Northwest Digest

Posted: Thursday, April 05, 2007

Cross country coach arrested, suspended

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FAIRBANKS - A Fairbanks high school running coach has been suspended after his weekend arrest for allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol.

Doug Herron, West Valley High's head cross country running coach, was arrested early Saturday morning. He was pulled over by Alaska State Troopers for driving erratically and ignoring a stop sign, according to court documents.

Authorities said Herron initially refused to take a chemical breath test, then registered a blood alcohol content of 0.157, almost twice the legal limit of 0.08.

Herron, 40, has pleaded not guilty.

"He has been suspended from his coaching duties pending resolution of the criminal charges," said Lynda Sather, spokeswoman for the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District.

School coaches sign a contract stating the district can terminate them if convicted of driving under the influence, Sather said.

Herron also teaches sixth grade at Fort Wainwright's Arctic Light Elementary School. The coaching does not affect his teaching contract, Sather said.

Herron said in a prepared statement that he should be presumed innocent.

"I expect the charge to be dismissed prior to trial or to be found not guilty after a fair trial," he said.

With Herron at the helm the past two years, the West Valley girls cross country team has won the state cross country championship during his tenure and have been ranked among the top 20 teams in the United States.

Ruling leaves plan for grasslands in limbo

DENVER - The fate of a management plan for national grasslands in Colorado, the first in the country written under new federal rules, is in question now that a court has thrown out those rules.

While the terrain in question is different, the argument echoes that surrounding Southeast Alaska's Tongass National Forest.

Environmentalists are calling on the U.S. Forest Service to withdraw the plan for the Cimarron and Comanche National Grasslands in southern Colorado and western Kansas after last week's ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Phyllis Hamilton in San Francisco.

Forest Service officials are studying the court ruling to decide what to do next.

Issued last month, the grasslands plan covers a total of 1.4 million acres of federal land, including archaeological sites and canyons with ancient rock drawings, dinosaur tracks and wide expanses of grasslands.

Bolstered by a U.S. Supreme Court decision, the Forest Service said formal environmental impact statements for long-term management plans weren't needed because plans don't make decisions that affect the land or wildlife. Officials said environmental reviews can be done when individual projects envisioned in the plan are considered.

Critics, though, said the rules violate environmental laws. They contend that forest management plans went from fundamental blueprints for decisions on land use, water quality and wildlife habitat to documents that mean little.

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