Prepared by Larry Roberts
The Subsistence News is ending with this edition. This issue brings to a close over 2 1/2 years of weekly news and information on the social implications of Subsistence Management. It is my hope that it has provided you, with a better understanding and appreciation of the complexities of the issue. Through this forum I have attempted to summarize and explain complicated social, political, legal, economic, and wildlife and fisheries issues.
As most of you know, Alaskan Subsistence is mandated within the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA,1980). The law mandates that federal land use decisions take into account their effect on Subsistence. This mandate has presented the Forest Service with a number of interesting and diverse opportunities.
According to ANILCA, Subsistence use means the customary and traditional use by rural Alaska residents of wild, renewable resources for direct personal or family consumption as food, shelter, fuel, clothing, tools, or transportation; for the making and selling of handicraft articles out of nonedible by products of fish and wildlife resources taken for personal or family consumption; for barter, or sharing, for personal or family consumption; and for customary trade.
Following a 1989 ruling by the Alaska State Supreme Court in the McDowell vs State lawsuit, the court found that the State’s Subsistence law was not consistent with its constitution. ANILCA specifically mandates that there be a preference for the State’s rural residents for the taking of fish and wildlife for Subsistence purposes. These conflicting mandates set the stage for a test of law and wills to resolve the issue.
In 1990, Final Temporary Rules for Subsistence management mandated federal land management agencies to assume responsibility for Subsistence management of fish and wildlife on federal lands. This applies to 60% of the state, or about 225 million acres.
During the intervening years, the following events have taken place: The State legislature participated in two Special Sessions in an attempted to reconcile the Subsistence issue. In 1992, the Federal Government issued a Final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision for the Subsistence Management for Federal Public Lands in Alaska. The Katie John vs US lawsuit (1995) could expand federal jurisdiction of fisheries within federally reserved waters of Alaska. The Lt. Governor continues to work for a consensus on the issue through her “Subsistence Concept Plan.” And earlier this week, the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) petitioned the US Supreme Court to expand Subsistence management to all navigable waters (rather than federal reserved waters) within the state.
*The Federal government (USDI and USDA) still hopes the State will pass a constitutional amendment allowing for a rural Subsistence preference. There is considerable opposition from the State legislature for this action.
* Most Native organizations appear to prefer a “Native and other rural residents only” priority.
*The Governor and Lt. Governor are promoting a rural Subsistence preference amendment to be passed by the legislature and a ballot measure by the general public. There is considerable opposition from the State legislature for these actions.
*Commercial fishing interests tend to support State management of resources. Their concerns are the potential effects of the Katie John lawsuit and how it would effect navigable waters and fisheries management.
*Sport hunting and fishing representatives have both expressed opposition to any preference. They would prefer the State’s existing constitution remain in effect, and propose amending ANILCA to eliminate the rural preference.
*Alaska’s congressional delegation has made it clear that they will not tinker with ANILCA unless there is a State-wide consensus on the Subsistence issue. The state is far from any consensus on the issue.
MY CRYSTAL BALL
*The Alaska Region of the Forest Service will be given a line item for Subsistence in the 1997 budget. The minimum Forest Service budget predictions for Alaska Subsistence Management range between $6 and $12 million annually.
*There will be increasing responsibilities for Forest Service staff because of the decisions and implications from court cases. Coordination among the various governmental agencies (federal, state, and Natives) will become more critical and complex.
*Federal Subsistence Management will become more entrenched with time. Differences in Federal and State regulations will become more pronounced with time.
*The Congressional delegations proposed moratorium delaying Federal fisheries and navigable waters management will be vetoed.
*The Federal government assuming management of navigable waters and fisheries will be added incentive for compromise among the different factions.
FINAL NOTE:. The longer this issue drags on, the more polarized and emotional the various groups and interests will become. The Subsistence issue can be resolved by people talking to one another and working and sharing for our common good.
Thanks go to all those who have shared their thoughts, questions, perspectives, and good wishes. Happy Subsisting!
Larry D. Roberts