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Alaska Digest

Posted: Monday, May 15, 2006

Jury selection today in aviation trial

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ANCHORAGE - Jury selection was to begin today in the trial of an Anchorage air charter company and one of its principals, with prosecutors and defense attorneys at odds over what will define the scope of the case.

At the center of the trial in U.S. District Court are a pair of Russian-built rocket launchers that prosecutors said could be fitted to vintage two-seater L-39 Czech jets purchased last year by Security Aviation.

According to prosecutors, the launchers are "destructive devices" that are felonies to possess unless they have been registered properly.

Lawyers representing the company and one of its principals, Rob Kane, hope to limit the trial to the questions of how the launchers got to Anchorage and whether they are showpieces rather than weapons. The worst that happened, the defense has said, is that a minor paperwork violation occurred, but nothing meriting felony weapons charges that could net heavy fines or a prison sentence.

"The government obviously hopes to shore up the weakness in its case by hoping jurors will conclude Kane is a dangerous, gun-toting nut worthy of conviction of some charge," said Kevin Fitzgerald, one of Kane's defense lawyers and a former state prosecutor, in a motion seeking to keep out evidence about guns and hefty spending at Security Aviation.

Game board affirms wolf control programs

ANCHORAGE - The Alaska Board of Game has affirmed five existing wolf control programs under way in different parts of the state and substantially expanded one of them.

The Game Board adopted emergency regulations in January in response to a decision by a Superior Court judge in Anchorage that halted aerial wolf control programs in five places.

Concluding a three-day meeting Sunday in Anchorage, the board Sunday voted to continue predator control programs in four of the five areas with minor or no changes, said Cathie Harms, a Department of Fish and Game spokeswoman.

In the fifth, the board voted to expand the area covered by the predator control program to Game Management Units 12 and 20E to cover more range of the Fortymile caribou herd. Biologists have said growth in the herd is being held in check by wolf kills.

For three years, the state has issued permits in selected areas for private pilots and gunners to shoot wolves from airplanes or to land and shoot them. The shooting teams have killed 564 wolves.

The Game Board adopted emergency regulations in response to a judge's ruling on a lawsuit filed by Connecticut-based animal right's group Friends of Animals. Superior Court Judge Sharon Gleason ruled that the Game Board had not followed its own rules in approving the programs and had not considered all alternatives besides aerial killing.

The Game Board responded with emergency regulations that satisfied the legal shortcomings and resurrected aerial wolf control in all five areas.

The emergency regulations expire this month.

The board rejected a proposal to allow hunters to use snares to catch bears.

Foundation beautifies Anchorage parks

ANCHORAGE - A foundation has come up with money to spruce up Anchorage's parks after voters recently rejected several bond proposals.

Twenty-six community groups will receive grants totaling $400,000 from the Rasmuson Foundation. The city-sponsored Anchorage Park Foundation, formed to raise private funds for city parks, is managing the grant program. Each individual award could be for up to $40,000.

The grant winners had to raise an equal amount to match the foundation money, but they did better than that, the city announced. They came up with more than $800,000 in labor, materials and cash.

A citizens group whose members plant trees, Anchorage Treerific, got $5,000 in cash and $10,000 in plant materials to do its thing. The tree club replanted native birch and spruce on a hillside at Abbott Loop Park after old trees were taken out to build baseball fields there, said Nickel LaFleur and Patricia Joyner of Treerific.

"We're trying to make it pretty again," LaFleur said.

In West Anchorage, Turnagain neighbors and an Eagle Scout, Cameron Sordahl, will put a new fence in and otherwise fix up a park called Didlika on McKenzie Drive near Northern Lights Boulevard with a $20,000 grant.

The Friends of Didlika formed "because we could never get any bonds passed," said Candice English.

No park bonds for the Anchorage Bowl have been approved by voters since 2001.



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