Northwest Digest

Posted: Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Seuss celebration scheduled at Gastineau

JUNEAU - Gastineau Elementary School will host a Seussentennial celebration from 5:15-7 p.m. today to honor the works of Theodor Geisel, also known as Dr. Seuss.

Mayor Bruce Botelho and state lawmakers Beth Kerttula, Bruce Weyhrauch and Kim Elton are among the guests who have been invited to read Dr. Seuss stories to the children in attendance. Refreshments will be served and all children who attend will get to choose a free book to take home, along with other prizes.

The Juneau Education Association puts on the Read Across America celebration each year. Gastineau's parent group and site council, as well as the Juneau School District, contributed to the event.

Dr. Seuss died in 1991. He would be 100 years old today.

Public invited to celebrate DARE

JUNEAU - The community is invited to celebrate this year's completion for the local DARE program.

Drug Abuse Resistance Education in Juneau is provided by the local police and school district. Fifth-graders this school year have participated in the nine-week course focusing on skills to overcome peer pressure to use drugs and alcohol, according to police Sgt. David Campbell.

The program's culmination ceremony is from 6 to 7 p.m. Thursday at Centennial Hall downtown.

Campbell noted that Juneau's program is the largest in Southeast Alaska and is marking its 20th anniversary.

It teaches students physical, emotional, social and legal risks and effects of alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and inhalants on their developing brains and bodies, he said.

Among the things students work on is their development of social responsibility, communication skills, independence, self-esteem, independence and positive alternatives to using drugs and other destructive behaviors.

"These young people are taking their first steps toward being the safe and responsible adults of our future," Campbell said. "Please come join us in recognizing their efforts."

Endangered status sought for orcas

SEATTLE - The state Department of Fish and Wildlife proposed Monday that Puget Sound's orcas be added to the state's list of endangered species "because the marine mammals are at critically low levels and are vulnerable to several continuing threats."

The department made the recommendation based on a status report indicating that the population of "southern residents" in Puget Sound and nearby waters has declined 18 percent since 1995.

The L pod, one of three groups of southern residents, has seen both higher mortality rates and lower birth rates, particularly in the past decade, officials said.

"The solid scientific work reflected in this report gives us an excellent base on which to assess the health of our resident orca population and determine what the next steps should be to protect one of the most enduring symbols of Puget Sound and the Pacific Northwest," the department said.

The "southern residents" that swim in area waters include about 84 orcas - down from a historical high of more than 120 in the 1960s, before the whales were captured in large numbers for display at marine parks.

A state listing, which would be separate from the whales' "depleted" listing under the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act, would trigger a recovery plan that would guide efforts to protect killer whales.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, a citizens panel that sets agency policy, is expected to take action on the proposal at its April 1-3 meeting in Spokane.

Oklahoma student dies in avalanche

ANCHORAGE - A student from Alaska Pacific University died in an avalanche south of Anchorage.

Joseph B. Neale, 23, of Tulsa, Okla., was hiking Saturday along the ridge to the summit of Byron Glacier Peak in Portage Valley with Jesse Billmeier, 24, of Anchorage.

Billmeier told Alaska State Troopers that at about 6 p.m., a cornice broke loose, pulling Neale over the edge of the mountain.

Billmeier hiked out to get help. A trooper helicopter picked up members of the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group and flew to the area.

Troopers said a wall of snow 35 to 40 feet high had broken loose and fallen down the slope. The snow triggered several secondary avalanches in the slide zone. Troopers initially said the slide spanned 2,500 feet.

After flying over the area, troopers and the rescue group determined it was unsafe to land and conduct a ground search. Troopers suspended the search at 11:15 p.m. Saturday.

They took to the air again Sunday and spotted Neale's body after about 20 minutes in the air, said trooper spokesman Greg Wilkinson. Neale had tumbled about 3,950 feet just in elevation, Wilkinson said.

Alaska Mountain Rescue recovered Neale's body.

Canadian painter Toni Onley killed in crash

VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Toni Onley, a famed West Coast painter who combined his art with a love of flying, died when his floatplane crashed into the Fraser River.

Onley, 75, was identified by police Monday as the pilot of the plane that crashed at Maple Ridge, east of here, on Sunday.

Witnesses said the LA4 Buccaneer was practicing landings and takeoffs before it crashed.

Police divers went into the river Monday to search for the plane, which went down in about 35 feet of water.

Twenty years ago, Onley escaped death when his light plane crashed onto a British Columbia glacier. He broke his leg, and he and a passenger spent a terrifying night awaiting rescue.

Onley was a renowned watercolorist, an Order of Canada recipient known for his moody, expressionist landscapes of Canada's West Coast.

"His contribution was to create this kind of very good technique of British watercolor that he has in fact transformed for his own end," said Denise Leclerc, associate curator of modern Canadian art at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa.



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