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AK: 7 convicted of falsifying fishing, hunting documents

December 18, 2009

7 convicted of falsifying fishing, hunting documents
SMOKEJUMPERS: All were seasonal workers based at Wainwright.

Seven out-of-state members of a federal smokejumpers crew that worked out of Fort Wainwright have been convicted of falsifying fishing and hunting documents, Alaska Wildlife Troopers said Friday.

The men were in the state as seasonal firefighters for the Bureau of Land Management when the offenses took place, troopers said. Two of the men were also convicted of illegally hunting Dall sheep, according to troopers.

Ward M. Scanson, 29, of Montana, and Arizona resident Chad J. Rice, 25, both pleaded guilty in Glennallen District Court to unlawfully taking Dall sheep without a registered guide and falsifying their Alaska resident hunting license applications, troopers said. The men went on a hunt together near Nebesna in September 2008, troopers said.

Scanson entered his plea Nov. 27 and was ordered to pay $6,600. Rice pleaded guilty Dec. 8 and was ordered to pay $6,100. Both men were ordered to surrender the sheep horns and cape. A judge also revoked their hunting licenses for one year and put them on probation for four years.

Troopers also say they cited five other BLM smokejumpers this summer for falsifying their sport fishing license applications, claiming they were Alaska residents. They are: Michael B. McMillan, of Idaho; Christopher J. Wennogle and Charles Brown, both of Colorado; Dawson J. Kelsey, of Utah; and Ezra N. Butterfield, of California.

All pleaded no contest to the charge and were ordered to pay a $300 fine, troopers said.

There is a large price difference between resident and nonresident licenses and tags, plus guiding requirements for nonresident hunters, giving some people a big reason to lie about their residency, said Lt. Bernard Chastain of the Wildlife Troopers.

"There's a large abuse having to do with false residency in Alaska for hunting and fishing," Chastain said. "But when we see this, most of the time it's on an individual basis and it's usually one person. And for the most part, these are individual people doing this, but it's all within one group."

Doug Stockdale, spokesman for the BLM's Alaska Fire Service, said the men were part of a roughly 70-member group of smokejumpers stationed at Fort Wainwright at the time of the offenses, which took place in their off time.

"We think it was inadvertent, as far as I can tell," Stockdale said. "We're going to make sure that we use this opportunity, the situation these folks found themselves in, to explain again, give them the information they need to go and find out what the residency requirements for Alaska are." .

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