ANCHORAGE - A joint board killed a proposal to open the land where the Nelchina caribou herd roams to more hunters.
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Many rural Alaskans looked at the proposal rejected Monday as an attack on their subsistence hunting rights. By failing to pass the proposal, the Alaska Joint Board of Fisheries and Game kept one of the few road-accessible caribou herds in the state off-limits to those ineligible for Tier II subsistence permits.
All Alaskans are considered subsistence hunters under state law. When demand for a resource is particularly high, the state can limit access to Tier II hunters, who are chosen under point systems that consider such factors as place of residence, cost of living and alternative resources.
The Nelchina caribou fall under a Tier II hunt.
"It's a dire need for us," said Wilbur Joe, who attended the meeting to represent his village of Kluti-kaah. "We were all holding our breaths. It's a serious matter for us; our subsistence is our lifestyle."
Much of the Copper River basin traditionally belonged to the Ahtna Athabascans, though only about 25 percent of the residents there were Natives in 2000, according to Department of Fish and Game statistics that were presented.
"I see people concerned because they feel like their birthright is being ripped out from underneath them," said Game Board Chairman Cliff Judkins, who supported the proposal.
The proposal came from Mat-Su residents who advise the boards.