Department of Fish and Game seeks to prevent closing of caribou hunting to outsiders

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has asked the Federal Subsistence Board to repeal its controversial decision to close caribou hunting in the Northwest Arctic to all non-local hunters.

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Male caribou running near Kiwalik, Alaska. (Photo: Jim Dau)
Male caribou running near Kiwalik, Alaska. (Photo: Jim Dau)

The Subsistence board approved the year-long closure on federal public lands last month, citing the declining population of the Northwest Arctic Caribou Herd and the need to protect subsistence. But in a letter sent Wednesday, Fish and Game Commissioner Sam Cotten outlined several reasons for the board to reconsider.

Cotton said new information shows the herd is stabilizing. And even if it weren’t, he said outside hunters represent such a small fraction of the harvest that their take poses no threat to the population. Meanwhile, Cotten said the closure would harm local economies, which make as much as $1 million annually, according to state estimates of the guide and transportation industries.

However, the closure is not subject to reconsideration requests because it’s a temporary special action. That’s according to Carl Johnson with the Office of Subsistence Management, which works with Federal Subsistence Board. Instead, Johnson said a new special action would have to be proposed and passed to change the board’s decision.

If that doesn’t happen, the closure will go into effect on July 1.