BETHEL -- The Federal Subsistence Board is coming to Bethel, McGrath and Aniak in early September for a rare Kuskokwim River field trip.
The eight-member board oversees a multi-agency federal effort “to provide the opportunity for a subsistence way of life by rural Alaskans on federal public lands and waters while maintaining healthy populations of fish and wildlife,” according to the Federal Subsistence Management Program website.
On Sept. 8, half the board members will go to Bethel and the other half will head upriver to McGrath. The next day, the whole board is set to meet in Aniak, said Gene Peltola, who heads the federal Office of Subsistence Management, which is part of the Department of Interior.
Some of the details are being worked out but board members hope to get to a fish camp on the Kuskokwim River and talk to fishermen, Peltola said.
There also will be informal community meetings with board members in Bethel and McGrath.
In Bethel, the board is set to meet from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Sept. 8 at Yuut Elitnaurviat, The People’s Learning Center. In McGrath, the meeting is from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the traditional council’s community services center.
“Due to the amount of activity the board has had recently on the Kuskokwim -- and more importantly the board had not taken a field trip in some years -- we thought it would be a good idea to bring the board out to the Kuskokwim,” Peltola said.
In May, federal managers took the unprecedented step of closing subsistence fishing for king salmon on the Kuskokwim River at the start of the season. The action came at the request of the Napaskiak Tribal Council, which urged the board to allow kings to be harvested only by “qualified subsistence users with a customary and traditional use.” A plan was made to allocate a set number of kings among villages, though some villages decided not to participate.
Myron Naneng, president of the Association of Village Council Presidents, is pushing for tribal co-management of fisheries. He said Monday the board members need to hear that message, and to understand that some fish need to be reserved for subsistence.
The board is chaired by Tim Towarak of Unalakleet and includes two other public members, Anthony Christianson of Hydaburg and Charles Brower of Barrow. It also includes five federal officials who serve as regional directors of their agencies in Alaska. They are listed on the board’s website as: Bruce Loudermilk of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bud Cribley of the Bureau of Land Management, Joel Hard of the National Park Service, Geoff Haskett of the Fish and Wildlife Service and Beth Pendleton of the Forest Service. The state Department of Fish and Game has a designated liaison, but not a voting seat.