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Special designation could stop creek parties
JIM CREEK - Parties where people gather around bonfires to drink and shoot up vehicles along Jim Creek may end if officials have to create a special use designation to stop the mayhem.
For the third year in a row, state resource officers counted burned-out, bullet-riddled cars and pickups lining the water on state lands near Knik, popular with both locals and visitors from Anchorage.
"Oh, wow," state Department of Natural Resources resource specialist Adam Smith said Friday as he walked up a small rise to a Ford Bronco. Bullet holes pocked the Bronc's chassis and valve covers, but the old Ford was still reasonably intact.
"It's got a license plate on it and everything," said co-worker Justin Selvik.
Smith recorded the plate in hopes the state could track down the person who dumped it.
"It's probably stolen," Selvik said.
This is the third year for the abandoned vehicle count on heavily used state lands along the Knik, popular with both locals and Anchorage visitors.
Both men said if the junk and trash continue along Jim Creek, officials may have no choice but to create a new special use designation for state lands along the Knik all the way over to Mud and Jim lakes.
The designation could bring new restrictions on target shooting or four-wheelers, Smith said.
"It's too bad," he said. "It's not that many people screwing it up, just a small percentage."
The Butte is the part of the Valley closest to Anchorage, a community of about 3,000 that has largely retained its rural personality but is expected to double in population within 20 years.
Borough officials are in the midst of developing a plan for the 6,000 acres of borough-owned lands in the Butte.
Meanwhile, locals are trying to get a handle on weekend mayhem on the flats, where people gather around bonfires to drink and shoot.
Fort Rich prepares for return of soldiers
ANCHORAGE - Soldiers from Fort Richardson will head home this summer from their hunt for the Taliban in Afghanistan.
To prepare for their return, the U.S. Army in Alaska is training doctors, nurses, dentists, child care workers and other people on the emotional consequences of war. A two-day symposium called "Homecoming Alaska: Partners in Prevention" wrapped up Friday.
The symposium featured sessions led by a forensic pediatrician from Fort Bragg, N.C., a psychologist who studied the mental well-being of troops in Iraq, and a dentist who spoke about how to identify child abuse and neglect in patients.
While most soldiers are not expected to suffer post-traumatic stress disorder or other serious mental problems, a few may and others could need help readjusting to family life, said Col. Bruce Crow, a clinical psychologist based at Fort Lewis, Wash.
"We need to pay attention to these kinds of issues when soldiers come back home, the emotional side," Crow said.
Gold rush is on at Pebble mineral deposit
ANCHORAGE - Gold fever is sweeping the hills near Iliamna, home to a massive mineral deposit called Pebble.
A whirlwind of claim staking is under way at Pebble, a mining frenzy Alaska hasn't witnessed since statehood, according to officials at the Department of Natural Resources.
Since drilling results identified Pebble as possibly the largest gold deposit in North America and the second largest copper deposit, prospectors have staked claims on 365,000 acres, or 570 square miles, the most anywhere in the state, said Kerwin Krause, a property manager with DNR.
"It's a beehive of activity as we speak," Krause said recently.
Crews for Liberty Star Gold Corp. in December staked the land.
"It was the largest claim-staking effort by one company" ever in Alaska and has helped make Pebble the largest mining district in the state, Krause said.
Dave Lappi, an owner of Anchorage-based Alaska Earth Resources Inc., spent the past few months staking claims on 82,000 acres near Pebble. The company plans to ramp up its geophysical and sampling work this summer.
Bill would open up land for remote cabins
FAIRBANKS - House lawmakers passed a bill that would allow people who want to build remote cabins to pick their own sites from available state land.
Sponsor Rep. Hugh Fate, R-Fairbanks, says that people should have more freedom to pick their sites.
"The people in the state of Alaska can no longer say 'We have hundreds of thousands of acres in the state of Alaska, and I can't get one of them,"' Fate said Friday on the House floor.
The bill now goes to the Senate.
Fate's proposal would work alongside the state's current remote cabin program, in which the state selects six to eight blocks of remote land each year and offers parcels within them for lease or sale as cabin sites.
Under a pared down version of Fate's bill that passed the House, a person could pick out a cabin site of up to 10 acres anywhere on state land that isn't reserved for another purpose, and request that land be made available for lease or sale.