Monday, October 30, 2006

Ak Outdoor Council Turns Thumbs Down On Fed Rural Designation Proposals

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

Seward Highway Sheep Poacher Sentenced

A taxidermist convicted in Anchorage Superior Court of killing two Dall sheep last winter along the Seward Highway has been sentenced. The killings were widely discussed, including on the Alaska Hunting Forum.

The sentence included a large fine, jail time and probation restrictions. The Anchorage Daily News (ADN) reported that "Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered that for the next 10 years McConnell is not allowed to own a computer or be on the Internet. He's not allowed to practice taxidermy or own guns. And if he wants to leave the road system south of Anchorage, he's got to have the permission of his probation officer."

A second shooter was also sentenced in the case, but received a lesser sentence based on a deal with prosecutors, according to the ADN.

Read the entire article in the Anchorage Daily News >>>

Anchorage Hillside Moose Hunt Goes Second Year

A small and somewhat controversial moose hunt on the heavily populated Anchorage hillside begins again on November first. The hunt is for only four cows, and is a cautious second step in the process of reducing the number of moose in the Anchorage bowl.

The Anchorage Daily News put it this way: "The hunt is small and somewhat experimental. Hunters may only use shotguns or black-powder rifles -- firearms with normal trajectories less than 300 yards -- to kill cow moose. The hunters also must pass a hunter safety course and a weapons proficiency test to help ensure moose are killed quickly and efficiently.

Other rules stipulate that the hunters must:
  • Drag moose gut piles at least 100 yards from any trail;
  • Provide the location to the state; and
  • Phone state biologists before and after the hunts.
The reason for all the precaution is the Hillside moose hunt's controversial history. Last year was the first moose hunt on the Anchorage Hillside since 1983, when a bow hunt created a public-relations nightmare."

Read the entire article in the Anchorage Daily News >>>

Friday, October 27, 2006

Initiative Petition Sponsors Try Ballot Box Biology Again

From the Anchorage Daily News:

"A group calling itself Alaskans for Wildlife is hoping that once again the will of the people will be enough to stop the aerial shooting of wolves and bears in Alaska.

Sponsors of an initiative to restrict Alaska's predator control program dropped off eight cardboard boxes Tuesday at the state Division of Elections office in Anchorage. Inside were petitions with 56,574 signatures, far more than the 31,451 required to get the initiative on the ballot in 2008. The signatures now must be verified by the election staff."

Read the entire article >>>

Trucks Still in the Tundra

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports that the two pickup trucks stuck off the Dalton Highway are still there after a failed attempt to jack them up out of the wet tundra:

"The hunters who drove a pair of pickup trucks off the Dalton Highway in early September to retrieve three caribou they shot only to get the trucks stuck up to their axles in the tundra are still trying to figure out a way to free the trucks from the muck before freezeup.

Officials with the Bureau of Land Management said the hunters were unsuccessful in their first attempt to jack up the vehicles. This week, the hunters were planning to make a second try at lifting the trucks out of the mud. They hope to drive the trucks out after the ground freezes to prevent further damage to the tundra."

Read the entire article in the News-Miner >>>

Goat hunts close near Cordova, Skagway, Juneau, Kodiak and Kenai Peninsula

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has announced closure of mountain goat hunts or non opening in several areas in southcentral and southeast Alaska. The closures are as follows (hyperlinks point to ADFG news releases in PDF format)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

USFWS Calls for Suggestions on Membership of Federal Subsistence Regional Advisory Councils

From a USFWS News Release dated 17 Oct 206:

The Federal Subsistence Board is accepting written comments and suggestions through Nov. 13, 2006 on alternative methods for assuring balanced membership on Federal subsistence regional advisory councils.

Currently, there are 10 Federal subsistence regional advisory councils around the state. The members of these councils are volunteers and also local users of fish and wildlife resources. They serve a pivotal role in the Federal subsistence program by using their local knowledge and expertise to evaluate regulatory proposals and make recommendations to the Federal Subsistence Board.

The Federal Advisory Committee Act requires that advisory committees have a balanced membership. Current Federal regulations, adopted in 2004, set a goal of 70 percent subsistence users and 30 percent sport and commercial users on the Federal subsistence regional advisory councils. The intent of this regulation was to ensure the appropriate representation and meaningful majority role for rural Alaska residents, while providing appropriate representation for the interests of consumptive users of fish and wildlife on public lands other than rural subsistence users. However, on Aug. 8, 2006 the U.S. District Court for Alaska enjoined the use of this approach, saying the Board failed to articulate its rationale in adopting the 70/30 membership goal.

The Board is seeking written comments and suggestions at this time to consider alternatives that would provide balanced membership on the regional advisory councils. Written comments and suggestions will be accepted through Nov. 13, 2006 and can be sent by e-mail to, by fax at (907) 786-3898, or by mail to:

Federal Subsistence Board Attn: Theo Matuskowitz
Office of Subsistence Management
3601 C Street, Suite 1030
Anchorage, AK 99503

For additional information, please contact Ann Wilkinson at (800) 478-1456 or (907) 786-3676 or by e-mail,

Monday, October 16, 2006

No Skilak Gun Hunt: Preferred Alternative

From an Anchorage Daily News Article:

"Federal wildlife managers are planning to upgrade animal-viewing opportunities north of the Kenai Peninsula's Skilak Lake, according to a plan released this week.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's preferred option in the Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area plan would add a nature center at Pack Lake, more ranger- led environmental education, a self-guided interpretive drive, a wheelchair-accessible trail and more camp sites, among other upgrades. Perhaps most noticeable would be the pavement it would lay on Skilak Lake Loop, currently a dirt road.

The agency would not open the area to rifle and shotgun hunting for small game, as the Alaska Board of Game has requested."

Read the entire article >>>

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Hunting Buffer Zone Around Mat-Su Schools?

The Anchorage Daily News reports that "For the second time in less than a week, Meadow Lakes Elementary School went into lockdown Tuesday after school personnel heard gunshots in the distance."

Fish & Wildlife officers believe the gunshots were from hunters. At least one parent is calling for buffer zones, an idea that Borough Manager John Duffy did not apparently disagree with.

"We have the authority to ensure that our children are safe within our schools," Duffy said. "I think creating a safe zone around schools is certainly prudent. I think the Board of Game would support that."

Read the entire Anchorage Daily News article >>>

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

BLM May Take Action on Tundra Trucks

The two truck owners stuck in the tundra off the Haul Road may face legal as well as financial problems as a result of driving their pickup trucks off the road in September in order to retrieve downed caribou, according to the Anchorage Daily News.

"I'm investigating it with the intent that (legal) action will be taken against the violators," said Bureau of Land Management ranger Ed Lee of Fairbanks.

"The hunters last week received permission from the BLM to jack the trucks up and put them on plastic blocks in hopes they will be able to drive them out when the ground freezes this winter. The trucks are on BLM land about 370 miles north of Fairbanks."

Read the entire article >>>

The issue was discussed extensively in at least one Alaska Hunting Forum thread.

Stikine Moose Hunt Closed Early

From an ADFG News Release >>>

The Alaska Department of Fish & Game is announcing the early closure of the RM038
registration moose hunting season in the drainages of the Stikine River in Game Management Unit 1(B).

An Emergency Order has been issued (#01-03-06) closing the RM038 moose season in the
drainages of the Stikine River effective at 11:59 pm on Friday, 6 October 2006
By Thursday, 5 October 2006, the reported harvest of bull moose in the Stikine River drainages had reached 31 animals. This represents the highest moose harvest on the river since 1990. In addition, a growing problem of noncompliance with the existing antler regulations has resulted in unacceptably high harvest of bull moose that were intended to be protected by existing regulations. Any additional harvest of bull moose in the Stikine River drainage may jeopardize the future productivity of this moose population.

All other moose hunting regulations in Unit 1B, including the DM033 moose drawing permit
hunt, remain unchanged and are not affected by this Emergency Order.

Hunters with questions about moose hunting in Game Management Unit 1(B) can contact the
Petersburg Area Office of the Alaska Department of Fish & Game @ 907-772-3801.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Game Board Adds New Nelchina Subsistence Rules

The Alaska Board of Game changed the rules slightly in the high profile Nelchina caribou Tier II hunt, according to the Anchorage Daily News. The board rejected so-called "super exclusive" subsistence areas, but did reduce the household bag from three to two, and voted to require salvage of head and hide.

Read the entire Anchorage Daily News article >>>

Monday, October 09, 2006

Game Board Axes Proposals; Considering Other Subsistence Changes

From the Anchorage Daily News (2 stories):

Many, mostly Alaskans from rural parts of the state, told the Alaska Board of Game on Saturday not to change the way the regulations worked:

"More than 50 Alaska Natives carried signs and walked the sidewalks through an early-morning drizzle Saturday in downtown Anchorage, protesting Board of Game proposals that would radically overhaul the popular Nelchina caribou hunt.

Later, the wet-haired marchers shed rain jackets and stuffed themselves into a warm hotel conference room, testifying before the board that the proposals would take meat from their tables.

The Game Board, in a special meeting expected to last through Monday, might end the controversial and highly restricted Tier II subsistence hunt in the Nelchina basin north and east of Anchorage."

Read the entire story in the Anchorage Daily News >>>

The following day, the Board rejected two proposals that would have changed the way the program worked:

"The Board of Game on Sunday rejected two proposals that would alter the state subsistence program, said Kristy Tibbles, executive director.

But board members today will take up other proposals that could give every Alaskan a shot at participating in the highly restricted Nelchina caribou hunt, she said.

Board members, meeting in Anchorage today, have said they want to address complaints that the hunt restricts people younger than 38 and encourages applicants to lie to win permits. Many hunters also complain that not enough permits are awarded to meet demand."

Read the entire story in the Anchorage Daily News >>>

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Controversial Nelchina Proposals to be Aired This Weekend

From the Anchorage Daily News:

"Hunters can weigh in this weekend on controversial Board of Game proposals that may dramatically overhaul the popular Nelchina caribou hunt.

In the special meeting, game board members will consider changes to the highway-accessible hunt as well as to the state's Tier II hunting system.

The meeting begins with public testimony at the Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel in downtown Anchorage at 8:30 a.m. today. The meeting is expected to end Monday with a vote by the Game Board."

Read the entire article >>>

Friday, October 06, 2006

Comments Sought on Kenai Refuge's Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area Plan

From a USFWS News Release:

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking public comments on its recently completed Draft Management Plan and Environmental Assessment for Kenai National Wildlife Refuge's Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area. This Draft Plan is available on CD-ROM from Rob Campellone (see address below), or can be found at:, under the category, Step-down Management Plans.

The Draft Plan identifies three alternatives for public use of the 44,000-acre Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area. It also presents the Service's evaluation of the environmental consequences associated with implementing each of the alternatives. The final version of this plan, which will be completed following consideration of all public comments, will guide future management of the Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area.

The Service is inviting comment on this draft document because public involvement in the planning process is essential for development of an effective plan, and will accept such comments until November 17, 2006.
Comments should be specific, addressing merits of the alternatives and adequacy of the environmental analysis.

All public comments received, including the names and addresses of those commenting, will be included in the planning record, which will be available for public review. However, if any individual wishes to withhold his or her name or address, the Service requests that he or she state this prominently at the beginning of any comments. We will honor such requests to the extent allowed by law.

All comments from organizations and businesses, and from individuals identifying themselves as representatives or officials of organizations or businesses, will be available for public inspection. Anonymous comments will not be considered. Comments can be mailed, e-mailed, or provided orally by November 17, 2006, to: Rob Campellone, Planning Team Leader; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 1011 East Tudor Road - MS 231; Anchorage, AK 99503-6199. Rob Campellone can be reached by telephone at (907) 786-3982, or by email at:

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

One Bear, Two Bears, Three Bears… Counting Bears You Can Not See

From an Alaska Wildlife News article by Mike Taras:

Al Keech slung the shotgun over his shoulder as he strolled through the woods towards the grizzly bear lure site. I stayed close, trying to make noise as we approached the blood-and-fish soaked lure. I knew hundreds of these sites had been checked over the summer without any encounters with bears but still, it was a grizzly bear lure site, and it was the first I was checking.

It wasn’t bears we were looking for, but evidence of bears. “We got one,” I said to Keech, peering at the clump of grizzly hair stuck to the hair snare – a strand of barbed wire encircling the lure.

Estimating bear numbers is no easy task. They can’t be counted like moose, which are active all year and are relatively easy to see from an airplane when snow covers the ground.

Bears are almost impossible to count accurately from an airplane in wooded country, as they often spend the daylight hours in thick cover. In the winter, when they would stand out against the snow, they are hidden away in their dens hibernating.

With these challenges Fish and Game biologist Craig Gardner set out to design a bear population estimate in the 40-mile country north of Tok and west of Chicken. This area is part of ongoing Intensive Management efforts to increase moose and caribou numbers and managers wanted more data on the grizzly bear population in the area. Working with a limited budget and limited staff, Gardner’s task was to determine how many bears are living in an area almost 3,000 square miles.

Read the entire article in Alaska Wildlife News >>>

More on Wood Bison Restoration in Alaska

From an Alaska Wildlife News article by Riley Woodford:

A few hundred years ago, massive wood bison and musk oxen roamed the meadows of Interior Alaska. Steller sea cows and spectacled cormorants inhabited Aleutian waters. But by 1900, these animals were gone.

It’s too late to bring back the Steller sea cow and the spectacled cormorant – these animals are extinct. And while musk oxen and wood bison were extirpated from Alaska, populations survived in Greenland and Canada. In the 1930s, musk oxen were reintroduced to Alaska, and now several thousand animals inhabit about six different regions of the state.

Many Alaskans hope the same thing can happen with wood bison. These oversize cousins to the plains bison are the largest land animal in North America and still inhabit a few areas in western Canada. Bob Stephenson, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Yukon Flats area biologist, began work on wood bison reintroduction in the early 1990s, in partnership with tribal councils and others. ADFG has found that wood bison restoration has broad appeal and is supported by Native groups, hunters, conservation organizations and biologists outside the department of Fish and Game. But times have changed since the days of the musk oxen restoration, and reintroducing wood bison to Alaska has met some surprising hurdles.

Read the entire article on Alaska Wildlife News >>>

Regional Advisory Council Meetings Homer, Delta, Ruby, Kotzebue, Sitka

The Southcentral Alaska Federal Subsistence Regional Advisory Council will meet October 17-19 at the Islands and Ocean Visitor Center in Homer. The meeting will begin at 9 a.m. each day. The public is welcome at this meeting. There will be opportunities for public comment. For more information read the USFWS News Release >>>

The Eastern Interior Federal Subsistence Regional Advisory Council will meet Tuesday and Wednesday, Oct. 17-18, in Delta Junction. The meeting will be held at the Delta Junction Community Hall and will begin at 10 a.m. Tuesday and at 9 a.m. Wednesday. For more information read the USFWS News Release >>>

The Western Interior Federal Subsistence Regional Advisory Council will meet Wednesday and Thursday, Oct. 11-12, in Ruby. The meeting will be held at the Ruby Community Hall and will begin at 9 a.m. For more information read the USFWS News Release >>>

The Northwest Arctic Federal Subsistence Regional Advisory Council will meet Friday, Oct. 13, in Kotzebue. The meeting will be held at the Nullagvik Hotel Meeting Room and will begin at 8:30 a.m. For more information read the USFWS News Release >>>

The Southeast Federal Subsistence Regional Advisory Council will meet Wednesday through Friday, Oct. 11-13, in Sitka. The meeting will be held at the Sitka Community House, Sheetka Kwaan Naa Kahidi, and will begin at 9 a.m. For more information read the USFWS News Release >>>

All USFWS subsistence news releases can be found here:

Monday, October 02, 2006

Veterans Group Helps Make Disabled Moose Hunt a Reality

"Ron Hoskins looked pretty much like any other moose hunter in Alaska.

Dressed in camouflage from head to toe, he sat in a hunting blind at the edge of the woods on a seepage channel within the Chena River Lakes Flood Control Project, waiting for a bull moose to appear.

For Hoskins, who has been confined to a wheelchair for 30 years as a result of a car accident, it was therapeutic. The birds and squirrels didn't know he was paralyzed and neither would a bull moose if it happened to show up within shooting distance. The fact he was in a wheelchair didn't matter. He was a hunter in the woods."

Read entire Fairbanks Daily News-Miner article >>>

Should Skilak Lake Area Remain Closed to Hunting?

"This sliver of the federal refuge, just north of Skilak Lake, has been mostly set aside for wildlife viewing and other "take only pictures" recreation for two decades. The Alaska Board of Game wants to change that by allowing hunters with guns to chase small game each fall, the way many Kenai Peninsula residents remember doing when they were young.

The proposal could lead to a showdown with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which so far has favored expanding wildlife watching along Skilak Lake Road, and keeping current hunting restrictions."

Read the entire Anchorage Daily News article >>>