Key figure in goose protection dies

Posted: Wednesday, May 31, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Chuck Hunt, a key figure in goose conservation on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, died Saturday of a stroke and heart attack. He was 55.

A longtime employee of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Hunt served as a liaison between the federal agency and the region's Yup'ik people. In that role, he was sometimes the spokesman for unpopular harvest limitations and also an advocate for changing federal law to accommodate traditional hunting practices.

''Chuck was basically given the responsibility for bridging the cultural gap between our society and Native society, to get both sides to buy in,'' said Dick Pospahala, a Fish and Wildlife official who worked with Hunt in the 1980s when populations of four geese species were at all-time lows.

Probably Hunt's most important work was on changing the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Pospahala said. The 1918 law, based on Anglo-American traditions, allowed for goose hunting only in the fall. Hunt helped get it amended to legalize a traditional spring hunt.

At the same time, Hunt worked to persuade locals to quit hunting once the birds began nesting and to stop other subsistence practices he was convinced were destructive, colleagues said.

''More than once he talked about what a difficult time he had in certain villages for taking on that role, that responsibility,'' said friend Mary Pete, director of the state Subsistence Division.

He used humor to defuse tense situations and was very patient when explaining Yup'ik perspectives to non-Natives, Pospahala said.

Hunt was born in 1944 in a fish camp north of Kotlik and grew up in Pastolik, a village of four families. He joined the Fish and Wildlife Service in 1978.

''He was a delightful character,'' Pospahala said. ''Always happy. Never took himself too seriously ... but he was very serious about what he was doing.''

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