Here’s a look back on 2015 news items for Metlakatla, Prince of Wales Island and Hyder.
In Metlakatla, tourism grew with regular visits from cruise passengers off boats stopping in Ketchikan. The community shared its Tsimshian heritage, and its unique history with visiting tourists.
Tourism Director Lacey Wilson says the goal is “highlighting our culture but not exploiting it in any way. Cultural protection and integrity is something that we take very seriously.”
That federal Native reserve also opted this fall to follow Alaska Standard time – a big change, as Metlakatla previously followed Pacific Time, but without switching for Daylight Saving.
On neighboring Prince of Wales Island this year, the various communities continued discussing the idea of forming a borough in the future. That island also was the focus of continued debate over old-growth logging and what appears to be a diminished population of wolves.
The wolf debate kicked into high gear this summer when the state Department of Fish and Game released a study indicating that the number of wolves on POW had dropped from an estimated 221 to 89. Conservationists called for an emergency closure of the winter wolf hunting and trapping season, but those efforts failed.
David Person is a former state biologist who studied Prince of Wales Island wolves. He told KRBD that the population on POW is too low.
“So, when you eliminate entire packs, it’s like eliminating an entire salmon run in a stream. You potentially lose the entire genetic stock,” he said. “So, if you reduce that population, keep bottlenecking it down to very low levels, you end up with very few breeders left and you end up with potential genetic inbreeding and genetic depression.”
State officials, though, said they weren’t concerned about the viability of the island’s wolf population – at least not yet. This winter’s wolf season – with an allowed take of nine animals – closed in mid-December.
Conservationists have filed for federal protection for POW wolves, and a decision on that is expected soon.
Also on POW, the largest community of Craig lost a landmark late in the year when Ruth Anne’s Restaurant burned. Here’s Craig City Manager Jon Bolling: “Like any landmark in a community, especially a small community like this, destroyed unexpectedly, it’s probably fair to say it’s a shock.”
Over on the mainland, the small town of Hyder became an international topic of concern when the Canadian government decided to partially close the border crossing between that Alaska community and its nearby Canadian neighbor, Stewart.
Here’s Wes Low, president of the Hyder Community Association: “When you only have one way out of this town, and on one end of town, we have the glacier, and then we have a hydro dam up there, and if there’s an earthquake and that dam breaks, within two to three hours, we’ll have 21 feet of water in the middle of Hyder, so that gate cannot be locked.”
Alaska’s Congressional Delegation got involved, along with state and local officials, and managed to come up with a solution to keep the gate open.