Kenai wants its own voice

Peninsula opposes joining Anchorage in subsistence advisory council

Posted: Monday, October 23, 2006

The prospect of sharing a new subsistence regional advisory council with Anchorage has ruffled the feathers of Kenai Peninsula hunters and fishermen who worry the city’s residents could dominate the council.

But in a recent visit to Soldotna, Office of Subsistence Management fisheries biologist, Doug McBride, said the likelihood of an Anchorage-dominated subsistence regional advisory council is low.

In Alaska, 10 regional advisory councils, or RACs, help guide Alaska Federal Subsistence Board decisions addressing subsistence uses of fish and wildlife on federal public land and water.

The board says its Southcentral RAC, which represents the Kenai Peninsula, Prince William Sound, Copper River drainage, Cook Inlet drainage and the inland waters and lands of the Glennallen area, is too big to effectively handle all of the issues that come to its table.

In response, the board has proposed the Southcentral RAC be broken down into two smaller RACs with a new 11th RAC representing the Kenai Peninsula. The proposed RAC, however, would also include Anchorage, the residents of which frequently visit the peninsula in search of fishing and hunting opportunities.

At an Alaska Fish and Game Advisory Committee meeting last week, members of the committee questioned reassurances that Anchorage could not dominate the proposed 11th RAC.

Because federal law requires 70 percent of an RAC be representative of subsistence users, and Anchorage residents do not qualify for subsistence uses, an Anchorage-dominated RAC would be unlikely, McBride said.

But an RAC applicant doesn’t necessarily have to be a subsistence user to be considered a subsistence representative, and committee member Dave Atcheson asked what determines whether an a RAC applicant represents subsistence users.

McBride said there is no clear line that separates applicants who qualify as subsistence representatives and those who do not.

If an 11th RAC is formed, however, the 70 percent of the council selected as subsistence representatives would likely be made up of largely subsistence users who live in communities found to have a customary and traditional subsistence use patterns.

On the peninsula, only the communities of Hope, Ninilchik and Cooper Landing have been found to have customary and traditional use patterns.

The Federal Subsistence Management Program will hold two public meetings on the proposed formation of a new RAC in November. The first will be held Nov. 1 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at Homer City Hall. The second will be held Nov. 2 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Kenai River Center in Soldotna.

Written comments on this issue will be accepted through Nov. 9 and can be e-mailed to subsistence@fws.gov.

Patrice Kohl can be reached at patrice.kohl@peninsulaclarion.com.



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