- Associated Press - Monday, August 17, 2015

Here is a sampling of editorial opinions from Alaska newspapers:

Aug. 13, 2015

The Juneau Empire: Alaskans should care about Cecil the Lion

You didn’t care about Cecil the Lion two months ago. If you haven’t changed your mind, you should.

Not because of the lion itself, but because of what its death means.

The 13-year-old animal was a star attraction for Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, and its death at the hands of an American dentist who paid $50,000 for a hunt has spilled a pot of Internet outrage. The outrage has since congealed into obscurity the same way Kony 2012 and other ephemeral memes have, but it has had real effects.

Many airlines, including Delta, United and American wavered in the face of public pressure and banned the carriage of most African hunting trophies on their airplanes.

This will have little immediate effect - most hunters use expediting services and cargo airlines, not passenger jets, to carry their prizes - but we worry about the future.

Will airlines forbid you from carrying the Dall sheep you took in the Brooks Range? What about the mountain goat you took on Kodiak Island?

You may well have harvested the meat from those hunts, but under the rules of these airlines, you might be barred from carrying the hide or horns home. For now, the airlines’ bans extend to species hunted in Africa. Several have said they are looking at a wider prohibition.

Fortunately, Alaska Airlines hasn’t changed its policy. Hunters will still be able to travel in the 49th state without undue interference.

Most Alaska hunters aren’t seeking species like the dentist targeted by the Internet mob. They’re after food for the freezer, and that’s an admirable practice. According to figures from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, residents bought 87 percent of the hunting licenses sold in this state.

Look at the number of “big game” tags - the ones needed for trophy hunts - and you see the reverse. Seventy percent were sold to nonresidents.

Those nonresidents paid for the privilege: $500 or $650 for a grizzly bear tag, $425 or $550 for a sheep tag, and $225 or $300 for a black bear tag.

Those figures add up. In 2014, fees paid by nonresidents accounted for 82 percent of the state’s tag and license receipts.

Those receipts paid for game management and administration, and as the state slashes its budget, programs that pay for themselves are a good thing to have.

Residents enjoyed most of the hunting. Nonresidents paid most of the bills.

That’s why we worry when we see the outrage over Cecil. It may be a passing event, but its effect isn’t passing. We may declaim trophy hunting and shooting animals for sport, but we cannot deny its effect in Alaska. It pays the bills.

If Cecil’s death leads to a decline in trophy hunting in Alaska, all hunting will suffer.


Aug. 15, 2015

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Many campaign signs near roads run afoul of state, federal laws

Other than the Tanana Valley State Fair and the cold rain that always seems to start falling around this time of year, there’s one sure way to know summer is coming to an end: campaign signs. Sprouting in yards like mushrooms, the corrugated plastic harbingers of the fall political season are a common sight around town and even in rural neighborhoods. Though those who place them may not know it, many of the signs are also illegal.

The issue is the state’s roads, and the rightful distaste of the Last Frontier’s residents for advertisements that get in the way of an otherwise excellent view. According to the statute governing Alaska road signs, AS 19.25.105 (a), “Outdoor advertising may not be erected or maintained within 660 feet of the nearest edge of the right-of-way and visible from the main-traveled way of the interstate, primary, or secondary highways in this state…”

The law goes on to make allowances for signage serving various public benefits - but it carves out no such exception for political advertising. Federal highway rules contain a similar, though narrower prohibition against campaign signs in the right-of-way that could distract drivers or limit their ability to see.

So if campaign signs near the roadway are illegal under both state and federal law, why do people persist in placing them?

The answer is enforcement, or the lack thereof. Both the state and federal governments task the Department of Transportation with removal of illegal signs. Understandably, political sign removal isn’t DOT’s highest priority, nor is it an item to which funding is devoted, so it’s rare for signs to be removed.

Additionally, if a sign is on private property and not in the right of way, DOT officials have to give residents 30 days’ notice before removing it, and the signs often go up within that 30-day window before the election.

Funding and time for sign removal is limited, but it’s still important not to entirely eschew enforcing the laws we have. While DOT officials have few resources to devote to the issue, a good focus might be the handful of billboard-size campaign signs that can be found along state roads.

As to smaller campaign signs in violation of the law, it’s unlikely the state has funding or initiative to bother policing them - but just because a law is unwieldy to enforce doesn’t excuse breaking it. DOT officials can help residents determine whether their sign placement is legal - to reach them here in Fairbanks, call 451-5426.

As with roadside litter (to which campaign signs are sometimes uncharitably compared), it’s our own responsibility to keep our state beautiful. A balance can be struck between supporting one’s preferred candidate and cluttering the view of others. It’s our job to find it.


Aug. 15, 2015

Ketchikan Daily News: An important visit

Alaskans will welcome the office of the president to Alaska this month, being good hosts and hoping for an equally pleasant guest in President Obama.

For both, this visit represents much responsibility.

Alaska is home to the nation’s only Arctic region, which is being dramatically affected by a warming climate.

Alaska also is a massive state, a land about a fifth the size of the whole continental United States, with huge investments in the oil industry and other economic development, mostly a result of extracting natural resources.

Alaska depends on this development for its financial well-being, as the latest budget crisis driven by decreased oil prices has demonstrated.

The industry and the environment must coexist. Ultimately, it is the leaders of Alaska and the nation - specifically, Gov. Bill Walker and President Obama at present - who are responsible for ensuring that.

Obama will visit Alaska to speak to a global Arctic leadership summit in Anchorage. He also will travel to the Arctic itself, visiting Kotzebue. He wants to see and hear the stories of the effects of warming on glaciers, permafrost, villages and the way of life for Alaskans there.

Obama, if he’s to be truly informed and work with Alaska when it comes to the Arctic, he must be made fully aware. Primarily, he must come to recognize that while Alaska is very different from Kotzebue to Ketchikan, it also is a state of communities that share the same hopes and dreams of prosperity. Ketchikan and Southeast Alaska might be distant from the Arctic, but the actions taken there affect all Alaska communities, and, therefore, affect this region, too.

Ketchikan and Southeast will experience the consequences of good and bad Arctic decisions along with the other communities.

The Obama administration is highly concerned about global warming, hence the president’s visit. Earlier this summer, he imposed unprecedented pollution limits on power plants across the country. This week 15 states petitioned the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Washington, D.C., Circuit to block the regulations that outline those limits.

Given that, Alaskans welcoming the president should be prepared for the mindset of the man who will come to visit. The visit will require providing a concise - Obama won’t be staying long - and accurate picture of Alaska, not only as an Arctic state, but the state as a whole.

We Alaskans are in this together, despite political preferences. If we fall, we go down together. If we rise, which we prefer, our days will be looking up significantly as we begin resolving the latest budget challenge in earnest, while addressing issues such as the Arctic. We don’t need anything imposed on us that would make doing that more difficult.

Alaskans know Alaska and its issues, including global warming. It’s appropriate for President Obama to come visit and discuss those with us.

We hope he hears and acknowledges the whole Alaska story, not just one part of it - the Arctic part.

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