Native Alaskans want more from Federal Subsistence Board

Subsistence hunting and fishing is one of the more complicated issues in the state of Alaska. Ever since the Alaska Native Interest Lands Conservation Act, conflicts have been brewing between the federal government and the Alaska Native population. Stirring the pot even more was the implementation of the Federal Subsistence Management Program in 1990. Included in this new program was the Federal Subsistence Board, made up of the regional or state directors of the five federal agencies, which are: Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Forest Service.

“Their responsibility is to represent both the secretaries of Agriculture and Interior in implementing the requirements of ANILCA, as far as meeting the subsistence mandates stated for federally qualified users on federal lands,” Pete Probasco, assistant regional director for the office of subsistence management said.
Since 1990 there have been separate subsistence committees formed by Alaska Federation of Natives and the Alaska Native Brotherhood/Sisterhood. These committees’ aim is to make sure Alaska Natives have “a seat at the table” in the subsistence talks that affect the everyday lives of Alaska Natives.

Rosita Worl, the AFN subsistence chair, was reappointed in 2010 after a three-year hiatus from the committee. The AFN committee consists of about 10 members, and Worl says anyone who wants to participate is more than welcome to help. She said they have been primarily responding to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s pronouncement that subsistence is broken and he is going to work on it, and fix it.
“The secretary (Salazar) hasn’t come out with the final plan yet,” Worl said earlier last month, “We’re hopeful that’s going to occur very soon.”

The Federal Subsistence Management Program has 10 Regional Advisory Councils, which consist of rural Alaska residents, that were originally formed in 1993.

“The Federal Subsistence Board is not meeting the needs of subsistence users. That’s a major, major problem there, and AFN’s position is that it is going to require major structural changes, not just tinkering with the subsistence board, that’s one of the focuses we have,” she said.

Probasco said that since subsistence is unique to Alaska, it is a very important aspect for rural Alaskans in that it preserves culture, it provides resources for people to live; it’s a very important factor for these communities for living day-to-day.

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