On March 4, in Wasilla, the Board of Game (BOG) will begin deliberating on proposed hunting regulations.
Last year the BOG implemented a Unit 13 Nelchina caribou registration hunt for this year. All 3,200 applicants will receive a permit. Now the Board is considering whether to add a Community Hunt Program (CHP) to this Nelchina plan -- not the same as last year's Ahtna Community Hunt which was ruled unconstitutional. However, the complex CHP regulations, if approved, would allow a totally new "modus operandi" for the BOG.
This year the Board proposed only one CHP, allotting 300 caribou from the harvestable surplus to any group that agrees to practice Ahtna's tribal harvest traditions. Those traditions include salvaging certain portions of the animal (fat, kidneys, stomach) for human food, ceremonial sharing, etc. The CHP requires detailed reporting about these matters to the State. A "Draft for External Review" describing the requirements is available at www.wc.adfg.state.ak.us/division_info/chp_copper_basin.pdf.
All these conditions could and should be accomplished voluntarily by individual members of the group or tribe. Each member could register and automatically receive a permit, like the other 3,200 individuals have already done. Proxy hunting is allowed.
I urge groups/tribes to define and enforce their own regulations rather than calling upon the state to define and enforce them.
The proposal's complex language allows overlapping cultural CHPs, (Ahtna, Chickaloon, Eklutna) in future years, all having potentially separate seasons, bag limits and cultural requirements defined and enforced by the state.
This year it's only 300 caribou. What will be allotted to CHPs in future years? Over 200 tribal groups exist in Alaska. This complex proposal would allow a totally new "modus operandi" for the BOG.
The state has successfully struggled to raise the harvestable surplus of caribou in the Nelchina area, above the Tier II situation. Now that surplus could be impacted to favor CHPs established for advocates who already have a substantial priority on all federal lands (over 60 percent of Alaska) plus appropriate trespass control on millions of acres of private land.
When equality is no longer the standard, how much inequality is justifiable?
Please consider submitting written comments opposing the CHPs by Feb. 18 so they can be included in the BOG member's workbook. But later is better than never.
Mary Bishop, Fairbanks
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