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Federal Subsistence Board Seeks Comments on Rural Determinations Process

The Federal Subsistence Board (Board) is seeking comments on the process used to determine which Alaska communities are rural for purposes of the Federal Subsistence Program. A notice requesting comment by November 1, 2013 was published in the Federal Register (FWS–R7–SM–2012–N248) on December 31, 2012.

The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) mandates that rural Alaskans be given a priority for subsistence uses of fish and wildlife on Federal public lands. The Board conducts a periodic review of rural determinations. Only communities or areas that are found to be rural are eligible for the subsistence priority under ANILCA.

Following a Secretarial review of the Federal Subsistence Management Program, the Secretaries of the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture tasked the Board to review the rural determination process and recommend changes. The Board has identified the following components of the rural determinations process to be a part of this review: population thresholds, rural characteristics, aggregation of communities, timelines, and information sources. Descriptions of these components and associated questions for public consideration and comment are provided below. Comments will be used by the Board to assist in making decisions regarding the scope and nature of possible changes to improve the rural determination process.

*Population thresholds*.  
A community or area with a population below 2,500 will be considered rural.  A community or area with a population between 2,500 and 7,000 will be considered rural or nonrural, based on community characteristics and criteria used to group communities together. 
Communities with populations more than 7,000 will be considered nonrural, unless such communities possess significant characteristics of a rural nature.

*1.      *Are these population threshold guidelines useful for determining whether a specific area of Alaska is rural?

*2.      *If they are not, please provide population size(s) to distinguish between rural and nonrural areas, and the reasons for the population size you believe more accurately reflects rural and nonrural areas in Alaska.
 

*Rural characteristics.*  
The Board recognizes that population alone is not the only indicator of rural or nonrural status. Other characteristics the Board considers include, but are not limited to, the following:  Use of fish and wildlife; development and diversity of the economy; community
infrastructure; transportation; and educational institutions.

*3.      *Are these characteristics useful for determining whether a specific area of Alaska is rural?

*4.      *If they are not, please provide a list of characteristics that better define or enhance rural and nonrural status.

*Aggregation of communities.*  
The Board recognizes that communities and areas of Alaska are connected in diverse ways.  Communities that are economically, socially, and communally integrated are considered in the aggregate in determining rural and nonrural status.  

The aggregation criteria are:
1) Do 30 percent or more of the working people commute from one community to another?
2) Do they share a common high school attendance area? and
3) Are the communities in proximity and road-accessible to one another?

*5.      *Are these aggregation criteria useful in determining rural and nonrural status?

*6.      *If they are not, please provide a list of criteria that better specify how communities may be integrated economically, socially, and
communally for the purposes of determining rural and nonrural status.

*Timelines.*
The Board reviews rural determinations on a 10-year cycle, and out of cycle in special circumstances.

*7.      *Should the Board review rural determinations on a 10-year cycle?
                    If so, why?
                    If not, why not?**

*Information sources.* 
Current regulations state that population data from the most recent census conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, as updated by the Alaska Department of Labor, shall be utilized in the rural determination process. The information collected and the reports generated
during the decennial census vary between each census; as such, data used during the Board’s rural determination may vary. These information sources as stated in regulations will continue to be the foundation of data used for rural determinations.

*8.      *Do you have any additional sources you think would be beneficial to use?

*9.      *In addition to the preceding questions, do you have any additional comments on how to make the rural determination process more effective?

*Submit written comments by one of the following methods:*

*Mail:*
Federal Subsistence Board
Office of Subsistence Management – Attn:  Theo Matuskowitz
1011 East Tudor Road, MS-121
Anchorage, AK  99503

*E-mail: *
subsistence@fws.gov

*Hand delivery to Designated Federal Official *
at any Federal Subsistence Regional Advisory Council meeting. See the Meetings and Deadlines page of the Federal Subsistence Management Program’s website, http://alaska.fws.gov/asm/deadline.cfml, for dates and locations of Council meetings.**

You also may call the Office of Subsistence Management at 800-478-1456 or email subsistence@fws.gov with your questions.

Information on the Federal Subsistence Management Program can be found at http://alaska.fws.gov/asm/index.cfml.

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