Alaska Digest

Wire reports

Posted: Thursday, February 23, 2006

Forest Service rejects appeal

KETCHIKAN - The U.S. Forest Service has rejected two appeals that would have blocked a federal timber sale on the Cleveland Peninsula northwest of Ketchikan.

The Emerald Bay sale will allow a harvest of 16.4 million board feet of timber from about 601 acres within a 7,845-acre project area in the Emerald Creek and Wasta Creek watersheds of northern Cleveland Peninsula.

Regional forester Dennis Bschor upheld the sale decision made in November by Tongass National Forest Supervisor Forrest Cole. The decision said clear-cutting would be the best harvest method.

The sale also provides for building 5.8 miles of new road, including 2.2 miles across a medium old-growth reserve, and a log transfer facility at Emerald Bay.

Two appeals tried to derail the sale, including one by an individual, Jill Jacob, and one filed by The Wilderness Society, Greenpeace, Natural Resources Defense Council, Juneau Group of the Sierra Club, Sitka Conservation Society and the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council.

The appeals said the Forest Service had not adequately analyzed the project's economics and effects on wildlife.

Driver gets 3 months in road rage fatality

ANCHORAGE - A man received three months in jail for leaving the scene of a road rage accident in which a woman was killed and her 10-year-old son seriously injured.

Mark Elkins, 23, was originally charged with man-slaughter and assault for his part in the fatal crash in Anchorage in 2004. But prosecutors did not have the evidence to convince a jury of his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, said Sharon Marshall, assistant district attorney.

Gail Fejes, a mother of three, was killed in the crash.

Man dies after being thrown from machine

FAIRBANKS - A Fairbanks man died after being thrown from his snowmachine near Cantwell, according to Alaska State Troopers.

Troopers found the body of Christopher Meltvedt, 42, in the Jack River on Monday morning after he was reported overdue. The crash at a bridge happened Saturday, but no one knew, trooper spokesman Greg Wilkinson said.

"It looks like he was leaning off of the snowmachine and he hit the bridge," Wilkinson said. "He had not been wearing a helmet and received a head injury."

Meltvedt met friends Saturday for breakfast at Sam's Sourdough Cafe before heading to Cantwell for snowmachining with a group of about 20 people, said Ron Roman, a member of the group.

Conditions around Cantwell were windy with flat light and most of the group left early. Meltvedt stayed behind, Roman said.

Meltvedt's body was found approximately 100 feet from the north side of the bridge under approximately 2 feet of water. He received injuries to his head and a broken elbow either from hitting the bridge or the river bottom, Wilkinson said.

An autopsy will be conducted to confirm the cause of Meltvedt's death and determine if alcohol was involved.

Fur Rondy sled dog race canceled

ANCHORAGE - The signature event in Anchorage's winter festival has been canceled because unseasonably warm weather has ruined the event's trails.

It's the third time in seven years the Open World Championship Sled Dog Race will not be part of the Fur Rendezvous because of the weather.

"We're almost getting good at this," said Ken Ford, Alaskan Sled Dog and Racing Association president. "But that doesn't make the pain go away any easier."

A four-person race committee made the call shortly before 8 p.m. Tuesday.

"We don't have enough snow," Ford said.

Groomers worked over about 17 miles of trail 10 times since Monday afternoon, according to Ford. The race consists of three 25-mile heats along Anchorage streets and trails. Portions of the trails in were passable - but not enough of them.

"I looked at them, and I'd rather fall on concrete," Ford said. "The ice is as hard and dense as I've ever seen."

As many as 16 mushers were expected to compete this weekend for a $28,000 purse.

Defending champion Egil Ellis was among the dejected would-be competitors.

Ellis, who won his fourth Fur Rondy race last year, said the race is the focal point for him and the 80 or so dogs he trains at his Willow kennel.

"We basically live for this race," he said.

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