Best of the West: Alaska’s effective earthquake response; Colorado spacecraft reaches asteroid; protecting pristine parks

The West

The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are the western stories for the week starting Dec. 3, 2018 that you don't want to miss. Image: Alaska Tour and Travel

Alaska is recovering from the magnitude 7.0 earthquake that struck on Nov. 30 just north of Anchorage. Damage to homes, highways, bridges and other infrastructure was extensive, and estimated economic losses could be as high as $1 billion according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The quake caused a series of strong aftershocks and a tsunami warning, but thankfully, no lives were lost.

In response to the structural damage, repairs are quickly being made. The most powerful earthquake in U.S. history struck Alaska in 1964 and changed the way the state rebuilds and responds to disaster. Stringent building standards helped mitigate the worst possible outcomes and allowed the state to quickly respond. In only four days, an important thoroughfare destroyed in the earthquake has been restored.

“The 1964 disaster demonstrated the importance of considering earthquake effects in urban planning and development,” said William Leith, senior science advisor for earthquake and geologic hazards at the U.S. Geological Survey.

Training for Tomorrow’s Jobs: The workforce is changing, and relevant job skills, rather than traditional four-year college degrees are in demand. The Upwork Quarterly Skills Index, released in July, found that "70 percent of the fastest-growing skills are new to the index," meaning the pace of change is quickly accelerating. To learn how states are approaching this challenge, read the Year 1 Report of the Western Governors’ Workforce Development Initiative.

The Beaten Path: An explosion in tourism traffic in national parks is vexing employees and putting a strain on surrounding communities. Horseshoe Bend in Arizona used to receive thousands of visitors annually, now it sees upwards of half a million. In response to its surge in popularity, the Jackson Hole Travel & Tourism Board in Wyoming is asking people to stop geotagging remote, pristine destinations in an effort to preserve wilderness areas.

Space Exploration: A spacecraft designed and built in Colorado reached its destination this week to collect samples from the asteroid Bennu. After collecting dust and rocks surrounding the asteroid, the craft is scheduled to return to Earth and land in Utah in 2023. The mission was led by a team at the University of Arizona and is studying how the solar system was formed.

Tracking the “Ghost Cat”: Scientists are using eDNA to track down rare Canadian lynx in the Northern Rockies. Using the noninvasive technique, researchers collect trace amounts of DNA left in the animal’s snowy tracks. It’s expected that this kind of data will improve the accuracy of wildlife surveys and help preserve their habitat.

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