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Land trust ruling in favor of native tribes faces appeal

Aug 26, 2015 -- 12:45pm
- FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) - The state is challenging a 2013 ruling in favor of Alaska Native Tribes that says current laws do not prevent the Interior Department from taking tribal land into trust. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports proponents of the Akiachak v. U.S. Interior Department ruling say tribes will have greater control over the land they own. They say taking land into trust would essentially extend the state's tribal territory, promote self-governance, and increase access to federal programs. Gov. Bill Walker said during a Tuesday news conference that the ruling creates potential issues related to fish and game management, resource development and gaming. He said the ruling represents a significant shift, and that some fears may be unsubstantiated.

Anchorage to form task force for suspected spice overdoses

Aug 26, 2015 -- 12:30pm
- ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Anchorage officials are forming a task force to deal with the rising number of suspected spice overdoses. KTVA-TV reports Anchorage Fire Department Chief Denis LeBlanc told members of the Anchorage assembly that some of the more than 200 patients taken to the hospital with symptoms were "frequent fliers" whose medical bracelets were still attached from their previous visit. The task force will likely include LeBlanc, Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz and Anchorage Police Department Chief Mark Mew, who said homeless people are being targeted.  Assemblyman Paul Honeman proposed passing an emergency ordinance that would bump up the penalty for possessing a package of spice from a violation to a misdemeanor. State health officials are investigating what chemical in the drug is causing negative reactions.

Smartphone app identifies weeds invasive to Alaska

Aug 26, 2015 -- 12:15pm
- KENAI, Alaska (AP) - A new smartphone application is helping researchers learn where plant species invasive to Alaska are growing. The Peninsula Clarion reports that when someone using the Alaska Weeds ID app finds an unknown plant, they can use their smartphone to both identify it and alert a professional botanist of its location. Users take a photo of the plant and submit it to a team from the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension service. One of five team members across the state then identifies the plant and replies. According to invasive plants instructor Gino Graziano, if the plant is invasive he then calls the appropriate land manager depending on who owns the property.

Juneau considers tax breaks to fight housing costs

Aug 26, 2015 -- 12:00pm
- JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - To fight the cost of housing in Juneau, city officials are considering property tax exemptions for some developments. The Juneau Empire reports that in the most recent session the Alaska Legislature gave municipalities more leeway in allowing property tax exemptions. The City and Borough of Juneau Committee of the Whole is now looking to implement their new authority. Municipalities may now use property tax exemptions or deferrals to encourage subdivision and development of property as well as to renovate deteriorating property. Deputy City Manager Rob Steedle will write draft ordinances and later present them to the committee. He was unsure when that will be.

Searchers find body of city official who died in landslide

Aug 26, 2015 -- 11:45am
- SITKA, Alaska (AP) - Authorities say they have found the body of a city building official who went missing in a landslide. The city says in a news release that the body of 62-year-old William Stortz, a building official for Sitka, was found at 4:15 p.m. Alaska time Tuesday on the south side of the landslide. Stortz was working near newly built homes Aug. 18 when logs, mud and debris slid down a hillside into the neighborhood. The slide came after 2.5 inches of rain fell in 24 hours. Brothers Elmer and Ulises Diaz were painting a new house and were killed. The bodies of Elmer, 26, and Ulises Diaz, 25, were found in the debris of logs and muck last week.

Race to Alaska will return next summer, says maritime center

Aug 25, 2015 -- 12:45pm
- KETCHIKAN, Alaska (AP) - The organization that hosted a non-powered boat race from Washington to Alaska earlier this summer has announced that it will bring the event back for a second year. The Ketchikan Daily News that the Northwest Maritime Center will hold another Race to Alaska in June 2016. This year, 53 teams raced from Port Townsend, Washington, to Ketchikan for a $10,000 prize. But a news release from the maritime center noted that next year's event will feature some changes. The race's official website says details will be announced at the 39th Annual Wooden Boat Festival, which is scheduled for Sept. 11. The three crew members of Team Elsie Piddock claimed this year's first-place prize after reaching Ketchikan in their trimaran sailboat on June 12.
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