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 email@example.com
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
Land Acquisition in the State of Alaska
Attached is the link to the Federal Register proposed rule which if adopted would negate the enacted Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971 (ANCSA) by allowing the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) to transfer 44 million acres of fee simple lands to trust status in Alaska on a case-by-case basis.
What does that mean to Alaska outdoor folks? At worst 225 recognized tribal entities and possibly 12 Regional and Village Corporations could manage fish and game on their lands. The disruption to fish and game management due to the checkerboard pattern of land ownership in the state is incomprehensible.
While it is doubtful that any amount of comments from the Alaskan public will make a difference on whether or not DOI adopts this proposed rule the public does have an opportunity to submit comments up until June 30, 2014. Information on where to submit comments by either mail or email is available in the attached link.
Contacting Alaska’s congressional delegation may also be of some value…….
Legislation before the U.S. Congress
that could affect Alaska’s outdoor folks
By AOC Executive Director Rod Arno
Sealaska Lands Bill, S 730 – Sponsored by both
Alaskan Senators was rumored to be headed for a senate markup this summer. If
so, AOC has yet to see a copy of changes to last years’ bill. Rep. Don Young’s
bill, HR 1408, was folded into an omnibus bill called the Conservation and Economic Growth Act. Prior to the August/September recess neither
of these bills has passed out of the senate. AOC supports transfer of the
remaining ANCSA lands to the Sealaska Native Corporation but has concerns
regarding access to public lands
beyond private corporation inholding in the Tongass National Forest.
Omnibus Federal Lands Bill – Threats of a new
omnibus federal lands bill in the Senate continue. There is the possibility of
S730 being combined in a omnibus bill with proposed legislation to create more
Wilderness designated areas on federal lands. Omnibus bills are like Christmas
trees, with presents enough for Senators to get them passed without individual
bills passing or failing on their own merits.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund Act (LWCF) grants–
LWCF is slated to receive hundreds of millions of dollars to buy up private in-holding
within national conservation units over the next couple of years. AOC opposes
the addition of anymore federal lands in Alaska, +60% of state lands are enough
under federal control.
EPA Corps Wetlands Jurisdiction – S 2245 would
block the EPA and Corps of Engineers from getting Wetlands Jurisdiction over
additional water and lands. This bill, should it pass into law, would limit the
wetlands jurisdiction of the EPA, keeping their jurisdiction off of state and
private lands. AOC is monitoring this
legislation to see how it would preserve road building in state and federal
areas designated as forest lands.
Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage and Opportunities Act – S.2066
Sponsored by Senator Lisa Murkowski last February.
The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural
Resources last February.
Sportsmen’s Heritage Act of 2012 -H.R.4089
moved out of the House and was received in the Senate. Either of these bills, should
they become law, would strengthen outdoor hunting and fishing opportunities on
federal lands. AOC is monitoring these bills and should they start moving in
the Senate, AOC would try to strengthen provisions protecting trapping
opportunities as well.
Hunting, Fishing, and Recreational Shooting Protection Act – S.838
is a bill worth AOC watching. Senator Jon Tester is a Democrat
running for re-election in Montana. On May 14th the bill was referred to Senate
Committee on Environment and Public Works. Democrat Senators could allow this
bill to pass in order to gain support for Senator Tester’s re-election.