Subsistence time line

Posted: Sunday, July 15, 2001

Pre-1950 -- No regulations govern noncommercial fishing in Cook Inlet, though sport fishing rules exist.

1951 -- Federal rules refer to the taking of fish for purposes other than sale or barter as "personal use." Fish, Ship, Campbell and Cotton-wood creeks closed to personal-use gillnets. For the first time, permits are required for personal-use fishing.

1952 -- Willow Creek, tributaries to Knik Arm and Kenai Peninsula tributaries to Cook Inlet closed to personal-use nets. Personal-use gillnetting allowed in salt water, and personal use with hook and line allowed in the rivers.

1953 -- Snagging banned.

1954 -- Personal-use nets allowed within five miles of tidewater on streams south and west of the Susitna River.

1958 -- Federal managers limit hook size and ban use of weights with multiple hooks to try to stop snagging.

1959 -- Personal-use nets allowed in the Susitna River above Alexander.

1960 -- State rules substitute "subsistence" for what was "personal use" in federal rules. Subsistence gillnets allowed through most of upper Cook Inlet, except along the beach from Ninilchik to Anchor Point.

1964 -- State wardens confront Katie John, an Ahtna Native, and close her family's traditional fishing site at Batzulnetas on the Copper River to protect spawning salmon.

1971 -- With passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, Natives give up aboriginal land, hunting and fishing rights in exchange for $962.5 million and 46 million acres.

1976 -- Board of Fisheries closes Kachemak Bay, including Port Graham and Nanwalek, to subsistence gillnet fishing.

1977 -- A lawsuit by the Kachemak Bay Subsistence Group restores the Kachemak Bay fishery for the 1977 season.

1977 -- Board of Fisheries closes Resurrection Bay and the peninsula's Gulf of Alaska coast to subsistence gillnets.

1979 -- Board of Fisheries closes the eastern shore of Cook Inlet to subsistence gillnets, restricts Kachemak Bay subsistence gear and seasons.

1980 -- Congress passes the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, requiring a rural priority for subsistence and allowing state management on federal land and water as long as the state complies.

1980 -- A lawsuit by the Kachemak Bay Subsistence Group restores pre-1978 subsistence rules in Kachemak Bay.

1981 -- Board of Fisheries criteria to identify traditional uses eliminate subsistence fishing in most of Cook Inlet, excepting Tyonek, Nanwalek and Port Graham. Board creates personal-use gillnet fisheries through most of the upper inlet. It creates personal-use dipnet fisheries in the mouths of the Kenai and Kasilof rivers, to be opened only when spawning goals are projected to be met.

1982 -- Joint Boards of Fisheries and Game limit the state subsistence priority to rural residents. Board of Fisheries replaces personal-use gillnetting through most of the upper inlet with a personal-use gillnet sockeye fishery near the Kasilof River and personal-use gillnet coho fisheries from the Kasilof River to Point Possession. It replaces Kachemak Bay subsistence with a limited personal-use gillnet fishery, but a court decision reinstates subsistence.

1982 -- Alaskans for Equal Hunting and Fishing collect 20,000 signatures to place an initiative on the ballot to repeal the state's 1978 subsistence law. The initiative fails by a wide margin.

1983 -- Board of Fisheries creates a personal-use gillnet coho fishery through most of Kachemak Bay.

1984 -- Katie John and others petition Wrangell St. Elias National Park and Preserve to resume subsistence fishing at Batzulnetas. When they are denied, John sues the state in federal court, claiming the federal government has failed to protect her subsistence rights under ANILCA.

1985 -- The Alaska Supreme Court finds that subsistence cannot be solely for rural residents. Subsistence gillnet fisheries restored through most of Cook Inlet. U.S. Secretary of Interior finds Alaska out of compliance with ANILCA.

1986 -- Legislature amends the state subsistence law to limit subsistence to rural residents and define "rural," putting Alaska back in compliance with ANILCA. The state definition excludes most of the Kenai Peninsula, except Seldovia, Port Graham and Nanwalek. In the upper inlet, subsistence gillnetting is allowed for Tyonek only. Personal-use gillnet fisheries are allowed for Kasilof sockeyes, and cohos in Kachemak Bay and from the Kasilof River to Point Possession.

1986 -- Kenaitze Indian Tribe argues unsuccessfully in U.S. District Court that the state definition of rural violates ANILCA.

1989 -- Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals finds the state definition of rural inconsistent with the definition in ANILCA and instructs the district court to grant a subsistence fishery to the Kenaitzes.

1989 -- Alaska Supreme Court finds the rural subsistence preference in state law violates the Alaska Constitution, which reserves fish and wildlife for the common use of the people. Alaska again is out of compliance with ANILCA.

1990 -- Board of Fisheries finds that all Alaskans are subsistence users and adopts an Upper Cook Inlet Subsistence Management Plan.

1990 -- Federal managers take control of management of subsistence hunting on Alaska's federal lands. Federal Subsistence Board declares Ninilchik, Cooper Landing, Hope, Seldovia, Nanwalek and Port Graham to be the only Kenai Peninsula communities that are rural and eligible for federal subsistence.

1990 -- Katie John sues the U.S. Interior and Agriculture departments seeking federal jurisdiction in the Copper River to provide a subsistence priority at her traditional fishing site.

1990 -- Legislature rejects a state constitutional amendment to resolve the conflict between the Alaska Constitution and ANILCA.

1991 -- Kenaitze Indian Tribe appeals federal nonrural determinations on the Kenai Peninsula. The appeal is denied.

1992 -- Gov. Walter Hickel calls a special session of the Legislature to address subsistence and the state-federal conflict. The Legislature passes a law requiring the Boards of Fish and Game to identify nonsubsistence areas and adjourns without sending voters a constitutional amendment to allow a state rural preference for subsistence.

1992 -- The Board of Fisheries declares most of the upper inlet and Kachemak Bay -- excepting Tyonek, Seldovia, Port Graham and Nanwalek -- to be a nonsubsistence area, rescinds the upper inlet subsistence plan and reinstates personal use gillnet fisheries for Kasilof sockeyes and for cohos in Kachemak Bay and from the Kasilof River to Point Possession.

1992 -- Under Gov. Walter Hickel, Alaska sues to challenge federal authority to manage fish and wildlife on Alaska's federal lands. The case, Alaska vs. Babbitt, is consolidated with Katie John vs. U.S.

1993 -- A state court orders the Department of Fish and Game to create an educational fishery for the Kenaitzes pending final court rulings. Educational fisheries eventually are created for the Ninilchik Traditional Council, Native Village of Eklutna and Knik Tribal Council.

1993 -- Alaska Superior Court Judge Dana Fabe finds that the nonsubsistence-areas provision in state law violates the Alaska Constitution.

1994 -- Board of Fisheries reinstates the upper inlet subsistence salmon plan and subsistence on Kachemak Bay.

1994 -- Motions for a state constitutional amendment to allow a rural subsistence preference fail in the Legislature.

1994 -- U.S. District Court Judge Russel Holland rules for Katie John, says federal managers, not the state, are entitled to manage subsistence on public lands, including all navigable waters inside the state's three-mile limit.

1995 -- Gov. Tony Knowles drops Alaska vs. Babbitt, but the Legislature urges him to continue the suit. The state continues its appeal of Katie John. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court deny the Legislature's petition to intervene in the appeal.

1995 -- The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rules for Katie John, but limits federal subsistence responsibility to navigable lakes and rivers adjoining federal lands. The U.S. Supreme Court denies a state petition for reconsideration. Alaska requests a hearing before the full Ninth Circuit. The federal takeover of subsistence fisheries is stalled by congressional moratoria to give Alaska time to reconcile the contradiction between ANILCA and the state constitution.

1995 -- Southcentral Alaska Federal Subsistence Regional Advisory Council recommends finding the entire Kenai Peninsula rural for federal subsistence purposes.

1995 -- Alaska Supreme Court re-establishes the state nonsubsistence areas. The Board of Fisheries converts the upper inlet subsistence salmon plan to a "personal-use" plan, allowing personal use gillnets through most of the upper inlet. It reinstates personal-use gillnetting in Kachemak Bay.

1996 -- Board of Fisheries ends personal-use gillnet fisheries in most of the upper inlet, creates seven-day-per-week dipnet fisheries in the mouths of the Kenai and Kasilof rivers, doubles the sport-fishing bag limit for Kenai River sockeyes and restores the personal-use gillnet fishery for Kasilof sockeyes.

1998 -- Kenaitzes ask the Federal Subsistence Board to declare the entire Kenai Peninsula rural.

1998 -- Gov. Tony Knowles proposes a state constitutional amendment and amendments to ANILCA to resolve the state-federal subsistence conflict. Package fails to pass Legislature, despite two special sessions.

1999 -- Knowles calls another special session of the Legislature, which ends without resolving the state-federal subsistence conflict.

1999 -- Federal managers finally assume management of subsistence fishing in fresh water adjoining federal lands.

2000 -- Federal Subsistence Board finds the entire Kenai Peninsula rural and receives requests to reconsider.

2000 -- The Ninilchik Traditional Council and two Ninilchik residents ask the Federal Subsistence Board to allow subsistence harvest by all peninsula residents of all fish and shellfish. A Seldovia resident requests subsistence fishing in Tuxedni Bay for herring, smelt, crab, whitefish, razor clams and salmon. The board puts off considering those proposals pending reconsideration of the Kenai Peninsula rural determination.

2001 -- The full Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reaffirms the Katie John ruling.

2001 -- Federal Subsistence Board rescinds the Kenai Peninsula rural determination, leaving Ninilchik, Cooper Landing, Hope, Seldovia, Nanwalek and Port Graham as the peninsula's only rural communities. Board members suggest the state educational fishery is a better way to meet Kenaitze needs.

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