KENAI (AP) -- The Southcentral Federal Subsistence Regional Advisory Council has approved a proposal to open subsistence moose and caribou hunts for all rural Kenai Peninsula residents.
The council's action last week is a non-binding recommendation to the Federal Subsistence Board, which is to consider subsistence hunting proposals in May.
The Kenaitze Indian Tribe had asked the board to find in favor of rural residents in the western part of the peninsula with a tradition of subsistence hunting.
But a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service official who analyzed the proposal found that Seward area residents use the same resources.
Only communities the board recognizes as rural are eligible for federal subsistence. Until last year, the only peninsula communities recognized as rural were Cooper Landing, Ninilchik, Seldovia, Port Graham and Nanwalek.
But last May the board found that the entire Kenai Peninsula was rural.
Two things must happen before federal subsistence hunters can take moose and caribou. First, the Federal Subsistence Board must determine customary and traditional use. Hence, the Kenaitze request. Second, it must write the rules to create an actual hunt.
On the western Kenai Peninsula, the board already has created subsistence moose hunts for residents of Ninilchik, Seldovia, Port Graham and Nanwalek. If it upholds the Kenai Peninsula rural determination and finds that all peninsula residents traditionally have hunted subsistence moose, that could open the door for all peninsula residents to participate in the existing moose hunts.
However, the board has not yet created Kenai Peninsula subsistence caribou hunts.
Dan LaPlant, wildlife liaison for the Office of Subsistence Management, said the only oral testimony on the Kenaitze proposal in Copper Center came from members of the Kenaitze tribe.
The regional council also received a letter supporting the proposal from Wilbur Joe of the Chitna Traditional Village Council. A letter from Randolph Alvarez on behalf of the state's Lake Iliamna Fish and Game Advisory Committee opposed it, arguing that flying in to hunt western Cook Inlet moose and caribou is hardly traditional.
A letter from Bill Stockwell of the Cooper Landing Fish and Game Advisory Committee opposed the Kenaitze proposal and favored deferring action on it until the board reconsiders the Kenai rural determination. LaPlant said the board has promised to reconsider by June and could do so during the May meeting.
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