Hoonah Deer & Federal Subsistence Board 2024

On the agenda: Unit 4 deer proposals

The Federal Subsistence Board (FSB) met in Anchorage this April to focus on various wildlife (including Unit 4 deer) proposals elevated by the 10 Regional Advisory Councils. The Board consists of eight voting seats. Three public, including the chair held by Anthony Christensen of Hydaburg, and five held by the Regional Director of Bureau of Indian Affairs, the State Director of the Bureau of Land Management, the Regional Director of the National Park Service, Regional Director of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services, and the Acting Regional Forester of U.S. Forest Service.

Chairs of the 10 regional advisory councils (RAC’s) gave their regional reports, some getting down to the minute details on the health of each animal or bird. Southeast Chair Don Hernandez expressed continued concern over trawl bycatch; the boom of the self-guided charter fleet, transboundary river issues, and the Ketchikan Rural/Non-Rural determination soon coming to a head this fall. Each council expressed gratitude for the recent All-Region meeting and offered suggestions to make the next one more effective and hoped they will be held more frequently.

The North Pacific Fisheries Management Council was gathered across town and though this was a subsistence wildlife meeting, there was significant frustration expressed over continued salmon bycatch in the Pollock fisheries and the restrictions and closures instead placed onto subsistence fishing statewide. Many members of the Board and RAC chairs took the time to go back and forth between the two meetings.

The board (and public) was given updates on various letters submitted by the RAC’s including the following sent in by our Southeast council:

Transboundary Mining – Concerns for Transboundary Rivers.
Status: Elevated to Lt. Governor requesting that Lt Governor works with US Dept. of State/Canada to address concerns.
Salmon Beyond Borders – Letter supporting Salmon Beyond Borders concerns highlighting Transboundary river issues effecting salmon
Status: Pending elevation to the Secretaries of State.
Salmon Bycatch Letter – SE Centric letter supporting other RAC’s bycatch letter efforts
Status: Pending Elevation to NOAA-NMFS and Under Secretary of Commerce for Action

 The FSB also received a briefing on the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Wood Bison plan. A project reintroducing Bison into historic ranges of Alaska. The Federal Subsistence Board was asked to sign on in continued support of this project and agree to be at the table when a target population is met and hunting on the herd may be considered sustainable.

Relying on the advisement of the RAC’s, the Board worked through proposals on hunting extensions, openings, closings, and various wildlife regulations of sheep, moose, caribou, deer, and other game. Marten season was extended in one unit, while status quo retained in a neighboring unit based on local knowledge. Subsistence users and Tribal representatives traveled from all over the state for the opportunity to speak.

The FSB relies heavily on public testimony. They respect and welcome local knowledge and hold it to a high regard in their decision making. I was truly impressed with the candid concern and professionalism from the Board and Office of Subsistence Management (OSM) staff.

OSM and ADFG debate.

Southeast Proposals

Four proposals from SE were passed and will come into effect with the new federal hunting regulations being issued July 1st of this year.

• The mountain goat season in Unit 1C within the drainages of the Chilkat Range south of the south bank of the Endicott River was extended to Jul. 24—Dec. 31. (WP24-02)

• Federal public lands in portions of Unit 4 around Angoon, Pelican, and Hoonah were closed to deer hunting by non-federally qualified users from Nov. 1-10. (WP24-04, WP24-05, WP24-06).

The deer proposals are a culmination of years of hard work in which Ian Johnson and HIA-Environmental played a large role. Everything from testifying before the board to collecting deer poop for study. I believe he will be making another post regarding this achievement shortly, so I won’t speak too much on it.

The second day ended with Angoon still in question, with Hoonah, and Pelican still to follow. Albert Howard of Angoon, and Patricia Phillips of Pelican, both members of the SE-RAC, called in to voice their support. While there was 1 written comment in favor of these proposals, there had been 40 comments of opposition submitted to OSM. Juneau hunters and organized sports groups called in and voiced their desire to hunt these lands and doubted the legality and necessity of these proposals. Worried the sheer quantity of opposition would tip the scales I went to my hotel room that night and wrote up pages of concise heated thoughts with plans of speaking the next morning.

I was pleasantly surprised when Angoon passed. Facing even more opposition, it looked like Hoonah too would also still succeed. I chose to stand down and save my words for the future.

All three proposals were unanimously voted in. Local experience and testimony outweighed outside interests. The work of HIA, the recommendations and testimony provided by the Southeast RAC, and the efforts of OSM and Forest Service to tie it all together and accurately represent the needs of these rural communities proved effective, and the Board chose to vote in favor of subsistence rights rather than side with an outspoken crowd.

Local knowledge and participation are crucial in these decisions. The Federal Board does listen, and they do care. The OSM staff were proud to represent our voices and work for our needs. These closures will be up for review in four years and the sports groups were already forming plans to fight back.

Sarah James travelled from Arctic Village to share a lifetime of knowledge that led to increased protections of a small local heard of sheep. Lending their support is Brent Vickers and Liz Williams of OSM.

It’s important we become a part of the process. Accurate reporting of harvests is crucial. If you go out hunting and don’t get a deer, report it! That’s the data we need!

The next Southeast RAC meeting will be held in October, in Ketchikan this time. I will be attending, and I will again invite interested community members to come with me. Look for an announcement early this fall. Please feel free to contact me or leave comments below with any subsistence concerns you may have, hunting or fishing! More information on the Federal Subsistence Management program can be found here https://www.doi.gov/subsistence.


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