Lawmakers seek OK to appeal John case

Posted: Sunday, October 07, 2001

JUNEAU -- The Alaska Legislative Council has asked the U.S. Supreme Court for permission to appeal the Katie John subsistence case.

The council filed its request Thursday, the deadline to file appeals in the case.

Rep. Joe Green, an Anchorage Republican who chairs the committee, said granting the request would allow the Legislature to take over the lawsuit.

Gov. Tony Knowles decided in August not to appeal the case, citing a need to heal the urban and rural divide in the state. But Green said larger issues need to be resolved.

"If we allow this decision to stand, the federal government will have a good argument for controlling any activity that occurs along a navigable waterway in Alaska," Green said.

The Katie John case, named for an Athabascan elder who successfully sued after being denied a fish camp on the Copper River, greatly expanded federal control over subsistence issues.

Prior to the case the federal government managed subsistence uses on its own land, which constituted two-thirds of the state.

A federal court ruling included navigable waters as well. That's because the state does not comply with a 1980 federal law requiring that rural Alaskans be given a priority to the state's fish and game. The Alaska Constitution guarantees all Alaskans equal access to the state's fish, wildlife and water.

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