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Popular alaska river guide pleads guilty to helping illegally takefossils - Additive Masterbatch by icdenta icdenta






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Popular alaska river guide pleads guilty to helping illegally takefossils - Additive Masterbatch by
Article Posted: 06/30/2013
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Popular alaska river guide pleads guilty to helping illegally takefossils - Additive Masterbatch


 
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Karen Jettmar, a popular Alaska river guide who was accused inDecember 2011 of helping a Pennsylvania tourist smuggle a10,000-year-old mammoth tusk -- among other artifacts -- out ofAlaska, has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit theft ofgovernment property. The misdemeanor plea deal means that Jettmar escapes the additionalcharge of removing a paleontological resource from federal land.She will pay a fine of $30,000 and be on probation for three years.She also won't be permitted to conduct any "commercial activity" onstate or federal lands while on probation, excluding permits shehad already obtained and activities already booked for the summerof 2012. Jettmar, who owns and operates Equinox Wilderness Expeditions , was implicated in helping to smuggle the tusk and other fossilsduring a U.S. Bureau of Land Management investigation in 2009.Investigators determined that Jettmar may have been engaged in whatthey referred to as "Paleo-prospecting" on federal lands.

Some of the information came from a posting on the EWE website thatdiscussed archaeology and paleontology in the National PetroleumReserve-Alaska -- a swath of Arctic land the size of Indianamanaged by the BLM where oil companies have been on a controversialhunt for crude. The EWE website featured a picture of a man holdinga mammoth tusk. A description on the site of of the Kokolik River guided trip saidthat "paleontological evidence in the form of bones, teeth, andivory may be found." A search warrant served on the home of Robert Franz, a client ofJettmar's living in Pennsylvania, turned up "paleontological andarchaeological resources," the plea agreement says. It states thatFranz was the one pictured on the site holding the mammoth's tusk.

In 2008, a BLM employee called someone at Equinox WildernessExpeditions, informing them of the need for a permit to conduct theKokolik River trip. The employee at EWE told the BLM agent that thetrip had been cancelled, and then "quickly terminated the call." In 2009, the NPR-A trip reappeared on the EWE website, and BLM sentan undercover agent, Jeanne Proctor, to book a nearly $4,400 tripto the Utukok River region. EWE still had not applied for a permitfor the 2009 season, despite the warning the year prior. RobertFranz was also signed up for the same trip. Still undercover, Proctor met with Jettmar and Franz in June 2009,and Franz told the agent that he had made four trips with EWE and14 Arctic trips overall.

There, the plea agreement says, Franzadmitted he was the one holding the mammoth's tusk on the EWEwebsite, and estimated its value at up to $12,000. He told Proctor he couldn't have it appraised. "Although it'slegal, I can't invite that kind of attention," he told Proctor. On the trip, Proctor observed Franz and Jettmar discussing themammoth tusk again. Jettmar told Proctor that the reason shedidn t say anything when Franz found the mammoth tusk is becausethe BLM wasn t managing the land in the way they should.

On a beachcombing expedition during the trip, Jettmar presentedProctor with a bone she found, and kept another found later,according to the document. At one point on the trip, Proctor reportedly asked Jettmar, Wheredo you draw the line between hobby and hunting? Jettmar replied, I m not a looter, I m just taking whateverwashes up along the river. I know tons of guys who have tons ofartifacts and stuff in their basements. Jettmar s previous experience as a park ranger and acknowledgmentof the need for federal agencies to protect archaeologicalresources in her book The Alaska River Guide -- Canoeing,Kayaking and Rafting in the Last Frontier, indicated that she wasfamiliar with regulations that prohibited removal ofpaleontological resources from federal lands. As part of the agreement, Jettmar will now also have to include awarning on the EWE website that removal of archaeological resourcesfrom federal lands is illegal.

Franz had already been fined $100,000 by a federal judge in Pennsylvania in connection to the theft ofthe mammoth tusk. Contact Ben Anderson at ben(at)alaskadispatch.com.

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