DOI News

Secretary's Letter to Congress Regarding Subsistence Review


December 21, 2010

The Honorable Byron L. Dorgan
Chairman, Committee on Indian Affairs
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Mr. Chairman:

Over the past year my office has undertaken a review of the Federal subsistence program in Alaska. Pursuant to this review, I recently announced actions that I, along with Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack, am taking to ensure that the program best meets the letter and spirit of Title VIII of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1981 (ANILCA). Enclosed is a report outlining the history of the program and details of the review.

We are directing a number of administrative and regulatory actions that we believe will strengthen the program and make it more responsive to subsistence users in Alaska in accord with the terms of ANILCA including:

  • The addition of two public members representing rural subsistence users on the Federal Subsistence Board (FSB);
  • Increased deference to the recommendations of the Regional Advisory Councils (RACs);
  • Review of current processes 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.
During the review there were other recommendations from the public that would require statutory or legal changes, including:
  • Redefine in ANILCA the eligibility for a subsistence priority to either “Native only” or “rural residents plus urban Natives”;
  • Expand the definition of public lands in ANILCA to allow Federal subsistence management on Native-owned lands;
  • Exempt the RACs from the requirements of Federal Advisory Commission Act (FACA) to only permit participation by subsistence users; and
  • Clarify in statute that Title VIII of ANILCA is “Indian legislation.”
These proposals fall outside the direct authorities of the Secretary of the Interior or Agriculture and are not being proposed at this time. However, I do wish to bring these proposals to your attention for your review and possible further action. Should action by the Congress be proposed, Secretary Vilsack and I stand ready to provide further comment.

Similar letters are being sent to Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman, House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Nick J. Rahall, Senator Lisa Murkowski, Senator Mark Begich, and Representative Don Young.


/s/Ken Salazar

Ken Salazar