Basic information about the proposal to designate the entire Kenai Peninsula as rural for subsistence purposes (See related story, this page) is available now at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service site on the World Wide Web.
The address is www.r7.fws.gov.
The Federal Subsistence Board holds a public hearing on the proposed rural designations Wednes-day at 7 p.m. at the Cook Inlet Aquaculture building on Kaliforn-sky Beach Road.
Fish and Wildlife hopes to have its staff analysis of the proposal available at the Web site by early this week. The staff recommends against changing the 1991 determinations that the greater Soldotna, Kenai, Homer and Seward areas are nonrural, said Bill Knauer, a Fish and Wildlife policy and regulations specialist. The nonrural designations are significant, since nonrural communities are ineligible for the federal subsistence priority.
The board plans to reconsider rural-nonrural designations on a 10-year cycle, starting with the 2000 federal census. On behalf of the Kenaitze Indian Tribe, though, the Native American Rights Fund has asked it to look sooner at Kenai Peninsula determinations.
Knauer said the staff analysis recognizes problems with the information and methods now available for making Kenai Peninsula rural-nonrural determinations and recommends against changing present designations until those are addressed.
That is not the only subsistence issue on the table. The Southcentral Alaska Federal Subsistence Regional Advisory Council meets Wednesday through Friday at the Cook Inlet Aquaculture building to make recommendations to the board on current federal subsistence regulatory proposals. Those meetings run Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Thursday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday from 9 a.m. to noon.
Knauer said there are only a few Southcentral Alaska proposals that affect the Kenai Peninsula -- a couple to align federal subsistence trapping seasons with state seasons and one to establish a federal subsistence hunt for beavers. Southcentral subsistence proposals are posted at www.r7.fws.gov/asm/prop99/prop99.html on the Internet.
The council will hear general public testimony at the start of its Wednesday meeting, he said. It will take comments on individual proposals as each comes up.
Kathleen Graves, secretary for the state's Kenai-Soldotna Fish and Game Advisory Committee, said she learned of this week's subsistence meetings in early February. She expressed frustration at the difficulty of obtaining an agenda and copies of subsistence regulatory proposals.
Graves said she asked the state Boards Support Section two weeks ago to ask Helga Eakon, coordinator for the Southcentral advisory council, for copies of the meeting agenda and Southcentral subsistence proposals. She said she had hoped those would come before the Kenai-Soldotna committee's Feb. 23 meeting, so that it could review the proposals.
She said she got no help that way, and when she tried to reach Eakon herself, Eakon never called back. Neither the agenda nor the proposals were available from Fish and Wildlife's Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and Fishery Resource offices in Soldotna, she said. Graves said the refuge referred her to an Internet address that did not work.
"These are very substantial meetings. Subjects on the agenda have significant public interest," she said. "I would think a minimum of 30 days to review materials before you're expected to present intelligent testimony would be the minimum."
Knauer said Eakon was out of town last week and part of the week before. Anne Barrett, secretary at the Fishery Resource Office, said she received a copy of the regulatory proposals for Graves early last week, but Graves never picked it up.
Knauer said the Office of Subsistence Management generally does not place copies of regulatory proposals in public offices, because when it has, nobody reads them.
"We're trying to be somewhat fiscally responsible," he said.
Instead, it mails subsistence information to a list of interested groups and individuals -- including the state's Fish and Game advisory committees -- and announces regulatory proposals at www.r7.fws.gov on the Internet and via press releases.
"They get picked up by all the newspapers," he said.
Fish and Wildlife will mail or fax copies of proposals to anyone who asks, he said.
An Oct. 9 press release announced the regional advisory council's November hearings in Seward, Homer and Kenai on the Kenaitze request to designate the whole peninsula as rural. A Feb. 9 press release announced the subsistence board's hearing this Wednesday. The Office of Subsistence Management takes written comments until March 31.
The Southcentral subsistence regulatory proposals have been available since mid-November, Knauer said.
Officials sent copies of the proposals to close to 3,000 names on the mailing list and also issued a press release. The deadline for public comment was Jan. 14.
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