ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The Federal Subsistence Board has decided to reconsider its decision last May to classify the entire Kenai Peninsula for subsistence fishing and hunting, Sen. Frank Murkowski's office said this week.
The reconsideration study was announced Wednesday during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing in Anchorage that Murkowski chaired, according to a news release from the senator's office.
The federal board hasn't decided yet whether to complete its reconsideration now or wait until a future revision of the criteria it uses to determine the rural status of Alaskan communities, the news release said. It said Murkowski strongly supports the Kenai reconsideration and the board's decision to clarify the criteria.
Wednesday's hearing dealt with the federal board's decision in May to classify the Kenai Peninsula as rural despite the high population in its urban center. The Kenai Peninsula has 50,000 residents, shopping centers and highways to Anchorage.
The board took up the issue at the request of the Kenaitze Indian Tribe. According to Murkowski's news release, the board's 4-2 May vote didn't conform to a recommendation by the board's staff.
Under the Kenai decision, the board expanded the subsistence definition of what is presumed rural. The board stretched the population limits defining rural in federal regulations. It also gave deference to the traditions of Alaska Natives, even when they live in communities many people would consider urban.
The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, ANILCA, specifies a rural, not a Native, priority for subsistence fishing and hunting. It does, however, allow the federal board to consider Native cultural traditions, just as it allows the board to weigh social issues of non-Natives.
After the May decision, other Alaska communities began asking why they can't also be made eligible for a rural hunting and fishing priority.
Douglas, just across the Gastineau Channel from Juneau; Eklutna, the Athabaskan village within the municipal limits of Anchorage and Adak, the nearly abandoned Navy base in the Aleutians have asked, either formally or informally, that their nonrural status be reconsidered.
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