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GREEN LIGHT – Karen Lucas works in her Katlian Street garden this afternoon. Warm sunny weather this spring has been a boon for local gardeners. The Farmers' Almanac is predicting this summer will be warmer than normal, with the hottest period in early July. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Environmentalists Sue Over Ice Seal Habitat

By DAN JOLING
Associated Press
    ANCHORAGE (AP) — An environmental group sued the Trump administration today for failing to designate critical habitat for two species of seals that rely on sea ice off Alaska’s northwest coast.
    The Center for Biological Diversity sued the Department of Commerce and the National Marine Fisheries Service for not designating critical habitat for threatened ringed and bearded seals. Agency spokeswoman Julie Speegle said by email the agency does not comment on ongoing litigation.
    Designation of critical habitat for a threatened species is required by the Endangered Species Act a year after a listing. Federal agencies that authorize activities such as oil drilling within critical habitat must consult with wildlife managers to determine if threatened species will be affected.
    Center for Biological Diversity attorney Emily Jeffers, who drafted the lawsuit, said by phone from Oakland, California, that additional protections are needed for ringed and bearded seals, which already are losing habitat because of climate warming.
    “It’s where the rubber hits the roads in terms of actual protections,” she said.

An adult ringed seal is pictured near Kotzebue in a 2009 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration photo. (Mike Cameron/NOAA via AP)

    Ringed and bearded seals live in the Bering and Chukchi seas. Though their numbers have not declined, they were listed as threatened in 2012 because of projected sea ice loss.
    The state of Alaska, oil industry groups and others sued in two lawsuits and the listing was vacated. However, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last year reversed those decisions and said long-range data demonstrating a species decline is not required to adopt conservation policies to prevent the decline.
    “If you wait until their demise is certain, it’s too late,” Jeffers said Thursday.
    Ringed seals are the smallest and most numerous of Alaska’s ice seals and the main prey of another threatened species, polar bears.
    Ringed seals thrive in completely ice-covered Arctic waters because they maintain breathing holes with thick claws.
    After snow covers breathing holes, females excavate snow caves on sea ice. Inside those lairs, they give birth to pups that cannot survive in ice-cold water until weeks later when they have grown a blubber layer. Early breakup of sea ice, less snow and even rain threatens lairs, exposing pups to polar bears, Arctic foxes and freezing temperatures.
    Bearded seals get their name from short snouts covered with thick, long, white whiskers. Bearded seals give birth and rear pups on drifting pack ice.
    NOAA Fisheries officials announced Wednesday that at least 60 ice seals, including ringed, bearded and spotted seals, have been found dead this week on coastlines north and south of the Bering Strait. The cause has not been determined.
    The agency declared an unusual mortality event following abnormal molting and deaths of ice seals and walruses from 2011 to 2016. A definitive cause was not identified.
    The agency estimated that 657 seals were affected over those six years. Biologists confirmed symptoms in 233 dead and stranded seals, 179 seals killed by hunters and 245 live seals checked in health assessments.
   

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Alaska COVID-19
At a Glance

(updated 5-28-20)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 10:55 a.m. Thursday.

New cases as of Wednesday: 13

Total statewide – 425

The state says the cumulative number of cases hospitalized is 46, and the cumulative number of deaths is 10.

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

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Welcome to the Sitka Sentinel's web page. In order to make the Sentinel's news more easily available during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have taken down the paywall to access articles on this page. Just click on an article headline to read the story. 

March 23, 2020

NOTICE FROM THE PUBLISHERS

TO READERS AND ADVERTISERS

For the duration of the COVID-19 disaster emergency declared by federal, state and local authorities, the Sentinel is taking additional measures to reduce virus exposure to its employees and contractors as well as to the public, while continuing to publish a daily news report for Sitka.

To the extent possible, Sentinel news and sales staff will be working from home. For the protection of our carriers, home delivery of the newspaper will be stopped effective Tuesday, March 24.

The Sentinel will continue to publish on its website sitkasentinel.com. Access to the website will be free to all users. The Sentinel will also produce a print edition Monday through Friday. It will be available to all readers without charge, at locations throughout town.

Initially, these locations are those where the Sentinel's newspaper vending machines are already in place. The coin mechanisms will be disabled or the doors removed to permit easy access. The Sentinel will work with the stores where the paper is usually sold, to designate a place inside or outside the store where the free edition can be made available.  

Home delivery subscriptions are on hold, and after the end of the disaster emergency, subscriptions will be extended at no charge for the number of days that there was no home delivery.

The Sentinel will make its print edition available to the public as early in the day as possible. with all personnel taking precautions to prevent spread of the virus.

The Sentinel is calling upon its customers to observe the COVID-19 emergency precautions already in place, particularly in maintaining a six-foot social distance from others at newspaper distribution sites.

Following is the statement issued by the Sentinel on March 16, stating the Sentinel's emergency procedures, which remain in effect.

The Sentinel office at 112 Barracks Street is closed to the public. We encourage people to use the phone, email or the U.S. Postal Service as much as possible.There is a slot in the front door of the office for ads, news items and payment checks. Emails may be sent to  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and the phone number is (907) 747-3219.                                                                          

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