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Alaska Editorials

Associated Press Updated: July 9, 2014 at 8:31 pm 0

Here is a sampling of editorial opinions from Alaska newspapers:

July 2, 2014

Juneau Empire: Weeding out the invasives

Orange hawkweed is so disruptive to native plant species, that farmers and gardeners in Europe and beyond have given it fanciful names such as "King Devil," ''Devil's Paintbrush" and "Grim the Collier."

It can be spotted blooming these days in and around the Egan Drive median, sending up its orange and burnt red blooms in wide patches.

Then there's the oxeye daisy, which has seeds that can remain viable in the soil for up to 20 years. They can even sprout after passing through the digestive tract of an animal. The white petals and yellow center of the daisy is a common sight — one so frequent many may believe the bright flower was anything but a transplant. But, according to experts, it's downright dangerous due to its ability to eradicate other native species.

Right now, some of you may be thinking, "So, why should I care?"

If left unchecked, invasive species in Alaska, a place relatively new to such attacks, can have devastating results on our economies and ecosystems, effectively undoing the framework that supports our unique environment. According to a joint study by the USDA Forest Service, the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the University of Alaska Cooperative Extension Service, "the growing tourism industry in Alaska, as well as oil and gas development, international trade and a burgeoning human population all contribute to an increase in invasive plant introduction and spread. Native wildflowers, forested ecosystems, riparian systems, and wildlife are all threatened by invasions of exotic species entering the state."

The problem is, these are only two examples of invasive weeds that plague Southeast Alaska. The pair fall in line with a long list of 42 other plants that have hitchhiked to our great state or acted as stowaways on everything from tourists and cargo, to vehicles and seed packets, to name just a few. During a study in Europe on the transportation of invasive plants, one car was tested to have hundreds of differing types of seeds on its exterior.

Many of the invasive species prevalent in Southeast can be found in communities such as Juneau, Wrangell, Prince of Wales Island and other areas that act as transportation hubs.

The good news is Alaska has it easy compared to the rest of the country. We have a unique opportunity up here — we can get ahead of the problem and stop it with effective planning. Now is as good a time as any to get started.

This time of year, plants are large enough to be identified, but many aren't mature enough to produce seeds just yet.

Furthermore, Gov. Sean Parnell declared June 22-28 as Alaska Invasive Weeds Awareness Week and subsequently state, federal, local, private and nonprofit organizations, as well as the public, are working together to increase public awareness, promote invasive weed prevention and management and help keep our communities and environment free of invasive weeds. A number of events are planned all over Alaska — but Juneau and much of Southeast was left out.

Instead, it's up to local residents to take a few minutes to get out those gloves and spades, and dig up any invasives that may have found a home nearby. Respect private land, of course, and make sure to do your homework — it's important to understand how a particular plant reproduces so you know just how to prevent it from spreading. The nasty and purvasive Bohemian Knotweed, for instance, has roots that spread by underground rhizomes and bares leaves that are so thick and dense that little light permeates to the undergrowth. Vast stands of these plants can be found all around Juneau; look around Twin Lakes next time you're there for tall, bamboo-like stands of plants with broad leaves. When it comes to eradicating plants like these, it's important to get all the rooty bits. For other weeds, it's important to dig them up before they go to seed.

Invasive species are no joke, but Alaska is in a unique position as it faces a problem that is absolutely surmountable.

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July 6, 2014

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: State right to act on King Cove road

The long and perplexing dispute over the proposed one-lane gravel road through a portion of the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge on the Alaska Peninsula has just become a heavyweight fight.

Gov. Sean Parnell on Monday announced the state has filed a motion in federal court asking to join a lawsuit against Interior Secretary Sally Jewell over her December refusal to approve a congressionally sanctioned land exchange that would allow construction of the road between King Cove and the all-weather airport at Cold Bay. The lawsuit was brought by the city of King Cove, the Aleutians East Borough and three Alaska Native entities in early June.

Gov. Parnell's decision, which follows through on the intent he announced in April, is the right course of action.

The road — 11 miles of which would go through the refuge — has been sought by King Cove residents for two decades as a means to have safe access to the Cold Bay airport. Volatile weather regularly makes King Cove's airport unusable, leaving people in need of advance medical care shut in or needing to be flown out by the Coast Guard when the situation becomes an emergency. The Coast Guard has been summoned to King Cove five times this year to airlift people in need of medical aid.(backslash)

The governor's action is proper not only because the health and safety of people are at risk but also because such disregard from Interior Department officials can potentially happen elsewhere in Alaska. Alaska is standing up for its rights.

The state makes both points in its court filing requesting to intervene in the case on behalf of King Cove:

"(T)he State has an interest in ensuring that its citizens and communities are provided reasonable access across the vast federal landholdings in the State. In this case, the health and safety purposes of such access over the Izembek Refuge are literally of life and death importance."

What's puzzling about this whole situation is that the federal government would clearly benefit from the land exchange — and the secretary even acknowledged that fact in her December rejection of the idea. Under the swap, the federal government would receive 43,093 acres of state land and 13,300 acres of King Cove Corp. land, all to be added to the Izembek refuge.

The refuge would give up 206 acres.

Secretary Jewell, supported on the issue by several national environmental organizations, chose instead to agree with personnel from the Fish and Wildlife Service, who said the road would be too disruptive to the area's habitat.

Residents of King Cove make what should be a convincing argument to the contrary — that absence of the road has brought death and injury to their community.

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, one of several Alaska leaders trying to sway distant Washington officials about the need for the road, notes that 19 people have died in plane crashes coming to or departing from King Cove or because they couldn't get to medical care in a timely manner. Residents have to travel to Anchorage, 600 miles away, for many medical procedures.

Secretary Jewell has been showing a certain aloofness to the situation and to the state. She hasn't responded to several requests, including from the Alaska Legislature, to reconsider her decision, and she hasn't even responded to a letter sent to her by King Cove residents in April.

Let's hope the weight of a legal filing from the state of Alaska will get her attention and prompt her to reconsider her denial of this road, which is so essential for the health and safety of the small community of King Cove and which is becoming increasingly indicative of how the federal government views Alaska.

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