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Northwest Digest

Posted: Monday, October 01, 2007

Juneau man arrested after Ketchikan crash

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JUNEAU - Alaska state troopers arrested a Juneau man in Ketchikan early Sunday morning following a single vehicle collision at mile 4 of the South Tongass Highway.

The driver, a 23-year-old man, was not injured in the accident. He was arrested on charges of drunk driving and misconduct involving weapons in the fourth degree after an investigation revealed he had two firearms in his vehicle. He was taken to Ketchikan Correctional Center and released on his own recognizance.

Group to offer free hearing screenings

JUNEAU - In celebration of Hearing Aid Awareness Week, the International Hearing Society will offer free hearing screenings to residents through Saturday at the Hearing Center, 9095 Glacier Highway, Suite 103.

The Hearing Center has provided hearing services to the communities of Southeast for more than 15 years and has won numerous awards for outstanding customer service. The International Hearing Society is a nonprofit organization that represents hearing health care professionals from all over the world.

For more information, call Ken Klepinger at 789-2359 or visit the International Hearing Society at www.ihsinfo.org.

Alaska dairy farmers propose cooperative

PALMER - Four dairy farmers in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough are hoping the state will lease them equipment and property to form a cooperative instead of finding a buyer for the money-losing state dairy.

The farmers made the pitch Saturday at a meeting of the seven-member state Board of Agriculture and Conservation, the board that oversees Matanuska Maid.

Two of those backing the request were board members, but they said they have resigned their seats because of their involvement in the proposal.

The agriculture board has proposed soliciting bids to sell the company along with its properties in Palmer and Anchorage.

The four dairy farmers want to lease equipment from the company's plant in Anchorage and lease Mat Maid's bottling facility in Palmer. The idea is to run a processing facility out of what is currently the bottling plant, said dentist Don McLean, who pitched the proposal for the farmers, and is one of the board members who resigned.

The state would go ahead and sell the rest of Mat Maid's assets.

McLean said the advantages of the cooperative would be a continued supply of local milk, and giving farmers more control over the marketing of their product. The four, among six dairy farmers in the state, currently sell most of their milk to Mat Maid.

The state board would have to agree to modify its current plans to sell all of the dairy's assets, likely resulting in an overall lower sale value for the company. The board had proposed setting a minimum price of $3.35 million for Mat Maid's properties and equipment.

Woman dies after fall in Yellowstone

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. - A California woman died in a fall off a cliff, park officials said Saturday.

The incident in the Calcite Springs area just north of Tower Falls was reported about 6:30 p.m. Friday, according to a National Park Service news release.

The 32-year old woman was from the Los Angeles area, it said. Her name is being withheld pending notification of relatives.

Rangers responding to the scene spotted the woman lying immobile on the canyon floor near the Yellowstone River. A ranger who rappelled down a steep 500-foot embankment to reach the woman Friday night confirmed she was dead.

A helicopter was used to remove the victim from the canyon floor Saturday morning.

The incident was under investigation.

Group criticizes wolf control plan

BILLINGS, Mont. - An environmental group is claiming a proposal to let states kill packs of endangered wolves that prey on big game herds would result in the eradication of wolves across much of the Northern Rockies.

The Natural Resources Defense Council says "nearly 600 wolves" could be killed in Idaho and Wyoming through aerial gunning operations that would be allowed under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposal.

But federal and state wildlife officials described the group's claim - to be aired in nationwide television advertisements starting Monday - as "misleading." They said the number of wolves targeted would likely be in the dozens, and only in areas where the animals are a factor driving down elk populations.

"Wolves are here to stay, and it's time for people to understand that," said Steve Nadeau with the Idaho Department of Game and Fish. "But we can't stand by and watch the most renowned elk population in the state of Idaho diminished because we can't hunt wolves."

During a decade-long restoration effort that started with just 66 wolves, the region's wolf population has expanded by 20 to 30 percent a year. There are now an estimated 1,545 wolves in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana. That's more than five times the number federal biologists contend is needed to sustain the population.

Federal officials have announced plans to strip wolves of their endangered status by early next year, exposing the animal to public hunting for the first time in decades.

But legal challenges to the delisting are considered a certainty. If the delisting gets hung up in court, federal officials said they want states to have some way to keep wolves in check. That includes the proposal to allow states to kill wolves that prey on wildlife herds.

States would be required to maintain at least 200 wolves each. Montana officials have said they do not intend to take advantage of the program.

Peggy Struhsacker, a wolf specialist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said she believes Wyoming and Idaho officials would kill as many wolves as possible.

"It's like dealing with them when wolves were being eradicated. The states have not progressed," she said, referring to government-sponsored wolf poisoning campaigns of the early 20th century.

Wash. wheat farmers rolling in the dough

ROCKFORD, Wash. - When wheat prices hit $6.67 a bushel this year, farmer Michael Sargent decided to sell his supply because he'd never seen prices that high.

Too bad he didn't follow the example of his wife.

She held her share of the wheat crop back, and now is selling it for a record price of around $9.50 a bushel.

"She was more patient," Sargent said. "I hear it every day."

So it goes in Washington's farm country these days, where worldwide shortages have produced record prices that have people speculating this will be the first $1 billion wheat crop in the state's history.

While typically associated with high-tech products or apples, Washington is also a major wheat producer, with much of the crop grown in the fertile soil of the Palouse region. Washington ranks fourth in wheat production, after Kansas, North Dakota and Montana.

In 1950, the highest per capita income in the state was in Lincoln County, a wheat center west of Spokane. But times have been tough in more recent decades, and the average age of wheat farmers is around 60 years old as young people in farm country seek other careers.

Still, the state's nearly 4,000 wheat farmers produce about 130 million bushels per year.

Tom Mick, president of the Washington Wheat Commission, said the crop could bring in a little over $1 billion as drought and heat have reduced crops in other major wheat-producing nations.

The reason it's not worth more is because many farmers sold their wheat before the recent price surge, sometimes against their will when bankers called in loans, Mick said.

Much of the wheat crop sold for less than $5 a bushel, which at the time seemed like a reasonable amount after prices had hovered around $3.50 to $4 a bushel for years, Mick said.

"Nobody knew it was going this high," Mick said.



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