Kodiak keeps rural status; Saxman loses it

Posted: Friday, December 15, 2006

ANCHORAGE - A federal board removed subsistence hunting and fishing rights from several Alaskan communities, including a Tlingit village near Ketchikan.

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"Rural" status for Kodiak was retained after about 30 people from the area testified before the Federal Subsistence Board, some of them tearfully, asking the board to maintain Kodiak city's rural status.

The board met this week in Anchorage.

Residents in Saxman, a Tlingit village of 405 two miles by road from Ketchikan, are disappointed, said Lee Wallace, president of the tribal government.

When the changes made Wednesday take effect in five years, residents who lost their rural priority will still have priority over others for subsistence hunting and fishing on federal land, but be regulated by state programs.

There could be some losses. Saxman residents can bring home five deer from Prince of Wales Island under the federal program, but only four under state regulations. State deer and moose seasons are also shorter.

The Kodiak residents, afraid they'd lose some opportunities to hunt deer on nearby Afognak Island and catch fish in the Buskin River, wept and hugged when the board unanimously rejected a proposal Wednesday to change Kodiak's status to non-rural.

"We did it! We did it!" shouted a leaping Olga Malutin, 52.

The Kodiak area's population has grown little since 1990. Residents still need their federal subsistence priority, board members said.

"I think the community is going from rural to more rural," said board member Gary Edwards before the vote.

The rural priority was created by Congress to ensure that rural residents have first dibs when fish and wildlife stocks are scarce, federal managers say.

Other areas that lost rural status are Point MacKenzie in the Matanuska-Sustina Borough; areas around Sterling and near Homer on the Kenai Peninsula and Prudhoe Bay on the North Slope.

The board redefined Adak, former home to a naval base, as rural. Fewer than 200 people live in the Aleutian Island community today.

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