Alaska Digest

staff and Wire reports

Posted: Sunday, May 30, 2004

Memorial Day services slated for Monday

JUNEAU - Three ceremonies in observance of Memorial Day will be held Monday in Juneau.

Veterans of Foreign Wars Taku Post 5559 will hold an 11 a.m. service downtown at Evergreen Cemetery. The U.S. Coast Guard 17th District Color Guard will be on hand.

American Legion Auke Bay Post 25 will conduct an 11 a.m. service in the Mendenhall Valley at Alaska Memorial Park on Riverside Drive.

After the twin 11 a.m. services, the VFW Ladies Auxiliary will hold a chili feed open house at the VFW Post Home, located downtown on First Street behind the Baranof Hotel. The chili feed is scheduled for noon to 1 p.m.

At 8:30 a.m., the daily flag-raising ceremony at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center will include Roy Matsumoto, a World War II veteran who is in the Ranger Hall of Fame at Fort Benning, Ga., and the Military Intelligence Service Hall of Fame at Fort Huachuca, Ariz.

Refreshments will be served afterward at the covered viewing area.

Gunman robs liquor store

JUNEAU - Police said the Oaken Keg liquor store at Safeway was robbed at gunpoint at about 11 p.m. Friday.

Police said the robber, whom they described only as a man, displayed a handgun but did not fire it. The clerk was not harmed, police said.

The suspect left the store with cash, but the police did not disclose the amount.

Police, who continue to investigate the robbery, did not provide further information on Saturday.

Judge allows NPR-A lease sale

ANCHORAGE - Oil and gas leases in the northwestern part of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska can be sold this week, but no development will be allowed until issues brought up by environmental groups in a lawsuit are resolved.

U.S. District Court Judge James Singleton on Thursday night denied a request for a preliminary injunction to halt the sale, scheduled for Wednesday this week.

However, he ruled the Bureau of Land Management could not permit successful bidders to occupy their leases until issues in the lawsuit are resolved, said Deirdre McDonnell, staff attorney for Earthjustice in Juneau.

The seven plaintiffs are Earthjustice, the Northern Alaska Environmental Center, the National Audubon Society, The Wilderness Society, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, the Alaska Wilderness League and the Center for Biological Diversity.

They sued in February, seeking to block the plan to open 8.8 million acres to oil and gas development in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. The reserve lies west of Prudhoe Bay and other North Slope oil fields and in all covers 23.5 million acres of public land.

The groups contend that the plan violates several environmental protection laws and ignores sensitive habitat for North Slope birds, wildlife and whales.

McDonnell said the lawsuit is not seeking to halt all development in the NPR-A. BLM should have looked at an alternative that balances leasing with protection of the most important habitat, she said.

Interior officials in February said the department's plan supported conservation while allowing production of resources needed for a vibrant economy.

The plan designates study areas for caribou and birds and protects 1.5 million acres along the coast and some lakes and rivers.

The entire reserve is believed to contain between 6 billion and 13 billion barrels of oil.

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