enforceable regulations in the management plans, which generally encapsulate the advice of experts and public input during the...Rick Sinnott
This is the first of a two-part series. You can read the second part here . While many Alaskans are celebrating the demise of House Bill 77 , a far more audacious gambit to overturn state regulations is quietly coming to fruition. HB 77 was Gov. Sean Parnell’s recent attempt to “streamline” permitting for development proposals, primarily by denying tribes and individuals the ability to reserve enough water in rivers and streams to protect salmon and other fisheries from incompatible development. It also would have excluded project reviews and appeals by the public . That bill may be dead for now; however, it’s likely to be reanimated next year. Few people are aware of another brazen plan to “streamline” permitting because it is cloaked in secrecy. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is...Rick Sinnott
Watching a teenager roll and tumble down Mount Baldy in early February, Pete Panarese wondered how serious the young man’s injuries would be. Anticipation of deep gashes and blunt trauma gave way to another concern when he saw an object fly off the hiker’s pack partway down the 200-yard slope. It was some sort of ice ax, with a combination pick and adze on one end and a spike on the other. The tool faithfully followed its owner to the bottom of the slope, offering multiple opportunities for impalement. After the young man stood up -- shaken but unbloodied -- and started brushing snow off his clothes, another thought occurred to Panarese: “Somebody is going to be killed or seriously hurt if nothing is done to fix this trail.” It wasn’t the first time the thought had crossed his mind...Rick Sinnott
There were premonitions. On Oct. 27, 1962, two months after moving back to Alaska, Alice felt the “sharpest” earthquake so far. Her husband, Bob, was working on the roof and her first thought was that he had fallen. Bob thought the house was shaking because Alice had done something wrong with the washing machine. But the house kept rocking. The quake was strong enough to knock a few items off shelves. Alice and Bob Arwezon were in their early 30s. Bob was a big strapping fellow, a former Olympic-level swimmer who had served in the U.S. Army a couple of years. Alice was stick-thin but never one to shy from an adventure. After graduating from college she had worked in Peru. After returning to Michigan, she drove up the Alaska Highway with her cousin Polly DeLong in 1955. She met Bob, who...Rick Sinnott
EKLUTNA -- The two granite hills that Eklutna Village was named after were originally washed out of Eklutna Lake by a very large and angry fish. That’s according to an etiological myth told by the Dena’ina, the people who have inhabited upper Cook Inlet since before Vitus Bering “discovered” Alaska. And that’s why, on a mythical plane of existence, it didn’t surprise me on a recent visit to Eklutna Lake to see what appeared to be the world’s largest ice-fishing setup perched on the ice about a half mile from shore. If there’s a big fish to be caught, someone is going to try to land it. As it turned out, what looked like an ice-fishing rig was a platform for obtaining sediment cores, and the big fish being sought was scientific knowledge. Sediment cores from a frozen lake A team of...Rick Sinnott
Brace yourself for another excuse to give away Alaska wildlife. Rep. Lynn Gattis, R-Wasilla, and 12 other state representatives have sponsored a bill that will double the number of big game permits donated to organizations to auction or raffle off, often to wealthy nonresident hunters. This bill is unrelated to another bill that seeks to authorize qualified organizations to auction or raffle off “big bull moose derby” tickets . HB 161 was recently passed by the House and is now being considered by the Senate. As a parting shot, after the House passed the bill, Rep. Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River, added her name to the list of co-sponsors. Governor’s permits The existing law , in effect since 1997, was a good-faith effort to raise funds for wildlife law enforcement and conservation by...Rick Sinnott
Every once in a while someone calls an Alaska Department of Fish and Game office to ask a question about gambling. “Game” means different things to different people. Most Alaskans know game animals are those that can be legally hunted, and moose are at the top of the list for most of the state’s hunters. Two Alaska legislators are betting that hunters will pay to play a different game with their moose. Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, and Rep. Eric Feige, R-Chickaloon, have sponsored a bill that would add “big bull moose derbies” to the existing list of games of chance and skill permitted by the Department of Revenue for fundraising purposes . House Bill 268 defines “big bull moose derby” as a contest in which prizes are awarded for harvesting a bull moose based on the size and spread of...Rick Sinnott
The mallards loitering in a midtown Anchorage park pond were quacking contentedly. Someone had poured half a bushel of cracked corn on the ice around an unfamiliar wooden structure. Corn is so much more tasty and nutritious than their usual winter fare: stale white bread. Winter doesn’t get much better than this. Then the trap doors slammed shut. More than 600 ducks erupted into the air. The 36 ducks that didn’t fly had just volunteered to participate in a study of urban ducks in Anchorage. Park ducks Wild ducks are migratory birds. Most of the mallards that breed, nest, and rear their young in Alaska fly south for winter. Mallards that summer in the Cook Inlet watershed of Southcentral Alaska overwinter in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and California. But mallards are adaptable...Rick Sinnott
In 1925, when Leonhard Seppala and other mushers drove their teams of huskies in an unprecedented effort to deliver serum to rescue Nome from an outbreak of diphtheria, they didn’t have to worry about dog ticks. When Libby Riddles won the now-famous Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in 1985, she probably didn’t worry about ticks either. Dog ticks didn’t exist in Alaska way back then. They do now. I know Alaskans, my wife among them, who, when asked why they like living in Alaska more than other places, can quickly rattle (I almost wrote “tick”) off three important reasons: no poisonous snakes, no scorpions, no ticks. If you are one of those Alaskans, scratch “no ticks” off the list. Alaska has long harbored several native species of ticks that pierce the skin and lap up the blood of rodents,...Rick Sinnott
So you just realized the moose that was lying in your yard for the last couple of days has rolled over and died. Who you gonna call? Ten thousand years ago this was an easy decision. You dealt with it yourself. Or you might have hollered for a few friends to give you a hand. You might have followed an established custom or deferred to the head of the tribe or a village elder. Society has grown much more complicated. An English hunting law, enforced since at least the early 13th century, dictated who could receive a wild animal found dead in the woods. Because deer and other wildlife were the property of the king or the local lord, an inquest was held. The official presumption would be that someone had killed the animal illegally. The law required that inquiries be made in the four closest...Rick Sinnott