DOI News

Secretary Releases Public Report on Subsistence Review



U.S. Department of the Interior

September, 2010


In 1992 the federal government took over the management of subsistence wildlife uses on federal lands when the State of Alaska did not meet the requirements of Title VIII of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) for the granting of a preference to rural residents. After a court judgment in 1998 the federal government took over subsistence fishery management on certain navigable waters.

After nearly two decades, action by the State to regain management is not being pursued, and it is assumed that federal subsistence management will continue in the foreseeable future. The Secretary believed it was timely that the program be reviewed to see if the program established in 1992 is best meeting the letter and spirit of Title VIII of ANILCA and serving rural Alaskan residents. The Secretary announced his intention to conduct a review of the federal subsistence program in Alaska, in October of 2009 at the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention in Anchorage.

On August 31, 2010, the Secretary and the Secretary of Agriculture announced the findings of the review and actions that they were taking to address concerns raised in the review. Changes to the federal program included the addition of two rural subsistence users on the Federal Subsistence Board (FSB), increased deference to the recommendations of the Regional Advisory Councils (RACs), review of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the State, review of current regulations governing customary and traditional uses and rural/nonrural determinations, involvement of the FSB in the subsistence budget process, and a review of minority and diversity hire issues. Some public recommendations for statutory and legal changes were not recommended at this time.

In addition to program changes, the Secretaries announced the appointment of a new Chair of the FSB, Tim Towarak.


Title VIII of ANILCA mandates a preference for “rural residents” in the taking of fish and wildlife for subsistence purposes. The State of Alaska initially implemented ANILCA Title VIII on state and federal lands but, after nearly a decade of state management, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled in 1989 that the state constitution does not allow a priority for “rural residents.” As a result, the Department took over management of the subsistence priority for wildlife on federal lands in 1992. In 1998, following further court action, federal management was extended to fish taken for subsistence purposes from certain navigable waters in or adjacent to federal lands.

Title VIII of ANILCA makes the subsistence priority a Secretarial responsibility. By regulation, the FSB runs the subsistence program. The FSB is comprised of the Alaska Directors of the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Regional Forester for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and a public chair appointed by the Secretary with the concurrence of the Secretary of Agriculture.

The FSB must be responsive in its rule-making functions to the 10 RACs, composed of a super majority of subsistence users. The FSB shall consider the recommendations of the RACs and can only choose not to follow RAC “taking” recommendations if they are not supported by substantial evidence, violate recognized conservation principles, or are detrimental to subsistence needs. This substantial power, granted the RACs in Title VIII, codifies a ‘bottom-up’ management approach that ensures subsistence users have a substantial say in the subsistence management program.

The FSB and the RACs are supported by the Office of Subsistence Management (OSM) with a staff of 41. The OSM is headed by a FWS Assistant Regional Director and is lodged administratively within the FWS. Other Department of Interior (DOI) bureaus and Forest Service staff also work within their respective agencies on subsistence issues.

The Conduction of the Review

Beginning in November 2009, the review was conducted by the Alaska Affairs Office within the Office of the Secretary. Comments were solicited from a wide range of individuals and groups having an interest and involvement in the federal subsistence program. Meetings were held with over 45 different stakeholder groups in 13 different communities throughout Alaska. Comments were received from over 115 different groups and individuals (Attachment A). Comments were categorized, posted on a Departmental website, and recommended programmatic changes analyzed. Draft recommendations were prepared for internal review (including USDA/Forest Service) and consideration by the Secretary and the Secretary of Agriculture.


A wide variety of comments was received on various aspects of the federal subsistence program. While most comments targeted Title VIII provisions of ANILCA or specific elements of the federal subsistence program, some comments focused on other federal laws, such as the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which deal with other subsistence-related programs and issues. From subsistence users, several broad themes were conveyed, including:
From non-subsistence users, including the State of Alaska, there were several broad categories of comments including: Recommended Actions

All of the changes being directed can be implemented by the Secretary of the Interior, or by the Secretary with concurrence of the Secretary of Agriculture, or by the FSB. Most can be accomplished as a matter of Secretarial directive or policy. However, some would be regulatory changes requiring a formal rule-making process.

The following actions are called for by the Secretary of the Interior with the concurrence of the Secretary of Agriculture:
In addition the following actions are called for by the Secretary of the Interior: Recommended Actions Not Being Pursued at This Time

Some commenters proposed changes requiring significant statutory changes to Title VIII of ANILCA or other federal laws including:
These proposals fall outside the direct authorities of the Secretary of the Interior or Agriculture and are not being proposed at this time. These recommendations will be forwarded to concerned Congressional committees and members for possible consideration. Should action by the Congress be proposed, the Secretaries stand ready to provide further comment.
Attachment A

Subsistence Review-- Record of Public Involvement

Total Groups and/or Individuals Providing Comments: 115

Groups Submitting Written or Verbal Comments during the Review
Ahtna Incorporated
Alaska Department of Fish and Game
Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission
Alaska Federation of Natives
Alaska Inter-Tribal Council
Alaska Lands Act Coordination Committee (Sierra Club; Denali Citizens Council; The
Wilderness Society; Alaska Wilderness League; Science Now; National Parks
Conservation Association; Defenders of Wildlife; Trustees for Alaska; Alaska
Wilderness League, Audubon Alaska)
Alaska Outdoor Council and Alaska Fish and Wildlife Conservation Fund
Alaska Professional Hunters Association, Inc.
Association of Village Council Presidents
Cenaliulriiit Coastal Resource
Central Council of Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska
Council of Athabascan Tribal Governments
Emmonak Tribal Council
Federal Subsistence Board Staff Committee
Federal Subsistence Regional Advisory Council Chairs
Gates of the Arctic National Park Subsistence Resource Commission
Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce
Gwichi’in Steering Committee
Icicle Seafoods
Kawerak Incorporated
Kenai-Soldotna Fish and Game Advisory Committee
Kenai Sport Fishing Association
Kenaitze Tribal Council
Ketchikan Indian Community
Kivalina City Council
Kotzebue IRA Council Tupiq
Lake Clark National Park Subsistence Resource Commission
Marine Conservation Alliance
Mt. Sanford Tribal Consortium
NANA Regional Corporation
National Park Service Subsistence Resource Commission Chairs
National Parks Conservation Association
Native American Rights Fund
Native Village of Kotzebue
Native Village of Paimiut
Ninilchik Traditional Council
North Pacific Fisheries Management Council
Northwest Arctic Borough
Northwest Arctic Strategy Group
Office of Subsistence Management
Organized Village of Kasaan
Organized Village of Saxman
Orutsararmuit Native Council
Pacific Seafood Processors Association
Petersburg Vessel Owners Association
PWS Eco-Charters
Safari Club International
Sealaska Heritage Institute
Sitka Fish and Game Advisory Committee
Sitka Tribe of Alaska
Southeast Alaska Fishermen’s Alliance
Southeast Alaska Regional Dive Fisheries Association
State of Alaska Department of Law
State of Alaska Citizens’ Advisory Commission on Federal Areas
State of Alaska Office of the Governor
Stebbins Community Association
Sun’aq Tribe of Kodiak
Tanana Chiefs Conference
Territorial Sportsmen
The Tatitlek Corporation
Tribal Council of Bethel
United Cook Inlet Drift Association
United Fisherman of Alaska
Western Arctic Caribou Herd Working Group
Woody Island Tribal Council
Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association