Rural determination brings subsistence proposals

Sen. Murkowski airs concerns at Senate Natural Resources Committee hearing

Posted: Friday, August 25, 2000

The Federal Subsistence Board already has received several subsistence fishing requests since its May determination that the entire Kenai Peninsula is rural.

In general, before subsistence harvest can occur, the board must determine that particular communities have customarily and traditionally used particular stocks, then create the appropriate hunts or fisheries.

Since May, the board has received two requests for customary and traditional findings for the peninsula's newly declared rural residents, said Peggy Fox, deputy assistant regional director for subsistence with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Anchorage.

Specifically, a proposal from the Ninilchik Traditional Council and Ninilchik residents Steve Vanek and Fred Bahr would allow subsistence harvest by all Kenai Peninsula residents of all fish and shellfish, she said. A proposal from Seldovia resident Hank Kroll would allow subsistence harvest in Tuxedni Bay of herring, smelt, crab, whitefish, razor clams and salmon.

The Kenaitze Indian Tribe also has submitted subsistence proposals, said Rosalie Tepp, tribal chair, though she declined to say what those are. Fox said she knows of no proposals from the Kenaitzes, and this year's deadline for submitting fishery proposals has passed. However, the Native American Rights Fund did submit a letter on the Kenaitzes' behalf, Fox said.

"It was asking for specific action to allow them to fish right away," she said. "We couldn't do that."

However, the Ninilchik Traditional Council proposal encompasses the Native American Rights Fund request, she said, and the board will consider that when it discusses subsistence fishing proposals in December.

The board considers subsistence hunting proposals next May, she said, and those proposals are just beginning to trickle in.

Fox said the board's jurisdiction on the Kenai Peninsula is only within the boundaries of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and Chugach National Forest. The board could not create subsistence fisheries in the mouth of the Kenai or Ninilchik rivers or on the Cook Inlet beach at Kenai or Ninilchik, she said.

However, in western Cook Inlet, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve reaches into tidal areas. Fox said Chisik Island in Tuxedni Bay is part of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, whose boundaries reach into saltwater. So, Kroll's request could result in saltwater subsistence fisheries.

Meanwhile, some previous customary and traditional determinations apply to rural residents statewide or throughout state Game Management Unit 15.

All rural Alaska residents are eligible for federal subsistence hunts for coyotes, hares, wolves, wolverines and lynx, said Bill Knauer, policy and regulations specialist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Subsistence Management in Anchorage.

Residents of Unit 15 are eligible for subsistence hunts for ptarmigan and spruce grouse, he said. All rural Alaska residents are eligible for federal subsistence trapping of beaver, coyote, fox, lynx, marten, otter, mink, weasel, wolverine and muskrat, he said.

Other rules make rural residents of the greater Cook Inlet area eligible for year-round subsistence harvest in waters under federal jurisdiction of fish other than salmon, trout, char, Dolly Varden, grayling and burbot. The board recently banned the use of gillnets for subsistence in federal waters on the Kenai Peninsula, but left intact a provision that allows subsistence fishers to keep rainbow trout taken incidental to ice fishing for other species.

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