This column started out with a call to the Frontiersman editor from a reader asking about a proposal with a public hearing scheduled for early June. The caller alleged that a federal land management agency was looking at restricting non-federally qualified hunters from hunting moose and caribou on federal public lands in Game Management Unit 13.
The editor emailed me to see if I knew anything about this and could I check it out. I went online and looked at the Board of Game website, in case the proposal had something to do with the state. I found nothing.
I went to the Federal Subsistence Board website and, again, couldn’t find any information. I decided to call a couple of friends at the state Fish and Game office in Palmer, figuring that they would know if such a proposal was floating around. My first friend hadn’t heard of such a proposal, but my second friend had.
Todd Rinaldi, the Regional Management Coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Conservation, not only knew about the proposal, but he forwarded a copy of the actual proposal and the public meeting date and location, as I had requested.
The proposal is officially referred to as a Temporary Special Action Request WSA 19-03 for Unit 13 Moose and Caribou as submitted to the Federal Subsistence Board. According to the news release, “…WSA 19-03, submitted by Paul Rude, requests that the Board close Federal public lands in Unit 13 to the hunting of caribou and moose except by Federally qualified subsistence users for the 2019-2020 season.”
Mr. Rude, in his proposal, alleges that, “the excessive harvest of Nelchina caribou during the previous winter, the mortality of adult caribou, and the poor calf recruitment this past spring, have now resulted in caribou harvest quotas barely above the state’s Amounts reasonably Necessary for Subsistence uses, which further diminishes subsistence caribou hunting opportunities and makes it extremely difficult for the normally diligent subsistence hunter, who is limited to hunting on the relatively small tracts of federal public land in the region, to hunt for caribou with a reasonable expectation of success.”
He goes on to state that pressure from large numbers of non-local hunters is affecting the health of game populations. These non-local hunters are also having an impact on the use of and access to traditional prime moose and caribou hunting areas on federal public lands within the region. He says this activity is having an adverse impact on Ahtna tribal members.
Mr. Rude lists four concerns on why he is asking for the closure: “(1) public safety concerns for federally-qualified users in Unit 13; (2) difficulty in successfully harvesting moose and caribou from federal public lands due to excessive competition from the large numbers of non-local hunters pursuing wildlife within the region; (3) displacement of moose and caribou from their customary and traditional migration corridors; and (4) the resulting difficulty in safely taking children hunting to pass on traditional hunting knowledge and customary and traditional practices in taking moose and caribou when so many hunters are in the field at the same time.”
According to Mr. Rude, “federally-qualified users within the Copper River Basin are not meeting their subsistence needs for moose and caribou under the current management system due to the amount of hunting pressure from both state and other federally-qualified subsistence users.”
The actual proposal is three typewritten pages and presents other information than what I have quoted. I would suggest you obtain a copy of the actual proposal and read it to see if you would like to present a public comment on the proposal. A person to contact is listed as Jennifer Hardin at 1-800-478-1456 or 1-907-786-3677. You could email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The public hearing is scheduled for June 3 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Wrangell St. Elias National Park and Preserve Visitor Center, located at Mile 106.8 Richardson Highway, Copper Center. If you can’t make the meeting in person, you can still comment using their teleconference system. To do so, call the toll-free number 1-888-566-1030 and use the participant passcode: 3344290 when prompted by the system.
By the time you read this, time will be quite short to obtain a copy of the proposal. I would suggest calling or emailing Ms. Hardin either today (Friday) or Monday morning and asking her to email you the proposal and meeting information or a link to that information on the web.
The Federal Subsistence Board is committed to providing access to this public hearing for all participants.