RAC to form subcommittee

Posted: Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The proposal to create a Kenai Peninsula-focused federal subsistence advisory committee has died, but the Southcentral Alaska Subsistence Regional Advisory Committee voted to give peninsula tribes, communities and fishing groups an alternate means by which they can offer advice on local subsistence.

On Friday, the Southcentral RAC voted to form a subcommittee to advise it on fishery proposals for federal public waters in the Kenai, Kasilof and Swanson River drainages, and Six Mile and Resurrection Creek drainages.

Southcentral RAC member Douglas Blossom said he did not think the committee needed the subcommittee and said he thought of it as a compromise between the RAC and Federal Subsistence Board.

“The Federal Board has been after us to have an advisory committee or something for them and we have done battle with them on it,” he said. “Because some of the federal board have listened to us and agreed with us we decided that we’d let them have their advisory committee and see what they could do.”

The Southcentral RAC has invited the Ninilchik Tribe, Kenaitze Tribe, Salamantof Tribe, Kenai River Sportfishing Association, Kenai River Professional Guide Association, Upper Cook Inlet Drift Association, Kenai Peninsula Fisherman’s Association and the communities of Hope, Cooper Landing and Ninilchik to each send a representative to sit on the subcommittee.

Blossom said he did not think the RAC would have voted to form the subcommittee were it not for the board’s earlier proposal to form a Kenai RAC, on which the board later switched gears and voted against, after the Southcentral RAC strongly opposed it.

UCIDA executive director Roland Maw said he supports the formation of the subcommittee and thinks it’s a better alternative to the failed proposal to form a Kenai RAC, which he did not support.

Maw said the plans for the proposed Kenai RAC had some structural problems such as the inclusion of Anchorage within its boundaries.

And due to the large area it represents, Maw said he believes the Southcentral RAC has a more objective outlook on peninsula subsistence issues than a Kenai RAC would have.

The subcommittee, however, avoids issues the Kenai RAC may have had and at the same time will give interested parties the chance to sit down face to face to try and resolve subsistence issues on the peninsula, he said.

“I think it’s a far better solution,” he said. “People are always a bit more accommodating when it’s face to face and you’re trying to work on a solution. I think there’s a positive obligation to reach, if we can, some reasonable compromises.”

Blossom said he and Southcentral RAC member James Showalter will participate in the subcommittee as nonvoting members and that he expects some subcommittee members may be be surprised when they learn what federal subsistence laws require.

“I think when they have to sit there and hear what the law is, what they’re charged with doing, I think it’s going to be an eye opener,” he said.

“You don’t have any other way to go other than to give (subsistence users) some fish and game. It’s not a choice. You hear a lot of people say, ‘We shouldn’t have subsistence.’ Well, I can agree with a lot of what they say, but it’s not the law.”

The subcommittee’s first meeting has not yet been scheduled.

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

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