Glacier Bay vessels told to slow down for whales

GUSTAVUS - Vessels operating inside Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Southeast Alaska are being required to slow down in order to protect humpback whales from injury.

Park Superintendent Susan Boudreau announced Tuesday that vessels will be restricted to going 13 knots, or about 15 mph, in lower Glacier Bay and at the mouth of the bay. The restrictions will apply to all vessels greater than 18 feet long. Boats also will be restricted to mid-channel travel or being at least a nautical mile offshore.

Park officials said that in the last week 17 humpback whales have been observed feeding in the area.

Humpback whales come to Glacier Bay in the summer to feed on fish. They winter in the Hawaiian Islands.


4 northern highways could get heavier trucks

BOISE - Four northern Idaho roads designated as appropriate for extra-long trucks will likely be considered as potential routes for extra-heavy trucks as well.

The Spokesman-Review reported Thursday that U.S. highways 95 and 2, and state highways 41 and 53 already have the extra-long designation.

Timber companies fought for allowing bigger shipments, saying it will help their businesses. Foes fear allowing larger trucks on highways will make roads more dangerous, especially in mountainous northern Idaho.

The new law will allow trucks up to 129,000 pounds anywhere the roads can handle them. The current limit is 105,500 pounds. The bill excludes 35 southern Idaho routes that are part of a 10-year-pilot project where heavier tractor-trailers are allowed already.

The new potential rules will be given to lawmakers for approval at the 2014 legislative session.


Scratch-sniff cards prompt gas scare in Great Falls

GREAT FALLS - Those scratch-and-sniff cards the energy company sends to customers to teach them to recognize the artificial smell added to natural gas? Turns out they work pretty well.

Energy West general manager Nick Bohr told the Great Falls Tribune that workers discarded several boxes of expired scratch-and-sniff cards in Great Falls. But when the garbage truck picked them up and compressed the load, Bohr says, "It was the same as if they had scratched them."

The resulting odor prompted numerous false alarms and building evacuations as the garbage truck traveled through downtown Great Falls on Wednesday morning, leaving the smell in its trail.

Bohr said the company apologized for the disruption.


Lawmakers begin debate on new state airplane

LINCOLN - Lawmakers are debating whether to buy a $2.2 million state airplane from the University of Nebraska Foundation.

The proposal was included in Gov. Dave Heineman's proposed budget, after the foundation decided to sell its Beechcraft Super King Air airplane. The plane is already used by the governor and state agencies through a lease agreement.

Some lawmakers have questioned whether the plane is necessary, or if better deals are available through charter flights, leases, or time-share agreements. Sen. Bob Krist, a pilot, has said buying a new plane with a warranty could be more cost-effective.

Sen. Annette Dubas of Fullerton introduced an amendment that would require the Department of Aeronautics to study the best option.

north dakota

Payment sought after dogs kill sheep in college barn

FARGO - North Dakota State University plans to seek compensation from the owner of two dogs that attacked a flock of sheep in a campus research barn, killing several of them.

The two huskies killed seven of the sheep and injured five others so badly that they had to be euthanized. Six others were treated for injuries.

The sheep were part of a flock of about 500 that are housed in three barns and used for research and training purposes.

"It's disheartening to see this happen," Greg Lardy, head of the university's Animal Sciences Department, told WDAY-TV. "Our students and student workers, our employees there care deeply about the sheep. They really work hard to care for the sheep and so they're affected by it and they're hurt by it."

NDSU is still calculating the monetary loss but Lardy told The Forum that it likely will be in the thousands of dollars. The university plans to sue the dogs' owner for compensation, and authorities were planning to cite him for having dogs wandering around unattended, which is punishable by up to a $500 fine. The owner hasn't been publicly identified.

Lardy said the barn site is fenced and it's not clear how the dogs got inside.


Voter registration may be tied to driver's licenses

SALEM - Oregon's chief elections official wants almost everyone with a driver's license to be automatically registered to vote.

The plan, proposed by Democratic Secretary of State Kate Brown, would significantly redesign Oregon's voter-registration practices and potentially add hundreds of thousands of newly registered voters to the state.

Combined with Oregon's all-mail elections, the bill would mean that most adult state residents would automatically get ballots in their mailboxes. Republicans have reacted with caution, saying they're concerned about the potential for fraud.

The House Rules Committee heard public testimony on Brown's proposal Wednesday but did not decide whether to advance it.

south dakota

Lakota horse carving to be part of international show

PIERRE - A Lakota carving of a horse that seems to be dying of battle wounds, a signature piece held by the South Dakota State Historical Society, is about to hit the road.

The Horse Effigy dance stick will be included in an exhibit featuring American Indian art from the Great Plains that will be displayed over the two next years at the Quai Branly Museum in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City, Mo.

Jay D. Vogt, director of the South Dakota State Historical Society, said the 3-foot-long wooden carving is believed to have been made in about 1870 by a Lakota artist or warrior as a tribute to a horse that died in battle. The carving, used in various dances, is so highly regarded that it serves as the society's logo.

Gaylord Torrence, senior curator of American Indian Art at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, said the horse carving will be part of a 140-piece exhibit that features objects from private and museum collections from North America and Europe. He said the exhibit, "Art of the Plains Indians," will feature some of the greatest icons of Native American art from a region stretching from the Mississippi River Valley to the Rocky Mountains and from Texas to Canada.

Torrence, guest curator for the exhibit, said it will open in Paris in April 2014 at the Musee du Quai Branly, which features indigenous art from around the world. It will move to Kansas City in September 2014 and New York in March 2015.


Police to ease recruit rules on body art, use of pot

SEATTLE - The Seattle Police Department is loosening its rules on marijuana use and tattoos for new officer recruits.

The department used to require that those seeking to join the force not have used pot in the past three years, and not more than 25 times in all. But last fall Washington voters legalized marijuana for personal use by adults, and Mayor Mike McGinn said the department should ease up.

McGinn said the city will be hiring 300 new officers over the next five years, and he wants them to reflect the city's populace. The department will reach out to minority communities in an effort to boost interest in becoming police officers.

The department is also making changes to its personal appearance policy. Before, applicants couldn't have face, neck or hand tattoos. Now, applicants with such tattoos will be considered case by case.


Budget cuts change plans for Grand Teton weddings

MOOSE - Dozens of brides and grooms have had to change their plans for getting married in Grand Teton National Park due to federal budget cuts.

The cuts took effect March 1. Locations closed as a result of the cuts include one popular place to get married, Schwabacher's Landing, a scenic spot on a lake near the Snake River.

Grand Teton officials said they closed Schwabacher's Landing because the park will have fewer seasonal employees this year. While some say the National Park Service in many cases has deliberately aimed federal budget cuts at high-profile places and services, park officials said they made an effort to keep disruption to a minimum.

"Everyone has their favorite place in Grand Teton National Park," Grand Teton spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs said. "We looked at the places that weren't the highly visited places in the park, and where we'd have the least impact on the least amount of people."

Thirty-five couples who planned to wed at Schwabacher's Landing have had their weddings moved to other locations. Many will instead get married at another well-known scenic spot, the Moulton Barn, at the southern end of the park, the Casper Star-Tribune reported.

The Associated Press