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Alaska to Reintroduce Wood Bison

The wood bison, common to the Alaskan wilderness for nearly 10,000 years before they disappeared, will once again return to the Alaskan frontier. After eight years of raising the endangered animals in partnership with staff at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, the Alaska Department of Fish and Wildlife has received approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reintroduce wood bison into three areas of the state, the Anchorage Daily News reported in May.
The approval came through a rule published by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service allowing a “non-essential experimental” population to be reintroduced in three designated areas. Department officials announced they will introduce an initial group of animals to the Innoko River area in western Alaska in spring 2015. The Minto and Yukon flats areas also were approved for reintroduction of the bison.
The regulation has been in development for nearly 10 years, and earlier iterations would have placed strict burdens on landowners in the approved release areas if they wanted to pursue development. Through the final approved regulations, however, the state is authorized to manage the bison population in the identified areas with exemptions for incidental effects of development, land management and regulated hunting.
Wood bison, at nearly 2,000 pounds, are the largest land mammal in North America. State officials plan to transport 100 bison from the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in Girdwood to the Innoka area via C-130 aircraft using specially designed trailers.
“Who knows what it’s like to fly 100 wood bison out to this area?” said Mike Miller, executive director of the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. “It feels like a good challenge, but sort of intimidating.”

RIGHT TO TRY
Arizonans will consider a ballot measure in November to decide whether terminally ill patients can have access to experimental drugs that have not yet completed the review and approval process through the Federal Drug Administration, The Arizona Republic reported in May. If passed, the measure would allow drug companies to provide experimental drugs, biological products and medical devices that have completed Phase 1 clinical trials by the FDA to terminally ill patients who request them.

PARKS PASSES
Idaho is seeing the benefits of an effort to promote state parks passes to the public, Stateline.org reported in May. After the state legislature cut parks funding by 80 percent at the height of the recession, the Idaho Department of Parks replaced its $40 season pass with a $10 “parks passport,” good for entry to any of its 30 state parks. Last year, 95,800 people purchased the $10 passport—compared to the 15,000 on average who bought the season pass—generating $1 million in revenue.

 

HEALTH EXCHANGE
Nevada is foregoing its state-run health exchange and will join the federal exchange for one year, according to the Las Vegas Sun. The Silver State Exchange’s board decided in May to end its contractual relationship with its software contractor, Xerox, after the company was unable to fix a series of technical glitches. The board voted to join the federal exchange for enrollment in 2015, after which it will develop a new state-run exchange for the 2016 enrollment year.

ELECTED OFFICIALS PAY
Pay for Oregon’s elected officials often falls below many who report to them. The Statesman Journal reported in May that several top elected state officials, including Gov. John Kitzhaber, supervise subordinates who earn higher wages—in some cases, substantially higher. For instance, the state’s attorney general earns less than 269 people within her agency, including a fiscal analyst, several computer specialists, assistant attorneys general, criminal investigators and every district attorney in the state.

FEDERAL LANDS
Utah has contracted with economists at Utah State and Weber State universities to conduct an economic study of the costs and benefits of a potential state takeover of federal lands, The Salt Lake Tribune reported in May. The study, due in November, will provide a comprehensive assessment of the economic impact of the proposed transfer, including employment and other variables. The state has demanded Congress turn over tens of millions of federal acres, not including national parks and monuments, to the state and to notify state officials by December 2014 of its intentions.
 
 
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