Native activist begins another hunger strike

Posted: Monday, July 10, 2006

ANCHORAGE - A Native rights activist has begun another hunger strike, protesting the state's handling of subsistence issues in Alaska's coastal zones and what she says was disrespectful behavior by a state official toward villagers.

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Former gubernatorial candidate Desa Jacobsson began fasting Saturday

Jacobsson has gone on at least four other fasts, all over subsistence and Native justice issues. One lasted 17 days and one lasted 23 days, she said.

In the latest protest, Jacobsson said the state is trying to limit areas of subsistence hunting and fishing. As evidence, she cites the state's request that villagers map out where they subsistence hunt and fish as part of an update to the Alaska Coastal Management Plan.

"After all those rallies, after all that work, this is what it's come down to? Drawing little circles on a map? I don't think so," Jacobsson said. She wants the plan withdrawn.

Jacobsson detailed her complaints in a letter to Gov. Frank Murkowski and other officials.

Randy Bates of the state Department of Natural Resources said Jacobsson misunderstands the state's intentions.

"Under no circumstances is DNR trying to limit where residents can engage in subsistence," he said.

In a letter to Jacobsson, Bates said the state is working "to ensure that subsistence uses and use areas are identified and protected."

Jacobsson's protest stems from a meeting June 29 between the state and members of the Cenaliulriit Coastal Resource Service Area, or CRSA. The area covers western Alaska from Goodnews Bay to Kotlik. Jacobsson and Bates both attended.

Jacobsson said Bates was "pushy and bossy and insistent."

"That was certainly not my impression of how the discussion went," Bates said. He described the meeting as "challenging" because there seemed to be a lot of confusion about the state's intentions in updating the Alaska Coastal Management Plan.

The plan, created in 1979, is a federally funded, voluntary program that gives state and local residents who participate a voice in federal activities and development projects in coastal zones. The state program affects more than 115 Alaska communities.

In 2003, Gov. Frank Murkowski set out to overhaul it. Bates said there was duplication in the state and federal laws governing the program.

Critics accused the governor of trying to weaken the program.

Bates said the primary purpose of the June 29 meeting was to work with the Cenaliulriit CRSA on the necessary changes to their coastal district plan to bring it into compliance because deadlines are looming.

The CRSAs have been asked to do is identify subsistence use areas in their region, Bates said.

If an area is identified, projects with federal oversight that might spring up there, such as oil drilling or mining, are held to a higher standard, Bates said. The developers "must avoid or minimize impacts to subsistence uses," Bates said. If the areas are not identified, that protection does not exist, he said.

Jacobsson said it's ridiculous to draw a circle on a map when talking about whales or caribou because the animals move and hunters move with them.

Bates said anyone can hunt outside the designated areas without penalty.


Information from: Anchorage Daily News,

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