FISH AND GAME: Traditional spring hunt violates Alaska Constitution.
(Published: April 12, 2003)
By JOEL GAY
Anchorage Daily News
Subsistence bird hunters in Western Alaska looking forward to new federal regulations that legalize their traditional hunts will still have to look over their shoulders when geese, ducks and other migratory birds arrive this spring.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game officials surprised many hunters this week by saying the new federal rules violate the state constitution, which mandates equal access to wildlife for all Alaskans. That means Western Alaskans can hunt legally on federal lands, but not on state land, private land or navigable rivers.
The distinction is important because as much as 90 percent of the birds taken in areas such as the Yukon-Kuskowkim Delta are taken on nonfederal land, federal officials said.
But while game wardens say they won't bust hunters on state land except for the most egregious violations, many hunters are disturbed by the announcement. The new conflict in subsistence regulations exacerbates the urban-rural divide, several rural residents said, and creates another set of confusing regulations between state and federal lands, according to managers.
"I'm just disappointed that after all the work a whole bunch of us put into moving this matter forward, it seems like we've run into a philosophical conflict," said Ralph Andersen, vice chairman of the newly created Alaska Migratory Bird Co-management Council.(more)