Alaska Digest

Posted: Friday, September 08, 2006

Judge halts lease sales in national reserve

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ANCHORAGE - A judge on Thursday temporarily halted lease sales of more than 1 million acres in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska that environmentalists say are essential feeding and breeding grounds for caribou and migratory birds.

Nearly 13 million acres of the reserve in northern Alaska are available for lease sale or have been sold to oil companies, most notably ConocoPhillips. The company hopes to augment waning crude stocks in the Prudhoe Bay fields east of the NPR-A.

Environmentalists filed the lawsuit against the Department of the Interior, the state of Alaska and oil companies in hopes of cordoning off about 600,000 acres of the 23-million acre reserve from more exploratory drilling. The government had planned to open bids on Sept. 27 for about 1.7 million acres, which encompass the area targeted by environmentalists.

The order, filed in U.S. District Court in Anchorage, said the government had not adequately considered the cumulative environmental effects of the lease sales in the eastern and western sections of the reserve.

Hunters find 7-foot mammoth tusk

FAIRBANKS - Caribou hunters have recovered a 7-foot, 3-inch mammoth tusk from a creek bed south of the village of Anaktuvuk Pass.

The Ice Age specimen was spotted by Mickey Paneak, 36, in Manu Creek as he and his cousin Mike Morry, 33, ran after two wounded caribou about 8 miles south of their central Brooks Range community.

Jumping over the creek about a half mile above the John River, Paneak noticed something in the creek's shallow bed.

The men removed the tusk from the creek bed and carefully transported it to the village of 300 roughly 250 miles northwest of Fairbanks.

"It took two of us to carry it," said Paneak, who estimated the tusk's weight at more than 150 pounds.

Still under question is whether the tusk was found within the boundaries of the Gates of the Arctic National Park or on land owned by the Nunamiut Village Corp.

Man charged with robbery between trips

ANCHORAGE - An Anchorage man dropped his wife and children at Wal-Mart, then robbed two people at gunpoint at a south Anchorage intersection, prosecutors said.

Nathaniel Andrew Yankovic, 26, is charged with two counts of robbery and two counts of assault.

The robbery occurred around 1 p.m. Saturday, according to charging documents filed in court by prosecutors.

A man and a woman told police they were in a black pickup truck that halted at a four-way stop. An orange car pulled up beside them and cut them off, they said, and a man got out of the car, holding a gun.

"The male told them to empty out their pockets or he would shoot them," prosecutors wrote in charging documents.

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