AFN Rejects Proposed ANILCA Overhaul

Diana Haecker, KTNA – Talkeetna

When Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar last year announced a sweeping overhaul of Alaska subsistence management, he said the current dual state and federal management system was broken. Salazar then promised to bring it in line with the mandate of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act – granting preference to rural Alaskans.

The problem lies in an unresolved conflict between the state constitution and the federal mandate. ANILCA promised a rural preference for the taking of fish and game for the federal lands in Alaska. But Alaska’s constitution guarantees that fish and wildlife be reserved for the common use of all Alaskans regardless of race or geography.  The recent federal review was less sweeping than Alaskan Natives hoped for and it was wholeheartedly rejected by Alaska Federation of Natives delegates last week.

Proposed changes by the Interior Department include the addition of two Alaska Native subsistence users to the federal subsistence board and giving more clout to the regional advisory councils. The secretary’s authority didn’t go so far as to redefine a priority for either “Native only” or “rural resident plus urban Native”. The review also did not expand public lands defined under ANILCA to allow federal subsistence management on native owned lands,which are private and currently managed by the state of Alaska.

Julie Kitka said that the AFN leadership is hopeful that the newly appointed federal chair Tim Towarak will make a difference in educating federal bureaucrats and that talks will continue.

AFN delegates passed a resolution last Saturday that called for Congress to convene full oversight hearings on the drafting of new federal legislation to protect all Alaska Natives and other rural Alaskans in continuing their pursuit of food and nourishment for their families.

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