The Federal Subsistence Board (FSB) bans non-local caribou hunters on all federal lands in GMU 23 for this coming hunting season.
Special Action Request WSA16-01.
• If you grew up on the North Slope or Western Alaska and moved south you cannot go home to hunt with your family on federally owned lands in GMU 23. (Approximately 80% of GMU 23.)
• Nor will any Alaskans living outside of GMU 23, GMU 22, 26A, most of GMU 24, and portions of GMU 21D be able to hunt caribou in GMU 23 on federal lands this hunting season.
• Caribou hunting will be closed to all non-residents and alien caribou hunters in the Noatak National Preserve & Wilderness, the Selawik NWR, and BLM lands in the Squirrel River drainage plus all other federally owned lands in GMU23.
Seven million acres of GMU 23 is NOT federally owned, which means hunting of caribou under state regulations will be concentrated on 4.25 million acres of state owned lands as well as the 2.80 million acres of private lands owned by Alaska native corporations and villages. Conflict between caribou hunters will only escalate along riverways claimed by both the State of Alaska and the federal government. Plus the potential for trespass onto privately owned lands along riverways will most likely increase.
The stated reason for the closure by the FSB to all non-locals is conservation concern for the Western Arctic caribou herd (WACH) which has declined from an estimated herd size of 490,000 in 2003 to approximately 230,000 in 2013. Fluctuations in caribou herds of this magnitude are well documented and not uncommon throughout Western and Interior Alaska.
Neither the state nor the federal wildlife biologists believe that the less than 5% of the total caribou harvests by all non-local Alaskans as well as all nonresident hunters will make any difference to the health of the herd. The herd has not declined to a level that warrants any loss of hunting opportunity at this point in time. There is still ample harvestable surplus of caribou to allow subsistence harvest of 13,000 to 16,000 caribou, plus an average of 600 bulls to be harvested by all non-local hunters combined.
The Wildlife Division Chief for the Office of Subsistence Management (OSM) for the FSB stated on the record that, “This request does not meet the closure criteria identified in the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980, (ANILCA) Title VIII. Yet that didn’t stop 5 of the 8 FSB members from voting for the closure based on the reported reason that they “felt” it was the right thing to do….
This recent action by the FSB should put to rest any lingering illusions that the federal rural priority to fish and game on federal lands, over 60% of Alaska, has anything to do with “during times of shortage.” The rural priority is only limited by how a majority of the FSB members “feel” about sharing an abundant public resource with fellow citizens.
Apparently there is no official reconsideration process whenever the FSB adopts a Special Action Request. That means a volume of emails and/or letters to the Chairman of the FSB will have little to no affect in getting this regulation rescinded. It is up to the State of Alaska to take its rightful position to defend the common use of public resources enshrined in the Alaska State Constitution – Article 8, Section 3.
Email ADF&G Commissioner Sam Cotten and Governor Bill Walker and encourage them to take this fight back to Secretary Sally Jewell, U.S. Department of the Interior, to get the action rescinded prior to the fall caribou hunting season. Be sure to cc Alaska’s Congressional Delegation. (Contact information is available on the AOC website)
As adopted this regulation, Special Action Request WSA16-01, will only increase the divisiveness between local residents and caribou hunters on non-federal lands in GMU23, and that is in no one’s best interest.
Please direct any questions to the AOC Executive Director, Rod Arno at firstname.lastname@example.org
Here are a few ways you can contact the U.S. Department of the Interior, Secretary Jewell and our bureaus:
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington DC 20240
Phone: (202) 208-3100
Web: Feedback form
CONTACT GOVERNOR WALKER
Governor’s Press Office at 907-269-7450 or by fax at 907-269-7461.
SEND MAIL TO GOVERNOR WALKER
Please address all packages and correspondence to:
Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 110001
Juneau, AK 99811-0001
CONTACT ADF&G Commissioner Sam Cotten
CONTACT for the Chair of the FSB
Tim Towarak, Chair