Young reintroduces Native work preference bill

Posted: Monday, March 10, 2003

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- U.S. Rep. Don Young has reintroduced legislation to force Alaska's federal park and refuge managers to contract out construction, maintenance and research work to Alaska Native tribes.

The legislation by Young, R-Alaska, calls for 12 separate contracts over the next two years.

The bill also would specifically transfer employees of the Kanuti and Koyukuk national wildlife refuges to a consortium of village tribal governments known as the Koyukuk Moose Co-management Team Inc. Employees with those refuges work for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Fairbanks and Galena.

Young's original bill received a cool reception last year from the Bush administration. An Interior Department official said agencies were doing a good job hiring local people to work on Alaska's parks and refuges.

Young and representatives of Alaska Native regional nonprofit groups, though, said the legislation was necessary to put a fire under the agencies.

Congress, when it created most Alaska parks and refuges in 1980, required the Interior Department to give Native corporations a preference in contracting for visitor services. It also required Native corporation land to be used for visitor facilities, if the corporation agreed. Also, people with special knowledge of an area were exempted from federal training and education requirements for certain jobs.

Young's contracting bill has changed somewhat from a version he introduced last year. The original said that only ''inherently non-federal'' functions could be contracted out.

That has been revised to specify that tribes ''may contract to perform construction, maintenance, data collection, biological research and harvest monitoring.''

The new bill also prohibits federal agencies from granting tribes authority to oversee hunting and fishing guides. The bill exempts Denali National Park, but no other conservation units, from the contracting requirements.

The Koyukuk and Kanuti refuges are the only conservation units for which a specific transfer is proposed. The Koyukuk Moose Co-management Team has twice unsuccessfully sued the state Board of Game over moose management in the Koyukuk River area. The village tribal consortium said the board's bag limits, seasons and goals violated the state subsistence law.

Young's bill says no federal employees are to lose their jobs in the proposed contracts. Rather, they would work with tribes under terms of an intergovernmental employee-sharing program.

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