The Federal Subsistence Board has made tentative plans to reconsider its determination that the entire Kenai Peninsula is rural and qualifies for the federal subsistence preference on June 28.
The board decided during a teleconference Friday to review a staff analysis of several requests to reconsider the Kenai rural determination at a May 22 work session, said Dan LaPlant, wildlife liaison for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Subsistence Management in Anchorage.
If the analysis is adequate, he said, the board will instruct the staff to release it to the public June 1. If it sticks to the schedule, it will make a final decision on the Kenai rural determination at the June 28 meeting.
The board also has directed the staff to finish its analysis of several Kenai Peninsula subsistence proposals for the June 28 meeting. Those include:
n A proposal from the Kenaitze Indian Tribe to find that rural residents of the western Kenai Peninsula customarily and traditionally have hunted moose and caribou throughout the peninsula, in game management units 16A and 16B in northwest Cook Inlet and in units 9A and 9B near Kamishak Bay. Fish and Wildlife has recommended including all rural Kenai Peninsula residents in the finding.
n A proposal to find customary and traditional use for Kenai Peninsula residents of grouse and ptarmigan throughout the Kenai Peninsula.
n A proposal from the Ninilchik Traditional Council and Ninilchik residents Steve Vanek and Fred Bahr to find customary and traditional use by all Kenai Peninsula residents of all fish and shellfish.
n A proposal from Seldovia resident Hank Kroll to allow subsistence harvest in Tuxedni Bay of herring, smelt, crab, whitefish, razor clams and salmon.
"They want to have the option at that (June 28) meeting to react to those four proposals," LaPlant said.
Once the board makes customary and traditional findings, it can establish the appropriate hunting and fishing seasons and rules.
The board also meets this Wednesday and Thursday at the Egan Civic and Convention Center in Anchorage. It is scheduled to act then on a proposal to increase the head start for subsistence moose hunters in Unit 15A, excluding the Skilak Loop Wildlife Management Area. Unit 15A covers the Kenai Peninsula north of Skilak Lake.
The present unit 15A subsistence season opens Aug. 18, just two days before the state sport hunt.
However, the Unit 15A subsistence season was remanded to the Federal Subsistence Board after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals questioned whether the the two-day head start qualified as a meaningful preference. The proposal before the board would change the subsistence opening to Aug. 10, the same as the subsistence opening in units 15B and 15C, which span the western peninsula from Skilak Lake to Kachemak Bay.
Only communities the board recognizes as rural are eligible for federal subsistence, and until last year, the only peninsula communities recognized as rural were Cooper Landing, Ninilchik, Seldovia, Port Graham and Nanwalek.
Last May, though, the board found that the entire Kenai Peninsula was rural and that all of its residents should be eligible for subsistence. However, it agreed to reconsider after requests from the state's Cooper Landing Fish and Game Advisory Committee and from Safari Club International, its Alaska chapter, its Kenai Peninsula chapter and the Kenai Peninsula Outdoor Council.
LaPlant said the requests for reconsideration made 22 claims, of which the staff determined six merited further discussion. The staff analysis will address those six in detail and explain the logic for dismissing the rest.
"One of the major issues is whether the communities should be aggregated or not aggregated," he said.
In determining whether communities are rural or not rural, the board first lumps communities with similar characteristics, he said. After that, federal rules say those with less than 2,500 people may be presumed rural, those with more than 7,000 people may be presumed nonrural, and those with between 2,500 and 7,000 people could be either and must be examined more closely.
"Kenai, Soldotna and surrounding communities total much more than 7,000 people," LaPlant said. "If you aggregate them, you assume they are not rural. If you take individual communities, only Kenai has more than 7,000 people. Kenai is over by just a few. The others are under 7,000."
That is using the 1990 census figures, he said. The Federal Subsistence Board does not yet have community figures from the 2000 census.
Any decisions the board makes now could be short-lived. Once the 2000 census numbers become available, the board must reconsider rural and nonrural determinations statewide. LaPlant said he expects the board to reconsider rural and nonrural determinations in fall 2002.
"We working on a process to develop a new method to use when the census becomes available," he said.
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