Wolf Song of Alaska News


Federal Board Determines Subsistence Priority in Alaska
Rebecca Palsha / KTUU-TV / December 13, 2006


Anchorage, Alaska - Who should have first dibs on hunting and fishing on federal land? A group of Anchorage residents are making that decision at a two-day meeting of the Federal Subsistence Board.

The area in question sits outside of Ketchikan, where a village of 451 people is now considered non-rural. This afternoon, with a unanimous vote, the community of Saxman was declared non-rural by the Federal Subsistence Board.

"Their reaction is the same as mine: disappointment," said Lee Wallace, the president of the organized village of Saxman.

Saxman is right around the corner from Ketchikan.

Mike Fleagle, who sits on the Federal Subsistence Board, said that while Ketchikan is considered a non-rural area, the enclave of Saxman is a rural community.

"And that's where our legal council is trying to say that's a problem -- to have a village within a community that's separated out," said Fleagle.

"Lifestyles are gong to be all of our citizens there's 431 people will feel the affects of it --not immediately, but in the future," said Wallace.

The decision is based on several factors: the number of residents, how well the community does financially and the distance from a larger community.

"Over 7,000 [residents] will be considered non-rural, unless there is a characteristic that makes it rural," said Fleagle.

Even though the decision is made, this fight is far from over.

"There's an appeal process and the tribe will go through it, and hopefully we can have them re-evaluate their ruling," said Wallace.

Rural communities like Saxman might not take rulings by the Federal Subsistence Board as the last word.

Point MacKenzie, Fritz Creek East and North Fork Road near Homer were also declared non-rural. Other changes the board made today include changing Adak from non-rural to rural.

Any change in status from rural to non-rural by the board will not occur for five years; during that time, appeals can be filed. However, communities whose status changed from urban or non-rural to rural may begin exploiting those benefits immediately.

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