Reader offers recipe for cooperation

Letter to the Editor

Posted: Friday, January 05, 2007

An Outdoor View (Clarion, Dec. 29) does disservice to claim the Federal Subsistence Board’s decision to establish subsistence fisheries on the Kenai and Kasilof is a recipe for conflict. The FSB’s decision is not a recipe for conflict any more than a recipe for cooperation.

We can as easily use the FSB decision to cook up understanding, tolerance and neighborliness as we can use it to cook another batch of divisiveness, intolerance and conflict. What we cook — cooperation or conflict — is up to us.

An Outdoor View complains the FSB’s decision might impact fishing as we know it. But fishing as we know it depends on who “we” are, and regardless of who “we” are, fishing as “we” know it has changed in the past, is changing now and will continue to change in the future.

The Alaska Native Interest Land Claims Acts was made law to settle Native people’s claims, clearing the way for the building of the pipeline. Inherent in ANILCA is our national conscience’s wish to protect the native way of life, which transcends simplistic definitions of subsistence and rural.

In order to accommodate Native lifestyles without violating our federal constitution, Congress used a “rural” priority to safeguard values and lifestyle.

Alaska’s constitution began by ignoring Native sensibilities, using “subsistence” to protect whatever Native rights the state deemed to indulge, namely the right to fish and game in times of shortage. That priority was found illegal by Alaska’s Supreme Court — a subsistence priority violates the equal access guaranteed by our state’s constitution.

Thus began the contest between federal law — rural priority designed to protect Native values and lifestyles — and state law — equal access to fish and game by all Alaskans.

The feds won. Alaskans cannot disregard the national conscience and flaunt national law any more than could the southern states when confronted with the necessity of civil rights.

Now, federal bureaucrats, seeking to obey and implement the provisions of ANILCA, have decided to establish subsistence fisheries on the Kenai and Kasilof. Like it or not, whining, complaining, pointing fingers, name-calling and more will not change that.

What’s left to be decided is the recipe, what we’ll be eating when the cooking is over. We can cook up more conflict or we can cook up cooperation.

We’ve had too much conflict, blame, accusations, divisiveness and more between user groups. Conflict accomplishes nothing. We can choose this time to try to understand each other. We can reject conflict and try cooperation, understanding and tolerance. We are, after all, neighbors.

John Nelson

Soldotna



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