Nathaniel Herz, Alaska Public Media - Anchorage

Nat Herz covers government, politics, environment and COVID-19 for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at
A ochre and white concrete building in a greay cloudy day

It’s masks off at the Alaska Capitol — but the public is still barred

The ban is keeping out summer tourists, forcing lobbyists to do business by Zoom and stopping Alaskans from witnessing key committee meetings and floor sessions in-person.
Am aerial view of snowy mountains

‘Send rescue now’: National Guard helicopter hoists two plane crash victims off frigid Alaska peak

"Send rescue now. We will not make it through the night," read a text message one of the pilots sent to his wife after his plane crashed on a peak in Wrangell -St. Elias National Park.

Alaska lawmakers set a limit on spending from the Permanent Fund. Now, many want to break it.

Alaska lawmakers are closer than ever to blowing past the cap they set as the maximum sustainable spending level from the Permanent Fund. The money would help fill short-term deficits and pay larger dividends.

Friends, colleagues remember Tlingit leader Kookesh as a man “of the people”

Albert Kookesh, the Tlingit leader, Indigenous rights advocate, culture bearer, politician and basketball player, died Friday at 72, and his death is reverberating across the state and his home region of Southeast Alaska.
A four story concrete building

Dunleavy administration waits to warn of layoffs as budget pressure grows

State lawmakers need to pass an operating budget by July 1 to avert a government shutdown, and that hasn’t happened yet, more than a month after the 90-day deadline on the legislative session instituted by voters.

Alaska lawmakers sprinted to the almost-finish. But now their work is stalling amid PFD dispute.

Lawmakers failed to pass a budget by the end of the regular session last week. Now, as a special session begins in Juneau, their momentum seems to have stalled amid disagreements over the size of the Permanent Fund dividend.
a person holds a Covid-19 vaccination record card

State to launch mobile platform for Alaskans to show they’re vaccinated

Alaska Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy has said his administration won’t require vaccine passports. But it is nonetheless getting ready to launch an online platform that Alaskans can use to look up and display their COVID-19 vaccination records.
A yellow circle bordered by green in a blue background.

Alaska sees sharp spike in coronavirus cases stemming from B.1.1.7 variant

CDC officials predicted months ago that B.1.1.7 would become the primary strain of the virus by March, and it’s now responsible for most of the country’s cases.

Alaska Gov. Dunleavy launches new tourism ads featuring outdated COVID vaccination data

Alaska Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy has launched a national ad campaign promoting a post-pandemic revival of Alaska’s tourism industry. But the campaign relies on outdated data that claims the state’s COVID-19 vaccination rate is higher than it currently is.
A white man speakss into a microphone at a podium

Anchorage is trending blue. Here’s why it’s on track to elect a conservative mayor.

Political observers say Anchorage's mayoral election became an outlet for residents frustrated with the mask mandates and closures imposed by the city government — to which Forrest Dunbar, as a member of the Assembly, belongs.

New proposal from Gov. Dunleavy would put PFD in Constitution, along with rural electricity fund

The proposal aims to defuse long-running, time-consuming fights over the size of the Permanent Fund dividend and government spending. This year's PFD would be $2,350 if the plan is approved.

Alaska Gov. Dunleavy’s top rural affairs advisor departs, and tribal and fishing leaders wonder why

Moller was a trusted advisor to Dunleavy, having co-chaired his successful 2018 gubernatorial campaign, and his portfolio included work with the fishing industry and Alaska Native issues. The governor's office won't say if he resigned or was fired.
A white man with a suit and red tie

15 years after VECO scandal, Stevens’ new oil job renews old ethics questions

A decade after the VECO corruption scandal pushed lawmakers to pass sweeping ethics reforms, Ben Stevens — one of the scandal's central figures — has prompted new ethical questions by moving from a powerful government job to an executive post at oil company ConocoPhillips.

With fewer Alaskans eager for COVID-19 vaccines, more doses are going to waste

Since December, Alaska has recorded just 3,000 wasted doses out of a total of 500,000 administered, for a loss rate of less than 1%. But those data also show a sharp increase in waste this month, with two-thirds of all the lost doses — 1,985 — coming since April 1.

For Kenai Peninsula pharmacist, COVID-19 vaccine fight tests friendships

Justin Ruffridge grew up in Soldotna and, as a conservative and a Christian, he's part of the same demographic as some of the COVID-19 vaccine’s biggest skeptics. He’s also a medical professional lends him a measure of credibility that elected officials and other government employees can lack.
As seen from above, people sit in chairs spaced six feet apart

Alaska executives, employers wrestle with whether to mandate, incentivize or encourage COVID-19 shots

A dilemma over workplace vaccine mandates and incentives is playing out across Alaska, where employers are grappling with the balance between ensuring safe workplaces and workers’ rights to make their own medical decisions.

Alaska officials detect case of COVID-19 strain first found in South Africa that’s less affected by vaccines

A single case of the variant, known as B.1.351, was detected last month in the Anchorage-Mat-Su area. Officials haven't said how the infected person acquired the virus, or whether others may have been exposed.

Alaska DOT: Epic avalanche cascade shuts down Hatcher Pass Road for days

Forecasters with the Hatcher Pass Avalanche Center say that five different avalanches crossed the upper stretch of the road, and one of those extended so far that it hit a second, lower stretch of the road, beneath a switchback. The center said that was the first time such a slide had taken place since the 1980s.

We asked all 60 Alaska legislators if they’re getting vaccinated. Here’s what they said.

A survey of Alaska lawmakers underscores the depth of the state's partisan vaccine divide in Alaska. All but one Democrat said they're getting the shot, while 20 of the 34 Republican lawmakers either refused to answer or did not respond.
a yellow float in a blue ocean

NTSB: Witness says tribal health executive was ‘distracted’ before his helicopter disappeared over Gulf of Alaska

A witness who spoke with a tribal health executive before his helicopter went missing last month told federal investigators that the executive was "distracted, and was not himself," according to a preliminary report published Tuesday.