Alaska Digest

Posted: Thursday, January 12, 2006

Meeting on cabin closures set for tonight

JUNEAU - The U.S. Forest Service will host a public meeting today in Juneau about plans to close a number of recreational cabins and shelters throughout Southeast Alaska.

The Tongass National Forest has 150 recreation cabins and 40 shelters, but funding needed to maintain and operate these cabins and shelters exceeds the money available, according to Forest Service officials.

Closing many of the low-use recreation facilities is recommended to reduce operations and maintenance costs to better match the funding available. Other options to be explored include increasing fees, allowing use by outfitter guides, increasing public use, or finding organizations willing to partner with the Forest Service to maintain specific cabins.

Cabins proposed for closure in the Juneau Ranger District include the Laughton Glacier Cabin, the Denver Caboose near Skagway and the Katzehin Cabin in upper Lynn Canal.

An open house is scheduled from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Juneau District office at 8465 Old Dairy Road to answer questions about this plan and accept public comments. Written comments may be submitted through Feb. 24 at district offices or by mail to 8465 Old Dairy Road, Juneau AK 99801.

Lawmakers look at property rights

JUNEAU - With a flurry of similar bills waiting in the wings, Alaska lawmakers on Wednesday took their first look at a measure to curb governments' power to seize private property.

Six bills were filed at the start of the legislative session in the wake of last year's U.S. Supreme Court decision on eminent domain.

The nation's high court ruled last summer that New London, Conn., could turn over homes along the city's waterfront to a private developer for commercial development.

"We want to be clear about the uses of eminent domain because the right of citizens to hold private property is a right we hold dearly," said Rep. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage, chairwoman of the House Judiciary Committee.

The measure would prohibit the use of eminent domain for another person's economic gain and clarify that a person's primary home cannot be taken for recreational purposes.

Kevin Ritchie, executive director of the Alaska Municipal League, said eminent domain is used rarely in Alaska and he knows of no occasion when it has had bad consequences.

Wolf-control program off to a slow start

FAIRBANKS - Pilot-hunter teams have killed 20 wolves this winter, far short of the state's goal of 400 in its aerial wolf control program.

Bad weather, high fuel prices and short days are apparently to blame for the low numbers.

"You've got the holidays, the short days; throw bad weather on top of that and it's no surprise," said Bruce Bartley, a spokesman for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

More than 100 permits have been issued to private pilot-gunner teams to shoot wolves from the air or to land and shoot them in five locations where wildlife populations have been identified as important for human consumption.

It hasn't snowed recently in Southcentral or the Interior and a warm spell before that turned much of the ground to ice, making it almost impossible to detect fresh wolf tracks, Bartley said.

Trial begins for Kasilof murder

KENAI - The murder trial of a Kasilof woman accused of killing her boyfriend began Wednesday with opening statements at Kenai Superior Court.

Betsy Hester, 53, is charged with one count of second-degree murder in the October 2003 death of John Clark, 49, of Kasilof.

"This was a shooting fueled not by fear, but by alcohol," Assistant District Attorney Jean Seaton said during her opening statement.

Hester's attorneys said their client acted in self defense.

During a 2003 bail hearing, former Kenai District Attorney Dwayne McConnell said Clark and Hester had been drinking and arguing at the Decanter Inn in Kasilof. The argument allegedly continued at the couple's home.

Clark reportedly slapped Hester numerous times in the face, then went to the kitchen. Prosecutors said Hester shot Clark twice with a 9mm pistol as he returned from the kitchen.

Hester called Alaska State Troopers saying she had shot her boyfriend.

Authorities said Clark's blood-alcohol level was .231, nearly four times the level considered to be legally intoxicated in Alaska, and Hester's blood level was .156.

Man pleads guilty to role in drug overdose

ANCHORAGE - Another man has pleaded guilty for his role in the death of a 16-year-old girl who died as a result of a drug overdose in 2003, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Glade Lusk, 22, pleaded guilty Wednesday to possession of the drug Butanediol with intent to distribute. The drug also is known as BD and is similar to the date-rape drug GHB.

Lusk admitted having possession of a bottle containing the drug and being present when it was consumed by a number of people, including Chugiak High School student Meghan Maroney, on June 12, 2003, in an apartment in the Spenard neighborhood of Anchorage.

Lusk also pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact for his part in trying to conceal what had occurred.

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