Kenai Peninsula may get rural designation

Posted: Wednesday, May 03, 2000

KENAI (AP) -- The Federal Subsistence Board is meeting this week to discuss the Kenaitze Indian Tribe's request that the entire Kenai Peninsula be designated as rural for subsistence purposes.

A rural designation would allow residents of cities on the Kenai Peninsula to participate in subsistence hunting and fishing on federal lands.

The board's meeting in Anchorage began Tuesday and runs through Thursday. The Kenaitze request tentatively is scheduled to be discussed Thursday afternoon.

A rural designation would allow residents of peninsula cities to participate in subsistence hunting and fishing on federal land. In 1990, the Federal Subsistence Board declared the peninsula's population centers to be urban.

Currently, only Seldovia, Port Graham, Nanwalek, Ninilchik, Cooper Landing and Hope are classified as rural on the peninsula.

In 1998, the Kenaitze Tribe requested a review of the urban status, a move that was supported by the Southcentral Regional Advisory Council on subsistence. Last May the federal board agreed that the rural-urban standing should be re-evaluated.

Bill Knauer, a subsistence specialist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Anchorage, said one of four things can happen at the board meeting:

--The board accepts the Kenaitze petition, and those areas now designated as nonrural would be reclassified and residents there would be eligible to hunt and fish on federal land under subsistence guidelines;

--The board decides some of the current nonrural areas of the peninsula are rural and others are not;

--The board decides all nonrural areas are indeed nonrural and leave the boundaries as they are;

--The board also could defer its decision until this year's census data is in.

The Federal Subsistence Board held a public hearing in Kenai on March 1 on the rural-urban question, and about 100 people showed up. Of the 35 or so who spoke, the opinions were about evenly split.

Rita Smagge, executive director of the Kenaitze Indian Tribe, argued at the hearing that the reason so many people have moved to the Kenai Peninsula is because it is rural.

Brett Huber, with the Kenai River Sportfishing Association, had a different opinion. He said in March that if the peninsula were opened up to all 50,000 residents for subsistence, the demand would threaten the resource.

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