- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Here is a sampling of Alaska editorials:

Jan. 10, 2018

Ketchikan Daily News: Secure the Fund

The Alaska Permanent Fund dividend should be enshrined in the Alaska constitution.

Doing so would protect the dividend from decisions made under duress in its regard, particularly when the state has financial constraints.



Such is the case now. Confronted with a billion-dollar budget deficit, the state has twice reduced permanent fund dividend payouts to Alaskans by approximately half, leaving payouts at $1,022 and $1,100 in 2016 and 2017, respectively.

The past two years, the formula for dispersing payouts hasn’t been followed.

Sen. Bert Stedman is one of the legislators who are concerned, and is supporting the constitutional idea. He says he believes that the Legislature drew too much from the fund’s earnings to pay for government and paid too little in dividends in the past two years.

Stedman favors a discussion around how to protect the fund.

Let it begin. Alaskans, too, share Stedman’s concern for the permanent fund. It was wisely established when the state started receiving oil revenue. It served the state and its residents well. It should be well preserved for future generations.

This is a topic to monitor and, if drawn, comment on throughout the legislative session that starts Jan. 15.

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Jan. 9, 2018

Peninsula Clarion: Suicide awareness and prevention training is time well spent

The numbers continue to be alarming - in 2016, 186 Alaskans took their own lives.

Suicide rates in Alaska continue to be some of the highest in the nation. According to the statewide 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 23 percent of students “seriously considered attempting suicide” during the past 12 months. The survey found that the percentage of students who had “made a plan to attempt suicide” during the past 12 months increased from 14 percent to 21 percent and the percentage of students who “felt sad or hopeless” on a near daily basis increased from 27 percent to 36 percent. Suicide is the leading cause of death among Alaskans ages 10 to 34.

Despite those numbers, suicide remains a difficult, often painful subject to talk about. Later this month, the Kenaitze Indian Tribe will host an Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) workshop. The intensive, two-day course will help participants recognize signs of suicidal thoughts in others and make them more comfortable discussing the issue with those considering suicide, Dagmar Mayer, behavioral health consultant at the Dena’ina Wellness Center, told the Clarion.

We’d like to offer our heartfelt thanks to the Kenaitze Indian Tribe and the staff at the Dena’ina Wellness Center for continuing the community conversation about suicide. The tribe’s suicide prevention program, Yinihugheltani, has made a number of presentations around the Kenai Peninsula over the past few months, and the upcoming workshop, open to the entire community, provides tools that could potentially save a life.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District also recently launched a suicide awareness and prevention program called Sources of Strength. We encourage as many members of our community as possible to learn more about the signs that somebody may be thinking about harming themselves. Just as learning CPR or first aid, it could save a life.

The free ASIST workshop will take place Jan. 17 and 18 at the Dena’ina Wellness Center. For more information or to register call 335-7415 or email [email protected]

Anyone experiencing thoughts of suicide should call Alaska’s Careline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK).

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Jan. 9, 2018

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Saving lives in King Cove a worthy exception to wilderness rule

It appears the residents of King Cove will finally have a road built through Izembek National Wildlife Refuge to connect their city to the all-weather airport at the neighboring city of Cold Bay. King Cove officials last week reached a deal with the Trump administration to exchange a couple hundred acres of land for access to build a one-lane gravel road through the protected wilderness. King Cove City Administrator Gary Hennigh told Alaska Public Media he expects the deal to be signed Jan. 22 in Washington, D.C.

King Cove is located at the southern end of the Alaska Peninsula, about 840 miles from Fairbanks. So why does this matter to Interior residents and people living in other regions of Alaska? In a state known for massive swaths of protected wilderness, allowing this road sets a new precedent that could impact future development in Alaska.

For the past 30 years, numerous government officials have fought for a road connecting King Cove to Cold Bay, where an airport can be accessed in all weather conditions. Between the two cities lies the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, which was created under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act in 1980. Road access is usually prohibited in wilderness areas such as Izembek. Although it is one of the smaller wildlife refuges in Alaska, Izembek is one of the most diverse refuges in the state. It is a rich feeding ground for hundreds of thousands of waterfowl, including the entire population of Pacific black brant.

Some worry that the creation of a road that bisects the refuge would cause irreparable damage to this habitat. This is why then-Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewel blocked the road from being constructed in 2013. It’s good policy to protect our designated wilderness, but what if that wilderness is isolating an entire community and putting lives at risk? It exemplifies how officials in Washington can dismiss the challenges of life in Alaska.

People in need of medical treatment have died as a result of flights being grounded by adverse weather in King Cove. Between 1980 and 1994, 12 people have died waiting for medevac services out of King Cove. Since Secretary Jewel blocked the road in 2013, more than 60 people have been evacuated from King Cove by plane or boat, many of these rescues were conducted by the Coast Guard.

Options other than the road have been explored, but King Cove officials and other politicians, including Sen. Lisa Murkowski, argue that the road is the community’s best bet.

The Agdaagux tribe of Aluets has lived in the King Cove area for 4,000 years, long before Izembek was designated as protected wilderness in 1980. Unfortunately, this wilderness has hemmed in the community for more than three decades. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was right to make a land swap deal with the King Cove Corp. in exchange for the gravel road. The bottom line is the road will save lives and it should be built.

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