Alaska Digest

Posted: Monday, September 08, 2003

Small ruling could spark big subsistence fight

ANCHORAGE - A minor flaw in state hunting regulations could lead to a major upheaval in the ongoing dispute over subsistence.

In late July, Superior Court Judge Sen Tan ruled that one of five questions posed to applicants for state Tier II subsistence permits is unconstitutional because it takes residence into account.

The Murkowski administration has appealed the ruling and, if it loses, will ask the state Supreme Court to overturn two landmark subsistence cases.

Attorney General Gregg Renkes said the Supreme Court appeal is part of a broad new initiative that aims to regain state control over subsistence management.

Federal law allows only rural residents to participate in subsistence activities while the state constitution guarantees equal access to fish and game by all Alaskans.

The issue of residency raised in a 2000 court case by Girdwood resident Kenneth Manning, goes to the heart of the debate over subsistence.

The Alaska Supreme Court delivered its "equal access" ruling in the landmark 1989 McDowell decision. In the Kenaitze decision in 1995, the court ruled again against a rural priority.

Because of this legal conflict, the federal government took over subsistence management of hunting on the two-thirds of the state in federal hands in 1990. It has managed subsistence fishing since 1999.

When there is too little fish and game to go around on state lands, a so-called "Tier II" application is used with a points system to determine who has the greatest dependence on subsistence fish and game.

Representing himself in court, Manning argued the state scoring system is unconstitutional since urban residents can't earn enough points to win a Nelchina caribou permit. Tan ruled that one part of the system violates the equal protection statute.

Work begins on Thorne Arm timber sale

KETCHIKAN - Work has begun in the woods near Revillagigedo Island's Thorne Arm in what is the area's largest timber sale in three years.

"It's a good timber sale, and we've got people at work right now," said Steve Seley, whose Seley Family Limited Partnership purchased the Orion South timber sale in August. "Cutters are falling timber. The road reconstruction has started and we expect to start cable yarding in 10 to 15 days."

The Orion South sale of approximately 3.9 million board feet of timber represents the first re-sale of timber that had been purchased originally by the now-bankrupt Gateway Forest Products.

Viewed as assets, the timber sales were part of the ongoing bankruptcy proceedings. Earlier this year, with bankruptcy court approval, the Forest Service and GFP agreed to terminate the contracts.

The Orion South sale, near Thorne Arm in an area that saw some logging in the early 1990s, involves about 121 acres in four harvest units.

Woman's body found on Anchorage flats

ANCHORAGE - A man and his son out hunting ducks on the mud flats of Turnagain Arm found the torso of a woman Sunday, Anchorage police said.

They called police at about 10 a.m. after stumbling upon the grisly discovery. The body was located about 1,000 yards from a residential area.

Police did not speculate on the identity of the remains, but said it was that of a caucasian woman. The remains were taken to the state medical examiner's office in Anchorage for further examination.

This is the second time this summer that human remains have washed up on the shores of Turnagain Arm.

Investigators are still awaiting results from DNA tests on a partially decomposed torso found June 18. That body was found by a man and three children in the rocks near Beluga Point on Turnagain Arm.

Wet summer impacts Fairbanks family

FAIRBANKS - Linda Granger was able to hold off the floodwaters of the Chena River for only so long.

But at about 2:30 a.m. on Friday, the dirt berms protecting her home from flood waters failed, and the family awoke to find water in their home.

"The water was rising and I had everything barricaded," she said. "If I hadn't fallen asleep it wouldn't have happened."

When her 14-year-old son, Bryan, woke for school that morning, he stepped in the water that had crept into his ground-floor bedroom.

By Saturday, the water had receded and Granger began the process of cleaning up after battling the flood waters since July.

The Grangers were the only family displaced by recent flooding, said Barry Jennings, emergency operations manager for the Fairbanks North Star Borough.

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