by the Organized Village of Kwethluk
In a letter dated April 21, 2020 to Anthony Christianson, Chairman of the Federal Subsistence Board and to the Office of Subsistence Management Subsistence Policy Coordinator the Organized Village of Kwethluk, Kwethluk IRA Council is submitting an Emergency Special Action Request as written below.
Organized Village of Kwethluk herein submits an Emergency Special Action Request (SAR) during this time of a COVID-19 pandemic, requesting that the Federal Subsistence Board take the following actions:
1) Close Federal public lands of the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge except by federally qualified subsistence users;
2) Reduce the pool of eligible harvesters including closure of all fish and wildlife within the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge based on the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) Section 804 Subsistence User Prioritization;
3) Cooperate and communicate with landowners, land managers, appropriate State and Federal agencies in implementing closure; and,
4) Implement this Emergency Special Action Request immediately and end as soon as the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
Section 803 of ANILCA defines the term “subsistence uses” to mean “customary and traditional uses by rural Alaska residents of wild and renewable resources for direct consumption as food”.
Section 802 (1) provides the “opportunity for federally qualified users to engage in a subsistence way of life”, (2) requires that “non-wasteful subsistence uses of fish and wildlife shall be the priority of consumptive use when it is necessary to restrict taking in order to assure the continued viability of a fish and wildlife population or the continuation of subsistence uses of such population; (3) federal land managing agencies, in managing subsistence activities on the public lands and in protecting the continued viability of all wild renewable resources in Alaska, shall cooperate with adjacent landowners and land managers, including Native Corporations, appropriate State and Federal Agencies, and other nations”.
Section 804 provides in this Act and other Federal laws, the taking on public lands of fish and wildlife for non-wasteful subsistence uses shall be accorded priority over the taking on such lands of fish and wildlife for other purposes. Whenever it is necessary to restrict the taking of populations of fish and wildlife on such lands for subsistence uses in order to protect the continued viability of such populations, or to continue such uses, such priority shall be implemented through appropriate limitations based on the application of the following criteria: (1) customary and direct dependence upon the populations as a mainstay or livelihood; (2) local residency; and (3) the availability of alternative resources.
Organized Village of Kwethluk request that the Federal Subsistence Board take action to open taking of fish and wildlife within the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge for subsistence harvest by federally qualified users in order to fulfill the duties and responsibilities set forth in ANILCA. Such action will also uphold the Federal Subsistence Board to give priority preference to federally qualified subsistence users by allowing hunting and fishing at this time of a COVID-19 pandemic.
Allowing harvest of fish and wildlife by federally qualified subsistence users will enable those without a steady income to provide food for their families. Additionally, it will ensure the continued opportunity for subsistence uses by Alaska Natives, which includes subsistence uses of fish and wildlife species. As Congress recognizes, subsistence is “essential to Native physical, economic, traditional, and cultural existence” (ANILCA §801(1)).
This letter was also sent to David Bernhardt, Secretary of the Interior; Todd Willens, Assistant Secretary of the Interior; Gene Peltola Jr., Acting Area Director, Alaska Regional BIA Director; Greg Siekaniec, Alaska Regional Director, USFWS; Aaron Webber, Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge, Acting Manager; and the 56 Yukon- Kuskokwim River Federally Recognized Tribes.