We write in response to an article by Bill McAllister regarding the Katie John case that ran on the front page of the Juneau Empire on June 8. In our opinion, the focus of this article was skewed and as a result the coverage of this critical issue was cursory, incomplete and one-sided.
The story centered almost explicitly on some Republicans' request that Gov. Tony Knowles appeal the 9th Circuit Court decision to reaffirm Katie John. Had Mr. McAllister talked to legislators from the Bush Caucus or Democrats about the Katie John case, we would have explained the various facets of this issue and the governor's obligation to carefully weigh these as he makes a decision on behalf of all Alaskans.
Unlike Sen. Robin Taylor, who was quoted heavily throughout McAllister's article, the Bush Caucus has been actively communicating with the governor on this issue. The governor has said that his two main goals are state management of fish and game as well as preserving a subsistence way of life for rural people. We are ardent in our position that the governor should not appeal this decision. The state of Alaska has now failed for seven years in similar appeal attempts. Further litigation wastes state resources and stalls a subsistence solution.
What lies at the core of the Katie John case is the right of rural people to take fish in federally reserved navigable waters. Though some may see this as a matter of state's rights, we maintain the issue at hand is one of human rights. Fish comprise 60 percent of a rural diet but, most importantly, the traditional harvest of fish and game is the nucleus of rural identity and culture.
The Legislature and ultimately the people of Alaska must address subsistence by voting to amend the Constitution for rural preference. We believe the courts are not an appropriate forum for this discussion.
We trust that in the future we may rely on the Juneau Empire to look at both sides of the story before going to print.
Sen. Georgianna Lincoln,
Senate Bush Caucus Chair
Rep. Reggie Joule,
House Bush Caucus Chair