On October 26, 2006 The Alaska Outdoor Council commented on proposed federal subsistence board regulations that would make rural certain areas in Southeast and Southcentral Alaska. The comments were addressed to FSB chairman Mike Fleagle. The FSB meets in Anchorage on December 12 and 13.
As a spokesperson for the Alaska Outdoor Council (AOC) my participation in the federal public comment process has been an “exercise in futility” regarding the implementation of the federal subsistence law, Title VIII of ANILCA. Regardless of the testimony and written comment provided by AOC for many years, the Federal Subsistence Board (FSB) has consistently and repeatedly developed arbitrary determinations and regulations that have seldom been based on the board’s own criteria, but rather upon inaccurate information or statements generally unsupported by valid data. Yet I am obligated as the Executive Director of AOC to provide written comment on the Proposed Rule on the Review of Rural Determinations. The AOC is a statewide organization representing 50 clubs and 2,500 individual members totaling 10,000+ Alaskans. AOC advocates for conservation of natural resources and equality in access and use of those natural resources.
The Decennial Review of Rural Determinations, based on Alaska Communities 2000 U.S. Census Data, should be evidence enough to convince most hunters and fish harvesters that the federal rural priority won’t work for communities and areas in Southcentral Alaska (Region 2) because of proximity/road connectedness. The FSB should determine all communities and areas within the State’s Anchorage-MatSu-Kenai Nonsubsistence Area as nonrural status. The Kenai Area, Seward Area, Wasilla Area, and Homer Area all fall within the State’s Nonsubsistence Areas for good reason. The FSB should take action to stop the duplication of State Regulations that provide for reasonable harvest opportunities. The FSB’s actions in areas with competing user groups are divisive and not in Alaskans’ best interest. Considering that there were no proposed rule changes to the rural determinations for communities or areas for; Bristol Bay, the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, Western Interior Alaska, the Seward Peninsula, or the Northwest Arctic (except for the oil development community built at Prudhoe Bay), it should be evident that the federal subsistence law only works in areas with limited “cheap” access that acts as a barrier to competing user groups.
The same argument applies to the Fairbanks North Star Borough as well as the Delta Junction vicinity. The FSB should avoid actions that are costly to administer and cause divisiveness among Alaskans by adopting regulations that match federal nonrural communities and areas with the State’s Nonsubsistence Areas.
In the Kodiak/Aleutians Region 3 the FSB should group the City of Kodiak, the Mill Bay area, the Coast Guard Station, Women’s Bay and Bells Flats into a nonrural designation. That action would be consistent with federal regulations.
Adak should remain a nonrural area. If all you need to do to qualify for a federal priority to hunt and fish is to move to a remote community or area with a declining population then the federal regulation for Customary and Traditional (Criteria 50 C.F.R. 100.16 (b)) is not in the spirit, nor the intent, of Title VIII of ANILCA.
The December 7, 2005, action of the Federal Subsistence Board concluded that further analysis of Sitka was not necessary as part of the Decennial Review of Rural Determinations. Actions taken without due process based on the public testimony of a number of residents of Sitka are arbitrary and capricious. Legitimizing the federal subsistence priority found in Title VIII of ANILCA should have been pursued by the FSB going through its criteria for determining rural classifications under 50 C.F.R. 100.16.
How can the FSB justify giving a priority to the 70.1% Alaska native population of Saxman, with a Median Household Income of $44,375 for a population of 431, from the 2000 U.S. Census, while at the same time denying the same federal priority to the 22.7% of Alaska natives who live outside the city limits of Saxman in the surrounding town of Ketchikan? The Ketchikan area population was 13,639 with a Median Household Income of $45,962 in the 2000 U.S. Census. AOC’s recommendation to the Board is to adopt the State’s Ketchikan Nonsubsistence Area boundaries for the federal nonrural area.
It would have been advantageous for the FSB to compare the Interagency Staff analysis for Sitka’s Rural Determination showing a dispersed Alaska native population of 24.7% and a Median Household Income of $51,901, to the characteristics used to separate Saxman from the greater Ketchikan area. Federal regulations cite five criteria to be used when making a determination of rural or nonrural status: (i) use of fish and wildlife, (ii) development and diversity of the local economy, (iii) community infrastructure, (iv) transportation, and (v) educational institutions.Since the FSB staff analysis of communities and areas for review of rural determinations doesn’t seem to rely on a consistent evaluation of objective criteria, on what basis is the FSB making these determinations, or classifications? The FSB should also review the rural determination for Sitka.
The Alaska Outdoor Council supports the personal consumptive use of Alaska’s fish and wildlife resources. The Alaska Outdoor Council is, however, opposed to laws that give a preference to users based on criteria of residency, culture or ethnic background.
There are a number of glaring inconsistencies in the criteria used to determine rural/nonrural status by the FSB. Hopefully these will be addressed at the December 2006 Board meeting in Anchorage.
Thank you for the opportunity to submit written comment on AOC’s behalf.
Rod Arno, Executive Director
Alaska Outdoor Council