Subsistence division avoids elimination

Posted: Tuesday, March 19, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- House Republican leaders backed away from a plan to eliminate the state office that oversees subsistence after outcry from Alaskans offended by the proposed cut.

House Speaker Brian Porter, R-Anchorage, said the move was an effort to avoid exacerbating tension between urban residents and rural residents, the majority of whom are Alaska Natives.

With a 34-3 vote, House members approved an amendment to the fiscal 2003 budget that restores $1 million to state's Division of Subsistence.

Previously, House Republican budget writers eliminated all state funding to the division.

Porter said the public reaction to the cuts ''reverberated ... to the extent that we think it is important that we not further exacerbate that particular situation.''

A House Finance subcommittee proposed the cuts during hearings, arguing that some duties performed by the division could be taken up by other areas of the state Department of Fish and Game.

Alaska Natives reacted strongly to the proposed cut during two days of budget hearings last week before the House Finance Committee.

Federal managers oversee subsistence management in about two-thirds of Alaska because the state does not recognize a rural priority in managing subsistence.

Lawmakers and past governors have been embroiled in contentious fights to offer an amendment to the state constitution to comply with federal laws on subsistence.

Five special sessions under three governors have been unable to resolve the intractable problem. The House of Representatives last passed an amendment in 1999 but it failed in the Senate.

Gov. Tony Knowles press spokesperson, Bob King, said the division still faces a deep cut in funding that will make it difficult to manage subsistence on state land. The division received $1.1 million during this fiscal year.

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