Rep. Young Remarks Wildlife Co‐Management Bill as Second Legacy, Encourages Collaboration Between Feds‐State‐Ahtna
Anchorage, AK – Congressman Don Young (R‐AK), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs, held a hearing on Friday March 14 for the Discussion Draft bill “The Alaska Native Subsistence Co‐Management Demonstration Act of 2014.” This federal legislation would allow Ahtna, Inc., Chitina Native Corporation, and eight tribal governments to form the Ahtna Inter‐Tribal Wildlife Commission to manage hunting for caribou, moose and other animals on 1.7 million acres of Ahtna‐owned land in the Copper River region.
The U.S. Department of the Interior and the State of Alaska declined to send representatives to the hearing, though they are both a part of the proposed co‐management plan. The state’s participation in comanagement is optional. There would be no change to the state’s current authority to manage wildlife on lands owned by the state. The Alaska Board of Game would continue to regulate hunting on state lands under the state subsistence law and other state wildlife management laws. The Federal Subsistence Board would continue to regulate subsistence hunting on federal public lands. The subsistence priority for rural residents on federal public lands would not be diminished.
Representative Young commented, “I am disappointed in Department of Interior and in the State of Alaska for not coming forth and offering some suggestions.”
The goal of the co‐management structure would be to coordinate state and federal laws and regulations, and Ahtna’s ordinances and policies, to ensure conservation of wildlife populations and to provide the hunting opportunity necessary for Ahtna tribal members to continue their tribal hunting way of life. The intent is to unify wildlife management throughout Ahtna’s traditional territory to the maximum extent possible. The practical impact of Ahtna’s proposed solution on other Alaskan hunters would be minimal since the amount of moose, caribou and other wildlife resources necessary to meet Ahtna’s needs is only a small percentage of the total take of wildlife within Ahtna’s traditional territory.
The need for a co‐management structure has resulted from a number of issues, including the fact that Alaska’s major population centers, and the roads that connect these centers, surround Ahtna’s traditional hunting area. This has led to fierce competition and crowded hunting grounds. The current federal/state dual management system in place for managing subsistence hunting often leads to conflicting hunting regulations and management policies. Ahtna currently has no role in either of these management systems, including on lands Ahtna was conveyed through the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA). The co‐management proposal would help unify these two management systems by bringing all stakeholders together to make recommendations to federal and state agencies, and Ahtna, to improve habitat, management plans and hunting opportunities. Similar co‐management systems are already used in Alaska for whales, marine mammals and migratory birds, and co‐management is common in other states, Canada and many other countries.
Representative Young added, “Ultimately, wildlife management in Alaska must evolve” due to the state’s increasing population and the resulting pressure put on the state’s wildlife. “Working together, we can and must reach a carefully balanced consensus that ensures access to healthy game populations for all Alaskans for generations to come.”
Tara Sweeney, AFN Co‐Chair, and Michelle Anderson, president of Ahtna, Inc., also spoke at the hearing and were available for questions. There is a ten‐day window allowed for written comments.
Representative Young further expressed his belief in the co‐management proposal. “If I have a legacy to leave behind, besides the trans‐Alaska pipeline, it’s the legacy of having availability of subsistence, availability of sport hunting, availability of individuals participating in the great Alaska experience,” he said.
A video on the co‐management proposal can be viewed at: http://youtu.be/dqEJwuhudao