Monthly Archives: February 2012

Feeding into sympathies — Some moose ‘help’ does more harm than good

By Jenny Neyman

Photo courtesy of Brandi Ivy. Fish and Game was called to attend to a cow moose in Kenai on Feb. 22 that had gotten patio chairs stuck on her head.

Redoubt Reporter

Alaska Department of Fish and Game personnel have many tools and techniques available to deal with wildlife problems, but bridging the human-animal conversation barrier isn’t one of them. That’s proving particularly unfortunate in recent weeks on the central Kenai Peninsula, as deep snows and scant available browse are putting hungry moose increasingly in contact with people.

“Sometimes you wish you could do the ‘Dr. Doolittle’ thing and just explain things to them,” said Larry Lewis, wildlife technician for Fish and Game. “These animals, moose, are nothing to trifle with. It just floors me whenever I see a picture of somebody hand-feeding one, or getting to close to them. They need to be respected for the size and capabilities they have.”

If he could, Lewis would explain to moose being fed by well-meaning people that they shouldn’t associate humans with free meals. Or when he has to go deal with the repercussions of those associations, that he could just tell the moose he’s called out to disentangle, haze off or worse, that he’s doing it for their own good. Instead, he does what situations warrant with the moose, and attempts explanations with the people.

“It’s clearly, by regulation, illegal to intentionally feed a moose or to negligently feed a moose. You have to take that in the context of the meaning behind the regulation, which was for the purposes of public safety and the health of that animal,” Lewis said. Continue reading

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Next stop: Nome — Kenai Peninsula mushers tackle Iditarod Trail

By Joseph Robertia

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Kasilof musher Paul Gebhardt takes a training run with a massive team in preparation for the Iditarod. Training with a race team of 12 to 16 dogs is the norm, whereas Gebhardt ran with 26- to 28-dog teams to get them in shape for the race.

Redoubt Reporter

Last year’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race stood as an anomaly of sorts. For the first time since 1988 there were no Kenai Peninsula mushers in the top 10, but according to the large contingent of mushers signed up this season, that won’t be the case again.

“There are a lot of good teams coming up, so I’d say the competition from this area will be stronger than ever before,” said Kasilof musher Paul Gebhardt, a 15-time veteran of the Last Great Race who has twice finished as high as second place.

In addition to Gebhardt, other peninsula entrants this year include Anna and Kristy Berington, Bruce Linton and Colleen Robertia, all of Kasilof, as well as Dan Seavey Sr. from Seward and Mitch Seavey from Sterling. Mushers will leave the ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage on Saturday, and hit the trail for real at the restart in Willow on Sunday.

Like 2004 champion Mitch Seavey, who was withdrawn from the Iditarod last year after a knife accidentally closed on his hand and nearly cut off several fingers, Gebhardt also pulled out early, but as a result of dwindling dog numbers.

“Last year I had a hell of a team, but the circumstances were I went home early. But this year I’m planning on being back in the top 10 again and hopefully will win,” he said. Continue reading

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Dynasty of dogs — Three generations of Seaveys take to the trail in this year’s Iditarod

By Joseph Robertia

Photo by Joseph Robertia. Mitch Seavey prepares to leave the starting line of the Tustumena 200 several years ago. Seavey is an annaul Iditarod contender, joined this year by his father, Dan Sr, and Dallas, one of his sons.

Redoubt Reporter

In the world of mushing, few families can claim as many Iditarod accomplishments as the Seavey clan. The now 74-year-old Dan Seavey Sr., of Seward, helped organize the first Iditarod back in 1973. He ran the race in its inaugural and second years, took a hiatus, returned in 1997 and 2001, and is back again for the 2012 race.

His son, Mitch, of Sterling, won the Iditarod in 2004 and has also earned nine top-10 finishes out of 18 attempts at the race. Mitch’s son, Dallas, formerly of Sterling, has run the Iditarod five times, placing in the top 10 the last three years, including a career-best fourth-place finish in the 2011 Last Great Race, which came just weeks after Dallas won the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race.

Mitch’s other sons, Tyrell and Danny, have also both completed the Iditarod, as well as his daughter-in-law, Jen, who is Dallas’ wife. Mitch’s youngest son, Conway, ran the Jr. Iditarod in 2011, won the Jr. T in January, and has been cited on several occasions as stating he intends to run the Iditarod when he turns 18.

“We joke about it all the time. We wonder how different things would be if instead of getting those first sled dogs I’d gotten into stamp collecting,” Dan Seavey said. “But, I didn’t, and sled dogs have just always been a part of us Seaveys. They’ve just always been.”

As the 2012 Iditarod takes shape, three Seaveys will again take to the runners: Dan, Mitch and Dallas. The younger members of the Seavey clan will be racing to win, while Dan will be running to commemorate. After years of serving on the boards of directors for both the Iditarod Trail Committee and the Iditarod Historic Trail Alliance, he has returned to the runners this season to emphasize the centennial anniversary of the Iditarod National Historic Trail.

“Not since 2001, when Mitch, Danny and I ran it, have three generations of Seaveys been out there, so that is very meaningful to me. But I’m also being sponsored by the Iditarod National Historic Trail Alliance to highlight and educate people about the four decades of the Iditarod race and 100 years of the trail,” he said.

He’ll be educating villagers along the way about the important role their communities have played in the history of the race and trail. That will hamper any attempt at keeping a race pace, but Dan said he doesn’t intend to lollygag.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity, so I intend to do as good a job as I can, and I have no doubts I’ll make it to Nome. I feel better now than I did in ’97. I’ve been blessed with good health, so it’s not like I’ll have a whip sled of pills behind me, and while I haven’t raced in a while, I’ve mushed recreationally every year. I’m always out there, so it’s not like I’ve forgotten what end of the dog the harness goes on or anything,” Dan said.

“There’ve been a lot of advancements over the years, though. In ’97 I was a week faster than my first race, but I placed 30 positions further back, and I’m expecting more of the same this year. My only goal is to make it by the banquet because I don’t like cold food,” he said. Continue reading

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Eye on expenditures — ACT keeping track of borough spending

By Naomi Klouda

Homer Tribune

Watchdog efforts by the Alliance for Concerned Taxpayers sharpened their teeth this week in a new public information project aimed at informing the public on government spending.

ACT mailed out a list of agenda items introduced at the Feb. 21 Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting. Beside each ordinance was a label of either “controversial” or “off-budget” or both. ACT will then keep tabs on the voting record for each assembly member, said ACT’s Mike McBride.

Off-budget items are spending requests made after the fiscal year’s budget was already passed. So far, the borough has spent $500,000 in this category, according to ACT’s research surveying allocations since July 1, 2011.

“We want to make people aware ahead of time what off-budget items are being considered,” McBride said. “This is new. We started working on it in December, and all of our information will be sent out by email, (announcing) notice for issues up for public hearing. These are issues that have not been voted on yet. Then, once voted on by the assembly, it will be posted on our website (” Continue reading

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Almanac: Building hits choppy waters

Editor’s note: This is the sixth and final article in a multipart story about the origin of the Borough Administration Building in Soldotna. This week’s installment reveals how the completion of the administration building was no easy feat.

By Clark Fair

Redoubt Reporter

The good start to the construction of the Borough Administration Building lasted only a few weeks. Then disaster struck. On Nov. 29, 1969 — with the work estimated to be approximately 35 percent complete — a dire headline appeared on Page 1 of the Cheechako News: “Borough Building Panels Lost in Storm at Sea.”

A few days earlier, according to the article, the tugboat Patricia Foss, owned by Seattle-based Foss Tug and Barge Company, had pulled into the dock at the Ketchikan Pulp Company after its barge, No. 250, had hit bad seas about 40 miles north of Ketchikan. Foss officials announced that two-thirds of a shipment of prefabricated concrete panels designated for the borough construction project had been on board, and that storm waters had cleared the decks of most of the cargo and damaged much of the remainder.

Borough construction coord-inator Don Gallagher said that the borough had “suffered a major setback in its building program.” Gallagher said that each of the steel-reinforced concrete panels weighed 8 to 12 tons and had been shipped out of Tacoma, Wash.

Originally, the panels had been due on the Kenai Peninsula on Nov. 20, but bad weather had caused delays. Now the delay would be more substantial:

“I presume it will be necessary to contact the manufacturer of the panels and have the order re-poured,” Gallagher said. “This will probably mean a delay of three to four months in our building schedule.” Continue reading

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Art Seen: Book exhibition worth high marks

By Zirrus VanDevere, for the Redoubt Reporter

"Midnight Sun"

Susan Joy Share seems quite capable of sharing her joy through her meticulous, thoughtful and adventurous book creations. This is the kind of body of work with which I could spend a whole afternoon, delightfully coming across visual goodies I’d missed the first five times through. It is currently showing in the Gary L. Freeburg Gallery at the Kenai River Campus of Kenai Peninsula College.

It’s pretty much impossible to pick a favorite, and just when I think I have narrowed it down some, another wonderful element in another piece presents itself and I am pleasantly confounded. Share presents a nice mix of immaculate handling and Dadaist collage, so that the awe factor is met in regard to her great skill, yet we are also challenged by the images to think more deeply about the meanings inherent in the pieces. Continue reading

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Plugged In: Put ink to paper to produce quality prints

By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

Making top-quality photo prints takes some experience and knowledge but it’s a skill that’s within reach if you’re willing to make the effort and perhaps “waste” some paper and ink.

Of course, using high-end equipment reduces guesswork and unexpected print-to-print inconsistencies. But you’ll still need to know how to recognize a good print and understand how to correct a photo that’s not quite good enough.

This week, we’ll discuss the major variables affecting the final appearance of any photographic print and how to correct some common problems. Because this week’s article will be more technical than usual, we’ll do the easy ones first. Most of our points are equally applicable to both color and black-and-white images, with a fine print the ultimate aim.

Print resolution is expressed in dots per inch (dpi). A computer monitor usually has about 72 dpi, but the human eye is capable of seeing far finer detail. Try making a print at 72 dpi and you’ll see how bad it looks on paper, any paper. “Up-resing” to the desired print size at 450 dpi usually produces all of the image detail that the human eye can resolve. For reference, this newspaper prints at 220 dpi, and that’s noticeably lower in the fine detail that often makes or breaks a print. Continue reading

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Outgrowth of concern — Club launches effort to create moose munchies

By Jenny Neyman

Photo by Clark Fair, Redoubt Reporter. A cow moose munches on a branch earlier this winter. Heavy-snow winters pose challenges for the ungulates, which need to consume 2 percent of their body weight a day to stay healthy.

Redoubt Reporter

As if moose on the Kenai Peninsula don’t have it tough enough.

Population numbers have declined over the past four decades, especially on the northwestern peninsula, with poor habitat conditions owing to a forest that has matured beyond optimal browse production. Hundreds are hit and killed each year by cars. Come fall, they are sought by human hunters. In spring, moose calves are preferred prey for bears and wolves.

And now, with a deep-snow winter dragging on into a crusty-snow spring, they face starvation.

The difficulty for moose in a harsh, snow-laden winter is two-fold: For one thing, it’s tough to get around. Deep snow can drive moose to take advantage of roads, parking lots and other human conveniences, which puts them at greater risk of being hit by cars, snapped at by pets, snarled in everything from fencing to Christmas lights, and whatever other consequences may befall wildlife interacting with civilization.

Plus, high-stepping through deep drifts or having to punch through the icy crust that forms on top of freeze-thawed snow just makes moose expend even more energy. And that means they need to eat more. Thus is the other challenge of a tough winter — available food options are slim, and suitable browse becomes increasingly scarce as the winter drags on. Anywhere birch, willow or aspen sprouted new saplings last spring now stand gnarled, peeled, clubbed little stumps, chewed by hungry moose into Alaska’s version of a cactus.

But as much as people may hate the thought of moose facing starvation, or aren’t fond of the increased interest the ungulates take in gardens and landscaping when their preferred natural browse is unavailable, there isn’t much John Q. Public can directly do to help, since it’s illegal and unwise to feed moose. Much of what people might think to offer moose isn’t good for them, and habituating wildlife to expect easy meals from humans rarely comes without negative consequences.

A large-scale way to address the situation would be habitat enhancement projects, such as using fire to encourage forest regrowth. But again — talk about illegal and unwise — that’s definitely not a strategy available to the public.

However, it is not illegal to help the available natural habitat feed moose, and the Kenai Peninsula chapter of the Safari Club International has started a clubwide effort to do just that. Continue reading

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It’s a rap, naturally — Ecologists dish dirt on the microphone

By Jenny Neyman

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Karaoke host “Dax” Radtke takes suggestions from the audience for a freestyle round of a naturalist rap-off at the Down East Saloon in Homer on Thursday, between Julie Hinkle, of Homer, and Dan Pascucci, of Soldotna.

Redoubt Reporter

When “Dax” Radtke starts his karaoke show by announcing, “We’ve got a little something weird going on here tonight,” take him seriously.

This is, after all, karaoke. Karaoke at the Down East Saloon in Homer, no less. Where a heartfelt Janis Joplin ballad to Bobby McGee is followed by a grind down into the dirt of Alice in Chains grunge. Where patrons wait patiently for refills while the bartender and sound engineer belt out the entire, full-length, six-minute, 17-second rendition of Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer,” complete with oversized, sparkly glasses as flamboyant as their choreography. Where the regulars include a soulful songstress who classes up the mic every time she takes the stage, followed by a guy only referred to as “Evil Spawn,” who has perfected his Tenacious D “Tribute” knee slide to the point where his black stovepipe top hat doesn’t budge off his head.

Out of the ordinary is ordinary. Still, the natural course of the evening got somewhat derailed Thursday, by, well, nature.

Naturalists, to be precise, and they were very precise — in their rhythms, in their rhymes and in the ecological information they were there to relate. Continue reading

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Scout out some cool fun — Winter event shares safety of recreation

By Joseph Roberta

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Catherine Kaminski, of Kenai, jigs her bait through a hole in the ice while fishing Saturday as part of the Girl Scouts of Alaska’s annual “Winter Fun Day,” held at Johnson Lake State Reaction Area.

Redoubt Reporter

We were all young and new once, not just to the ways of the world, but to the ways of an Alaska winter. From how to dress properly, to what activities to do to stay mentally and physically healthy, there is much to learn about making it through the six months of cold and snow, but 8-year-old Catherine Kaminski was off to a good start Saturday.

“I got one,” she shouted, breaking the silence at Johnson Lake State Recreation Area.

Her shout was immed-iately followed by the war cry of several other children her age, all equally as excited as she was.

“She got one! She got one!” they exclaimed, as the mass of kids began running back to shore, looking for both the approval and assistance of the adults waiting onshore.

At the end of a tiny, footlong fishing rod was an even tinier silver fish that flopped and wiggled. While Kaminski’s goal was to catch a trout when she dropped her bait through the plate-sized hole in the ice, it was tough to tell who was more surprised that she actually had hooked one, her or the troop leaders who had organized this and other events as part of the annual “Winter Fun Day,” hosted by the Kenai Peninsula Girl Scouts of Alaska, a division of the Girl Scouts of America. Continue reading

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Almanac: Administrative hall Taj Mahal?

Editor’s note: This is the fifth article in a multipart story about the origin of the Borough Building and the establishment of Soldotna as the seat of the Kenai Peninsula Borough. This week’s installment discusses how an administration building that voters refused to fund managed to be built anyway. 

By Clark Fair

Photo courtesy of the KPC Photo Archive. Dolly Farnsworth had her Soldotna Bookkeeping business in the Farnsworth Building, until the borough needed all the room (plus more). The borough had its first office in this building in one 10-by-10 room.

Redoubt Reporter

The first price tag attached to the construction of the Borough Building — after $20,000 was set aside for planning and architectural purposes — was $300,000, which Borough Chairman George Navarre included in a bond proposition placed before the electorate on Oct. 3, 1967.

Voters rejected the proposition by more than a 2-1 margin.
An architect was hired anyway and a preliminary design was created. In December 1968, another price tag, based on that design, was floated before the public: $507,000 for a two-story structure (a basement and main floor) or $657,000 for a three-story structure (including the basement).

After the design was finalized and the project had been posted for prospective contractors, bids were opened in June 1969, with the lowest offer coming in at nearly $860,000.

When borough and school district employees moved into the completed building on Binkley Street in Soldotna in late January 1971, the final price tag was announced as $1.36 million, not including furnishings. (According to a Dec. 17, 1970, editorial in the Peninsula Clarion, the furnishings were part of an additional $70,000 expenditure.)

Time and money are always tricky ingredients in the mix of government projects. In this case, the time involved was seven years, from the first borough assembly meeting in an Elks Hall in January 1964 until the first formal meeting in the new Borough Building chambers in January 1971. And the growing costs bothered an anxious public already beset with huge bills for several brand-new schools and some intensive school renovation across the Kenai Peninsula.

So it was no great surprise to many when, on Jan. 14, 1971, John Nelson, editor of the fledgling Clarion, sank his sharp editorial teeth firmly into the flanks of borough government:

“There seems to be prevalent here on the Peninsula a never-ending spending of dollars by the Borough and School administration, who tell us that it is for the betterment of everyone living here.

“The ‘Taj Mahal’ they call the Borough Building is large and grand enough to administer a population twice or three times the size of this Borough. I also understand that this White Elephant was built on a flood plain and therefore is difficult to obtain insurance on. (This is wise spending of our tax dollars?)” Continue reading

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Art Seen: KPC student show full of life

By Zirrus VanDevere, for the Redoubt Reporter

"Victoriaria" by Victoria Worral

Recently I mentioned that I’d love to see more work from Kaitlin Vadla and Victoria Worral, and already I’ve gotten my wish. They both have a strong showing at the Kenai Fine Arts Center’s group show by current Kenai Peninsula College art students.

Worral’s “Still Life” is especially fascinating, as she chooses to go uber-realistic on the apples, sort of stylized on the glass objects, and very Marc Chagall in the background.

Her self-portrait reflects a dichotomy, it seems, where her forward-facing image has a cold, calculating effect and the side view warms up considerably, and not just because of the deep orange surrounding the side view and not the other. The eyes are doelike in the warm image, very neutral in the other, and the way she chooses to let the ear of the former all but intersect the latter’s eye is psychologically intriguing. Carl Jung would have a nice time of it. Continue reading

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