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The committee was formed by the Talkeetna Community Council board of directors after hearing from Macey “Butch” Shapiro, Solid Waste Manager for the Mat-Su Borough. Shapiro says he is interested in community-driven recycling programs, because they would result in fewer new landfill cells being built. Each cell costs the borough more than $4 million to open. The plan would involve a refurbished container being placed at the Talkeetna transfer site. The container will be divided into three sections, allowing for three different types of recyclables. The borough would manage the hauling of the container to the Valley Community for Recycling Solutions facility, which is located near the borough’s central landfill.
Butch Shapiro said, at the December Talkeetna Community Council meeting, that the Solid Waste Division, which is currently running in the red, does not have the funds to supply the containers to interested communities. Thus, each community that wants to participate has to raise $10,000 dollars.
Talkeetna Community Council board member Katie Writer presided over Tuesday’s recycling meeting. She says raising $10,000 is feasible, given the number of individuals and businesses interested in recycling.
The other major factor in the program, if it is begun, will be volunteers. Many types of recycling require significant sorting, and sometimes cleaning, before they are ready to be processed. Many present at the meeting say that significant volunteer hours will be needed to keep recycling running smoothly.
Katie Writer says the meeting was intended to get the process and the conversation started and create the beginnings of a volunteer pool. The next recycling committee meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, February 24th.]]>
The Alaska State Troopers are looking for two men last seen in Fairbanks. On Wednesday, troopers sent a bulletin stating that 23-year-old Logan Austin was last seen at the North Star Center on January 14th. Troopers say Austin’s clothing and direction of travel are unknown.
Troopers are also looking for 38-year-old Michael Bracht, who ran from his third-party custodian last week before beginning a prison term. Bracht had previously escaped the North Star Center last August and was involved in a chase and standoff with Fairbanks Police and Alaska State Troopers. Troopers advise anyone who sees Michael Bracht to call 911. They ask that anyone who sees Logan Austin call the Fairbanks troopers at 451-5100.]]>
Whether you call it a crisis, a situation, or something else, the clear consensus both in Juneau and around the state is that Alaska is facing a difficult budget year. Before the beginning of the legislative session on January 20th, the projected budget shortfall was around $3.5 billion. Governor Bill Walker, in his State of the Budget address Thursday night, said that significant cuts will be necessary across the board. As part of those cuts, Governor Walker’s proposed budget has zeroed-out six major projects, including the Knik Arm Bridge and the Susitna-Watana dam.
Earlier on Thursday, representatives of the Alaska Energy Authority testified before a joint meeting of the House and Senate Transportation Committees. The committee is examining the six projects to try to determine which are the most feasible and might merit inclusion in future budgets. AEA says that $102 million will be needed before the Susitna-Watana project is ready to file for a federal license to build the 735-foot tall dam. Project Manager Wayne Dyok says a $102 million appropriation could result in construction beginning in a few years.
“The timeline with the $102 million would be that we would be filing our license application in probably early 2017, with an expected issuance from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission around the end of 2018, so to be ready to start construction in 2019.”
Sara Fisher-Goad, Executive Director of AEA, says that the total construction cost estimate has increased to $5.65 billion. She also says those funds would not have to come directly from the state’s coffers.
“There’s never, ever been an assumption that we’d anticipate the state would appropriate the $5 billion to build the project. It would be a financing process. It would be financed through power sales agreements and probably a combination of loans and bonds.”
With Governor Walker’s budget proposal removing all funding, the Susitna-Watana Project could be shelved. AEA does not currently have an estimate for what it would cost to resume the project if it is paused. The state has spent over $190 million in this round of studies thus far, and spent more than $140 million in the 1980s before the project was set aside. Wayne Dyok says the cost of resuming the project depends on how long any pause in the project lasts.
“The data would have some shelf-life, three or four years, maybe. After that, I think there would be a cry to update some of the information. The answer in cost would depend upon how much the pause. Is it one year, two years, three years, five years, or beyond that? If it’s probably beyond five years, I’m sure we would be starting this process over again.”
Representative Wes Keller’s district includes the Upper Valley and the proposed site of Susitna-Watana. He says cuts to big projects are inevitable when the state is facing a ten-figure budget shortfall.
“The bottom line is, we can’t spend what we don’t have. Yes, we could draw $3 billion out of savings, and yes, we may in fact skate through if something happens–the price of oil comes back or whatever–but it would be really inappropriate for us to do that.”
The state’s single-resource economy has come under scrutiny since the decline in oil prices. Representative Keller believes that there are projects out there that could help diversify Alaska’s economy.
“The infrastructure in Alaska, if it’s the right infrastructure…is critical to us getting in a position where we can move beyond ninety percent of our revenue coming from oil.”
Keller says he still favors projects like the Knik Arm Bridge and the Port MacKenzie Rail Spur. He is less attached to the idea of continuing Susitna-Watana.
“Because of the concerns of people in the Talkeetna area, I did not shed any tears that Watana is part of [Governor Walker’s cuts]…I’ve always said that I really like affordable energy, and I know that people in Talkeetna do too, but it looks like that one will stay dead, I think.”
Representative Keller says it’s still very early in the budget process, and the ultimate outcome is far from certain. With Governor Walker’s complete budget proposal expected next week, the ball passes to the legislature to decide what to do.]]>
A memorial service will be held on Thursday, January 29, 2015 at 5 PM at St. Bernard’s Catholic Church, Talkeetna, Alaska, reception following. An additional service will be held on January 31, 2015, at 11 AM at the Palmer Masonic Lodge, 1022 South Cobb St., Palmer, Alaska. There also will be A Celebration of Life on Trigger’s birthday, May 20, 2015, in Talkeetna, location to be announced.
Trigger was born on May 20, 1950 in Cumberland Maryland. He Graduated from Fort Hill High School in Maryland, and then served an apprenticeship with B+O Railroad. His job took him to Alaska in 1980 where he lived in Eagle River and worked for the Alaskan Railroad. In 1988, he moved to Santa Barbara, California, which brought him many new opportunities, with such work as a body guard, acting, and managing a night club. In 1994, he moved to Talkeetna, building his dream home in the woods, with no running water, electricity or road. A jack-of-all-trades, he worked many different jobs, moving houses, hunting guide, construction, and working for the Air Taxis. He attended many churches of different denominations and was a member of the York Rite Masonic Order.
Trigger was an avid mountaineer, summiting Denali in 1993, attempting a winter ascent of the Wickersham wall, north face of Denali, in 1999, as well as many other climbing adventures in the Alaska Range. He was an avid outdoorsman & hunter with a special passion for traditional bow hunting. “Trigger” was a unique man of contrasts, larger than life, storytelling-adventurer with a deep faith in God. He was imaginative, artistic & perseverant. “Never give up” was his motto and “Carpe Diem” was how he lived.
Trigger is survived by his wife, Margareth Burd Twigg of Talkeetna, AK, daughters, Margareth Allegany Twigg(8) of Talkeetna, AK; Kimberly( Erik) Whetsel of Ridgeley, WV; Castira (Brien) Stanton of Hillsdale, MI; Virginia Twigg of Santa Barbara, CA; uncle & aunt, Charles and Bunny Hardy of Cumberland, MD; grandsons, Noah & Hayden Whetsel of Ridgeley, WV; David Stanton of Hillsdale, MI.
He was preceded in death by parents, Virginia Hardy Twigg Smith & Edward Twigg, cousin, Jay Hardy, grandparents, Charles & Hazel Hardy.
Arrangements are under the direction of the Valley Funeral Home. You are invited to visit Trigger’s on line guest book at www.AlaskanFuneral.com
The Northern Lights 300 sled dog race begins Friday at noon in Big Lake. Last year’s race was canceled due to poor trail conditions. The race is a loop and runs north and east as far as the Yentna River. This year, Race Manager Sue Allen says conditions are better.
“The river’s pretty good. If we don’t get any snow, it’s just going to be way hard and fast for the first twenty, thirty miles. That’s one reason we reduced the dog limit to twelve.”
Musher Maliko Ubl says a little additional snow before the race start would be a good thing for the dogs.
“If we do get some snowfall, it will actually be a lot nicer for the dogs. It’ll be easier to control the speed. It’s softer on their joints; it’s like running on pavement as opposed to running on grass.”
The Northern Lights 300 will be Maliko Ubl’s first mid-distance race. She has spent this winter working for Iditarod veteran Karin Hendrickson, who was injured when a vehicle hit her sled late last year. Ubl will be running a team of twelve of Hendrickson’s dogs, most of which are yearlings. She says the pre-Iditarod training for her and the team should prove useful in the Northern Lights 300.
“It really won’t be that much different from the training we’ve already been doing. Basically, we’ll just be adding a couple of legs to our campouts. We’re not going to be trying to get into the top ten or anything like that. I have a lot of young dogs that I’m taking with me so that they have some race experience before they hit the Iditarod Trail.”
One thing that makes the Northern Lights 300 different from many other mid-distance races, like the Kuskokwim 300, is that there is no prize purse. Sue Allen says she would rather focus on spending money on the race itself.
“I’ve managed this race–this will be the sixth year. I love to do it, but the fundraising is hard, so in lieu of promising a purse, I promise to put on the best race we can.”
Sue Allen says that, because all of the checkpoints in the Northern Lights 300 are remote, it gets very expensive to put the race on.
“We have to fly staff out. We have to freight all the food drops out, all the straw out, all the heat out, and…the race is paying to fly the dogs back.”
The lack of a purse doesn’t seem to have deterred many mushers, however. More than thirty mushers have signed up for the race, and twenty of them are hoping to use it as a qualifier for the Iditarod. After the race begins on Friday, Sue Allen says updates will be posted to the Northern Lights 300 Facebook page.]]>
The Su-Valley boys and girls teams will both play at home against Glenallen on January 30th.]]>
Talkeetna’s centennial is next year, and preparations are already underway. The first big planning event was a timeline party held over the weekend by the Talkeetna Historical Society. KTNA’s Phillip Manning was there, and has this report.Download audio file ()
The first Talkeetna Historical Society timeline party drew well over fifty area residents who wrote down the dates of important events they remember, identified people in photographs, or were just there to learn more. Sue Deyoe is with the Historical Society, and says the idea came from early planning meetings for Talkeetna’s centennial.
“Let’s get everybody involved in it; let’s have a community event. Have people add their own time: when they got here, what they did, how they got here, things they remember.”
Ed Craver, who has lived in Talkeetna for more than forty years, attended the party, and hopes to both contribute to and learn from the centennial preparations.
“I’ve been talking to people about different events and have a few questions of my own, so I thought maybe I could get some answers. It’s interesting.”
A consistent theme of the evening was change. Pat Pratt grew up in downtown Talkeetna, and still lives there. She says growth and change are inevitable, but many things about Talkeetna have remained the same.
“Of course it’s changed, but I still live in the same little corner that I lived in all my life. So, I still live in the same little cabin, still have the same perception of town.”
One of the tables is covered in photographs that attendees have brought with them. Robin Song has photographs of her days with the Gold Dust Girls dance group.
“This is Miner’s Day, and there was snow on the ground when we were practicing. We did our dress-rehearsal downtown. We had to wear warm clothes. We had to wade through snow to get to the stage.”
At the same table, Suzy Kellard shows me pictures of the Su-Valley High marching band from the 1970s. She says the band was quite good, and even got an invite to a very special event.
“They went to Washington, D.C. [in] January, 1977 and marched in the inaugural parade for President Jimmy Carter. They had to raise all the money for their uniforms, their hats, and just about the whole school went, because just about every kid was in the band.”
The timeline party was full of scenes like this, with people swapping stories, writing down dates of important events, and sharing their memories. At the front of the room a number of video clips looped. One video shows the events of January 1st, 1997, the day that the store now known as Nagley’s burned. The video evoked strong memories from many in attendance, including Robert Sheldon.
“It just makes your stomach sink, seeing the footage, but it’s also a good…reference for what it meant to the community and those sorts of things, but that’s just hard to even look at.”
Part of what keeps Talkeetna’s history alive are the many buildings from the early days that are still around, including the Talkeetna Roadhouse. Trisha Costello owns the Roadhouse, and says it represents a living piece of Talkeetna’s history.
“I celebrate its history and it’s length of time, and I try to honor that every day just by keeping the doors open. It’s always been my long-term goal to get more information, more pictures, more stories, and just share that with people.”
Like Trisha Costello, many area residents are interested in the timelines of individual buildings, families, or industries. Sue Deyoe says that those sorts of contributions are welcome as part of the greater timeline project.
“There are things that happened in Talkeetna–there’s the tourism timeline, air taxi timeline, mountaineering timeline…and if there’s anybody out there who wants to do that, I would love it.”
Sue Deyoe says that the Talkeetna Historical Society plans to take submissions for the timeline throughout the year both in person at the museum and on Facebook. She says any memories, stories, and photos are welcome.
In the spirit of the timeline party, I’ll end with a bit of Talkeetna trivia. The party was held on January 17th, which is the 22nd ‘birthday’ of what community non-profit?
Lonnie Dupre’s historic climb began on December 18th, and he summited Denali on January 11th just after 2:00 pm. This was Dupre’s fourth attempt at the unprecedented feat of being the first person to climb the mountain solo in January. Veteran climber Willi Prittie says January is a tough month for climbing in Alaska, when the longest periods of daylight stretch just past six hours.
“You’ve got to be really on top of your self-care, your logistical stuff, and take advantage of every little bit of daylight that you have, and it isn’t any too much in something like January.”
Like most climbs on North America’s tallest peak, the weather factored into Lonnie Dupre’s expedition. He says one big difference between this year and his prior attempts was the amount of snow.
“The hardest thing, hands down, on this trip for me was the deep snow. We had very deep snow right out of base camp and all the way up to the top of the mountain, almost. And dragging a, in the begging, a 194 pound sled through that deep snow–it doesn’t slide. It just plows.”
Dupre was helped through the snow by his homemade skis, which are eight feet long and four inches wide. He says the snow was due to warm weather and low-pressure in the Alaska Range. Lonnie Dupre says that warmth can actually be a problem.
“I would much, much, much prefer thirty-or-forty-below zero day in and day out, because you’re drier, you can operate better, and usually when it’s that cold you don’t have the winds with that.”
One time that the winds did play a major role in the climb was when Lonnie Dupre was between 10,000 and 11,000 feet of elevation. He says the wind picked up and started blowing lots of snow. He stashed much of his gear and went ahead to establish his camp. Then the weather really moved in and caught Dupre with meager supplies.
“Just a day and a half’s worth of food and twenty-two ounces of fuel, which is about three days worth of fuel. I had to stretch the food and the fuel for five and a half days, so I was a scrawny, cranky, kind of scared individual.”
Lonnie Dupre says he was scared because he knew there was no way for help to arrive if conditions didn’t improve. He says one or two more days might have seen him succumb to lack of food or warmth. Eventually, Mother Nature relented, and Dupre was on his way again.
As he reached the higher section of Denali, Lonnie Dupre says the forecast called for a window of two days with weather good enough to perhaps try to reach the summit. In the dark hours of the morning on January 11th, he made his run. Right around 2:00 pm, Dupre saw what he had spent four years trying to reach, the official marker for the highest point in North America.
“I saw that, and I just broke down a little bit, because it’s been four years of hard work. And I spent ten minutes, no longer, on the top. I gave a good look around, twice. Then, I started high-tailing out of there.”
The wind was picking up yet again, but Lonnie Dupre was able to get back to his camp and his gear before it got too rough. Then, it was a race against weather moving in from the south. Dupre made it to base camp at 7,200 feet on January 14th, but high winds prevented his pick-up by airplane. The next day, though, Talkeetna Air Taxi pilot Paul Roderick says the weather, which was not forecast to be favorable, opened up.
“I thought we might have a little window to work with…but not this good. It was actually generally improving. It was still windy, but actually [at base camp] it was calm and twenty degrees. It was just perfect conditions. It couldn’t have been better.”
Lonnie Dupre, after cold, snow, storms, and wind, had achieved his goal and returned safely to the lowlands. He was greeted by sponsors, friends, and members of Talkeetna’s climbing community.
With a successful trip behind him, Lonnie Dupre says he will likely come back to Talkeetna, but probably for slightly less strenuous activities than climbing to the top of the continent by himself during the coldest, darkest period of the year. For now, he’s just happy to be back.]]>
When it comes to getting in and out of base camp on Denali, nearly everyone travels by airplane. That was the plan on Wednesday. Climber Lonnie Dupre was expected to reach base camp by the early afternoon, and two planes were going to meet him, caring sponsors, support crew, and reporters. The weather was clear, but a system was obviously moving in from the south. After one final check-in with Lonnie Dupre by satellite phone, Talkeetna Air Taxi pilot Paul Roderick set off.
The flight started fairly smoothly, but as the plane entered the Alaska Range, turbulence began to pick up.
“Make sure you hang onto your stuff, because we’re going to cross into the Kahiltna [Glacier], and it’s going to get a little bumpy.”
That’s Paul Roderick. Once the plane was sheltered by the mountains, things smoothed out again, but then word came that it wasn’t looking good to pick up Lonnie Dupre. Paul Roderick learned that it was still quite windy at base camp.
“Usually over fifteen-or-twenty-knot tailwind we don’t land, and our pilot who was just up there reported that it was probably at least thirty, so probably not landing conditions at this point. And, the weather is just slowly deteriorating.”
Paul Roderick made multiple passes, but wasn’t able to even get close to the landing zone. Lonnie Dupre was visible out the window of the turbine Otter, but only just. With Dupre just minutes away from base camp, Paul Roderick was forced to call it a day.
“So close…There he is [on the] left side. I think we’re out of here.”
Safely back on the ground in Talkeetna, Paul Roderick says he wasn’t even tempted to try the landing.
“You can just tell it wasn’t a day to land. It’s possible we could have pulled the landing off, but then you have to take off with a thirty-or-forty-knot tailwind, which is nearly impossible to do.”
Lonnie Dupre has supplies stashed at base camp, and should have enough to last a week. That’s a good thing, since Paul Roderick says the forecast is not favorable.
“The modeling is showing that this flow is going to continue, and we might get a window to work with. Fortunately, we’ve got Lonnie there on the ground, and he can report wind and weather…but the forecast doesn’t look that great in the next day, or two, or three.”
Veteran Denali climber Dave Johnston says that he and the rest of the Talkeetna climbing community were pleasantly surprised that Dupre succeeded in his fourth January attempt on the mountain.
“We were really surprised he made it, because [former Denali guide] Brian Okonek was seeing snow plumes coming off the summit that day. We didn’t think it was a summit day, but he whipped up there and he whipped down fast.”
Dave Johnston was waiting at the airport for Lonnie Dupre’s return. When Dupre does make it down, Johnston says there will be a warm welcome waiting for him.
“The moose stew is on and the sauna is hot…well…getting hot.”
Make that a very warm welcome.]]>
In the bill, Keller cites the report from the Citizen’s Advisory Task Force on Civics Education Policy, which he says “made a strong case for improving civics education.” This is the second time Representative Keller has put forward a bill to require additional coursework on early American documents. The previous attempt in 2011 did not reach the floor for a vote. Keller will be the chairman of the House Education Committee when the legislative session begins in Juneau next week. The second set of pre-filed bills will be released on Friday.]]>
Luann Tysdale says that the re-opening date is still up in the air, and that things will be a little different than when the Free Box shut down last summer. She says that the new incarnation of the free box will only deal with clothing and bedding, and Luann Tysdale says she hopes a recycling program can be implemented as well.
For now, no donations are being accepted, and there is not a date for the re-opening of what was once the Free Box Community Store.]]>
History has been made on North America’s highest peak. On Sunday, Lonnie Dupre became the first solo climber to summit Denali in the month of January. KTNA’s Phillip Manning has more:Download audio file ()
The news of Lonnie Dupre’s summit came early on Sunday afternoon. His support team received a message from Dupre’s GPS locator that he had made it to the top of North America’s highest peak.
This attempt to be the first successful January soloist on Denali is Dupre’s fourth. His previous tries were thwarted by bad weather high on the mountain. Last Thursday, Lonnie Dupre shared via satellite phone his thoughts on being held back by poor conditions.
“There’s nothing worse than having to stay put, especially when you have eighteen hours of darkness every evening. It makes for very long nights. And, of course, just always having the weather pull the rug out from under you when you were psyched up to go somewhere or do some climbing.”
The weather did eventually break, and allowed Lonnie Dupre to make a summit attempt on Sunday morning. According to his GPS tracker, he reached the summit just after
After receiving the GPS notification, Talkeetna Air Taxi pilot Paul Roderick says he took a plane up in an attempt to spot Lonnie Dupre on the descent, which can be just as dangerous as the climb in the winter.
“We were concerned, because the winds were picking up, up high. It was gusting to thirty knots, and it didn’t look like a place you wanted to be. From the report I just got, when he summited it wasn’t at windy…but he could feel it picking up, and he just raced off the top.”
Paul Roderick says he began looking in the area of the summit, fearing that Lonnie Dupre had been pinned down by the increasing wind. Then, with daylight fading, he started to look lower on Denali.
“We made it down lower, to about [17,000 feet], and we were getting knocked around pretty good…but luckily he had his headlamp. As I was looking at the [17,200 foot] camp, just maybe ten minutes out, we could see this light beaming up at us…It was a good thing to see.”
With weather potentially building to the south, Lonnie Dupre is not wasting any time in his descent. Paul Roderick says Dupre left his camp at 17,200 feet before 4:00 am on Monday, and could reach base camp at 7,200 feet by Tuesday afternoon, where he will await his flight back to Talkeetna.]]>
Both the boys and girls junior-varsity teams earned two victories each.
The boys varsity team will face off against Tri-Valley at home on Tuesday.]]>
by Robin Song
The activity at my feeders began well before the sun broke over the treeline in the south the morning of January third- the annual Christmas Winter Bird Count Day in our area. As usual, I made sure the feeders were full and ready, for the birds had survived another long, cold winter night and were in need of fuel right away. The Black-capped Chickadees could lose 10% of their body weight overnight just shivering to keep warm. They don’t have a crop to store food, like Redpolls and other birds do, so they have to burn body fat to keep warm. During cold snaps I bring in the suet and peanut butter feeders overnight and put them back out when the first birds arrive, so they can get at the food easily and so not have to burn precious calories prying at frozen food.
The three Nuthatches chattered as they worked at the suet nets. The male and female Hairy Woodpeckers preferred the suet cage out at the big feeder swinging from a wooden hanger at the edge of the forest, even though that suet was frozen. With their big, sturdy beaks, frozen suet presented no problems for them. The much smaller pair of Downy Woodpeckers came in to the thawed suet at the porch, however.
The flock of Pine Grosbeaks came to the two big platform feeders attached to the porch railings and their soft melodic calls added a sweet melody to the mixed gathering of birds. As the golden sun topped the trees, I stood out in the snow in front of the cabin, listening. I heard Redpolls high up in the tall spruce, then heard something else. I listened closely, and recognized the songs of White-winged Crossbills. I smiled. 2014 had been “the Year of the Crossbills”, it seemed. I had seen more of this species on many of my hikes over the summer and fall than in any previous years. Usually I only saw crossbills at the ranch in wintertime, but a small flock had stayed throughout the summer and fall. As I spotted the six birds atop the tall spruce next to the ranch’s drive, I was delighted to add them to my birding list.
The crown of my Bird Count was the trio of Dark-eyed Juncos who decided to winter-over. One male had wintered here last year, and now there were two males and a female. I wondered if one male was the one from last winter and had ‘told’ his buddies that if they’d stay, instead of migrating, they’d get fed here all winter. Well, you just never know! Of course I buy special seed mix for them and put it out everyday, to make sure they’re getting enough to eat. I want my rare visitors to be taken care of. I sprinkled the seed on the snow just off the porch as the juncos sat in the trees watching me.
Now the pair of Ravens arrived, calling to me to bring them their morning ration of dogfood kibbles, which I spread on top of the flat-roofed barn. That accomplished, I headed down my trail back to the cabin as the dogs frisked ahead of me. Fifteen Magpies came winging in from the forest west of the row of apple trees. I turned to watch them. I love to see these graceful birds execute tight turns in the air, their long iridescent tail feathers cutting through the winter-blue sky, the birds then dropping to land one by one on the barn roof. They cram as many kibbles into their beaks as they can fit, then fly off to cache them in their secret places, then return for more. Throughout the day the magpies are searching for each others’ caches, hoping to find the hidden food, dig it up and carry it off. At the end of the short winter day, the caches have been emptied, either by their rightful owners, or by thieves, and all the food eaten. Tomorrow the game will start all over again.
Back at the cabin I heard the Gray Jays calling from the forest and went in to get their treat. They come to the porch to get suet and peanut butter, but they also love bread. I put out pieces of wheat bread on top of the porch beams and often the three birds-two parents and an offspring- are coming to the beams to grab the bread before I’m down off the ladder. Typical corvids, they will also cache their bread pieces, stabbing them into cracks in tree bark, or in amongst spruce boughs. Then back they come to cram more pieces into their beaks-as many as they can fit. It’s only a few short minutes before all the bread is gone. But I know they will work on eating their treats throughout the day.
For some reason unknown to me, this is the first winter the territory around the two cabins has not been claimed by squirrels. There were three here through the summer, but they vanished in the fall. Possibly the marten I saw here the past two winters claimed them, or scared them off. Whatever happened, I must admit I’m enjoying not having squirrels robbing the bird feeders and eating the peanut butter. The squirrels were not tolerant of each other, and there were often lively chases and fights in the trees near the feeders. It’s a much more peaceful winter without the squirrel wars going on. The flying squirrels are still coming to my handouts every night, but they are not at all in competition with the birds.
Toward the last hour of daylight on Bird Count Day, I took a drive out to the end of Mastodon road. Within the first mile from the ranch’s drive I spotted a flock of birds flying above the road. I parked and watched the flock of Redpolls through the binoculars. The low sun lit the birds rose-gold, making the male’s rosy chests and undersides fairly glow. I estimated the flock at some sixty to seventy birds. They were landing in birches, no doubt filling up on seeds before going to roost for the night. I watched the restless flock swirling through the sky, then landing again, calling in their particular finch voices. I find these little birds to be energetic and charismatic, and I enjoy watching them all year-round.
Rolling the car slowly along the road, searching for other birds, I was happy to spot a Ruffed Grouse high up in the branches of a birch beside the road. It’s probably the same one I’ve seen on occasion in the trees beside the road since last fall. I first saw it alongside Birch Creek Road, working its way back along Mastodon nipping dormant buds off the ends of twigs as it went. The grouses’ toes are especially adapted to gripping the smooth, slender branches, with scales and tiny stiff feathers lining each toe. These plump birds turn into amazing acrobats as they stretch their necks out, twisting them under and around branches to reach buds, their toes wrapped around thin branches and holding on tight- short, stout wings flapping occasionally for balance. On the ground they can line out and run astoundingly fast, seeming to prefer running to flying. But flying, too, is an art form as they jump into to air and zip through the maze of tree branches with blinding speed.
It seems to be a down cycle for Spruce Grouse this winter, for I’ve not seen nearly as many as I usually do, and I did not see any on Count Day, or even during Count Week. This may account for not hearing any owls yet this winter, either. The snowshoe hares also seem to be down in number, for I’ve seen few tracks alongside the ranch’s drive, which is usually peppered with hare prints by now.
And so another Winter Bird Count Day ended for me as I returned to the cabin and found all the birds had gone to roost for the night. It had been a lovely, clear day, and though I spend nearly every day watching the birds, it took on a special meaning today. Every year Count Day is a little different. I compile my notes and add them to my birding journal, seeing what’s changed, year to year. I also keep a running journal on my calendar, writing in special notations, which often includes birding observations. The days are lengthening now, and though winter is only half-way through, I’m sure the birds are noticing the extra sunlight. May we all stay safe and warm, knowing spring is on the way, and enjoying the special beauty of winter.
Given the current price of oil and the deficit facing the State of Alaska, Senator Mike Dunleavy’s priorities are not too surprising.
“Somebody asked me the other day, ‘What are your top three priorities?’ I said, ‘The budget, the budget, and the budget.'”
At current projections, the state could be facing a deficit in excess of $3 billion. Governor Bill Walker took office last month, and has already put a hold on a number of capital projects. Senator Dunleavy says that is just the beginning.
“There have been some capital projects that have been earmarked for possible elimination. I think there’s going to be a reception by most folks on reducing our capital budget significantly, at least for this year. That’s the easy lift.”
Senator Dunleavy says the hard cuts will be in the operating budget, which employs over 20,000 people statewide and funds a large number of programs. He says cutting the operating budget will not be easy.
“We’ve got to restructure the government, and it’s going to impact people. In some cases, at least in the short run, it may not be pretty, but I do believe in the mid-and-long-run it’s going to be better for Alaska and will put Alaska on a solvent footing.”
Senator Dunleavy says the state does not produce nearly as much oil as it did in the 1980s, and that oil prices tend to be fairly low, though there have been spikes in recent years, including 2014.
Dunleavy says he believes the best course of action is to make those difficult cuts, and that he does not anticipate the state opening up alternative means of revenue, such as taxes.
“If we immediately default to an additional revenue source, taxes, user fees, or the permanent fund, we never really do dig into and really have a question and stress-test some of these programs that we have. We just won’t do it if we default to a tax.”
One of the large items in the state operating budget is education. Senator Dunleavy will chair the education committee in the State Senate this year. He says he does not currently plan on cutting funding for schools, but that everything should be on the table.
“We have not had discussions in this office about reducing funding for education, but I do believe funding for education will come up this session. Where it goes, I can’t say at this point.”
Senator Dunleavy says one thing he does plan to do is talk to educators and find areas where they believe current state regulations impair their ability to teach.
“…As a teacher in a school in Talkeetna or Su-Valley High, what are some rules on the books that you feel, if they were changed or modified, could help you better do your job and better serve kids?”
In response to the recent filing of a bill by Senator Bill Stoltze of Chugiak to move the legislature from Juneau to Anchorage, Senator Dunleavy says he sees why bringing state government closer to the population center could be attractive, but he is not familiar enough with the details to form a complete opinion yet.
No matter what the outcome of Senator Stoltze’s bill is, this year’s session will be held in Juneau, and will begin on January 20th.]]>
A community’s centennial celebration is a major event no matter where you are. With Talkeetna’s centennial approaching, I sat down with Sue Deyoe, Site Manager for the Talkeetna Historical Society Museum and Historical Society board member Laura Wright to talk about what is being planned. One of my first questions was why 1916 was chosen. Talkeetna is not incorporated, so doesn’t really have an official founding date. Sue Deyoe says that 1916 was a very significant year for what would become Talkeetna as we know it today.
“By 1916 there was a lot of activity in town. There was a sawmill, a trading post, a general store, and an Imperial Cigar store…There was a lot of activity, and people had actually built their houses.”
In addition, 1916 marked the opening of Talkeetna’s first post office. Over the hundred years since then, the community has grown and changed. While the Talkeetna Historical Society has many records and photographs over that time, there is no single repository of all of the available history. As part of the plan for Talkeetna’s centennial, Sue Deyoe says the Historical Society would like to change that by inviting the community to help build as complete a timeline as possible.
“It came out of discussions and people saying, ‘How in the world are we going to plan this stuff? Let’s have this timeline party so everyone understands what was happening 4,000 years ago, what happened in 1916…'”
The timeline party will be held on January 17th at Northern Susitna Institute. Everyone with knowledge of the area’s history, and those who want to learn more about it, is invited. Butcher paper will line the walls, separated into decades. Laura Wright says that all memories of stories and events are welcome.
“People are going to come in, and they’re going to write, ‘Yep, I came here in ’57’…and whatever little nugget or person they remember…and maybe a little tidbit to help us compile that.”
For those who can’t make it to the party, the Talkeetna Historical Society is also accepting submissions through its Facebook Page.
You can find the entire recording of this week’s Su-Valley Voice, including more discussion of Talkeetna’s centennial celebration, at our website, KTNA.org.]]>
Attached is the entire recording of Su-Valley Voice for this week. The discussion covered the Talkeetna Historical Society and preparations for Talkeetna’s centennial in 2016. The next Su-Valley Voice will broadcast live at 10:00 am on Wednesday, January 21st.]]>
Trooper spokeswoman Megan Peters says that, since there is currently no positive ID, no further details, including the location of the fire, are being released. Talkeetna Fire Department Chief Ken Farina says that he had not been notified of a structure fire in the Talkeetna area on Saturday.
This is a developing story. We will provide more information as it becomes available.]]>
You can follow Lonnie Dupre’s progress on his Facebook page.]]>
On Monday, the Talkeetna Community Council board of directors held its regular monthly meeting. Most of the discussion centered around float planes on Christiansen Lake, but other topics got attention as well, including flood mitigation and nuisance beavers.
On the issue of flooding, the board noted on Monday that the process of including East Talkeetna in the Talkeetna Flood Service Area is making progress. Currently, all of Talkeetna east of the railroad tracks is not covered under the Mat-Su Borough’s flood service area. That means that the borough cannot currently allocate funds or conduct any work on flood control in the area. The issue is in the hands of the borough clerk, and will ultimately require a vote by all residents of both East Talkeetna and the current flood service area.
The felling of trees by one or more beavers along the river has been a growing concern in Talkeetna. Large portions of the area known as Government Lot 9 have begun to erode, and there have been reports that beavers are taking down trees in the area of the Talkeetna River revetment as well.
The bulk of Monday’s meeting dealt with the ongoing issue of the borough’s float plane lease program on Christiansen Lake. A confusing mix of maps, lake management, and the Christiansen Lake SPUD, led to conflict last year between a local business and recreational users of the lake. After consulting with the borough’s legal counsel, Land Management Specialist Emerson Kreuger says the borough was in error when it leased the dock site to Above Alaska Aviation last year. Since the site had been unused for a number of years, Kreuger says it should have lost its grandfather status, and reverted to the Christiansen Lake SPUD, which does not allow commercial usage. Ultimately, the TCC board voted to pass on the recommendations of the Talkeetna Parks Advisory Committee, which would eliminate one of the dock sites and specify that the other lapsed dock can only be leased for private use.
The conversation then shifted to the future of float planes in the area as a whole, Drew Haag, owner of Above Alaska Aviation, says that there should be an alternative site, since a change in property ownership has reduced access to Fish Lake as a float plane base. He suggests using borough-owned land on Fish Lake to create a new dock and recreation area. The board decided to refer the issue to the Talkeetna Parks Advisory Committee as an initial step.
The next meeting of the Talkeetna Community Council board of directors will be on Monday, February 2nd.]]>
Because the accident occurred inside the park’s boundaries, the National Park Service is leading the investigation. Monday’s announcement did not include additional details regarding the possible cause of the crash.]]>