Rural Determination Process Review

Title VIII of the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) provides a subsistence priority for rural Alaska residents for harvesting fish and wildlife resources on Federal public lands. Only residents of communities or areas determined to be rural are eligible under Federal subsistence regulations for the subsistence priority. The Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture are responsible for the process by which the rural determinations are made. The Federal Subsistence Board uses the Secretaries' process to make the rural determinations.
On December 17, 2010, the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture directed the Federal Subsistence Board to conduct a review of the rural determination process and develop recommendations to the Secretaries on how to improve the process (Attachment 1).
The Federal Subsistence Board initiated a review of the rural determination process on December 31, 2012 with the publication of a Federal Register Notice (Attachments 2 and 3) requesting comments on the following components of the process: population thresholds, rural characteristics, aggregation of communities, timelines and information sources. All ideas on how to improve the rural determination process that are consistent with ANILCA Title VIII and 9th Circuit Court of Appeals case law associated with the definition of rural will be considered. The deadline to submit comments is November 1, 2013.
In addition to soliciting written public comments, the Federal Subsistence Board is holding hearings in key locations throughout the State to provide opportunities for the public to learn more about the rural determination process and provide testimony. The Federal Subsistence Board has provided Federally recognized Tribes and Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) corporations with the opportunity to consult prior to the start of the Federal Subsistence Regional Advisory Council meeting window. During the fall 2013 meetings, the ten Federal Subsistence Regional Advisory Councils are to review the rural determination process and formulate recommendations for the Board. See the Current Schedule of Forums for Public Comments for a list of all meetings and hearings to be held (Attachment 4).
The Federal Subsistence Board will meet April 15–17, 2014 in Anchorage to review all the comments it received during the comment period. The Board will then make recommendations to the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture on possible changes to improve the process. These recommendations will be based in large part on the Federal Subsistence Regional Advisory Councils' recommendations, results of Tribal and ANCSA corporation consultations, and public comments. See the Steps in the Rural Determination Process for the review schedule (Attachment 5).
If the Secretaries decide to make changes to the rural determination process, a proposed rule and another comment period will be published in the Federal Register as required by the Administrative Procedure Act.
Following the completion of the review of the rural determination process, the Federal Subsistence Board will conduct a public review of the current rural determinations.

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