Alaska News Nightly: September 24, 2008

The jury for Senator Ted Stevens is getting set to begin hearing his case tomorrow. Plus, schools across rural Alaska are facing lower enrollment numbers this fall as families flee to bigger cities. Those stories and more tonight on Alaska News Nightly, broadcast statewide on APRN stations.

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Stevens trial jury selected
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington, DC
The jury that will decide the fate of Senator Ted Stevens has been chosen. Today 16 people — 12 jurors and 4 alternates — were selected in U.S. District Court. The jurors won’t find out until the end of the trial who the alternates are.

Nome losing students and $300,000 in state funding
Paul Korchin, KNOM – Nome
In Nome, school administrators are discovering there are fewer students in the classrooms this year and that’s threatening to take a big bite out of the District’s operating budget.

Prince William Sound schools also losing students to urban Alaska
Joshua Smith, KCHU – Valdez
School districts around the Prince William Sound also have fewer students in attendance. Cordova, Copper Basin and Valdez have all lost K-12 students. In Copper Basin, Superintendent James Elliot, says it’s no secret where the kids are going.

NPR-A oil lease sale pulls in $31 million
Steve Heimel, APRN – Anchorage
The oil industry is still interested in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A). A lease sale today pulled in $31 million in high bids — most of it for land that has been offered for lease before.

Tongass timber sales plan approved with conditions and challenges
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau
Federal officials are telling Tongass Forest managers to provide more cost-effective timber sales. That includes 10-year harvest contracts. The direction comes as part of top-level approval of the latest Tongass management plan. But that plan is being challenged in court by industry backers.

Catholic Church struggling to fill rural Alaska priest positions
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
The Catholic Church is trying to address a priest shortage that’s hitting hard in its rural Alaska parishes. The Fairbanks Catholic Diocese, which oversees churches in northern and western Alaska, will send all Fairbanks area priests, including Bishop Donald Kettler to serve mass in villages next month. Diocese spokesman Robert Hannon says the move is a first step at recognizing one of the largest challenges the church is facing.

Sitka approves hydro, denies wood energy projects
Robert Woolsey, KCAW – Sitka
Sitka has taken a big step forward — and a small step backward — in securing its energy future. The Sitka assembly last night authorized the electric department to study a new hydro project on eastern Baranof Island. A few minutes later, they overwhelmingly declined to consider wood heat for city buildings.

New anthology of Alaskan environment writing by Alaskan residents
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
A new collection of essays and poems on Alaska’s environment is just out in bookstores. “Crosscurrents North: Alaskans on the Environment” was inspired by the fact that there are no other anthologies written entirely by Alaskans about Alaska’s environment. Marybeth Holleman is a co-editor of the collection. She says the writers had to have been Alaska residents for at least a decade so that those who read these works, regardless of where in the country they live, will be able to find relevance to their own lives within the pages.