A Kasilof couple was charged with illegally transporting caribou hunters to Northwest Alaska in 2019 and 2020, officials said.
Matthew Owen, 66, illegally transported caribou hunters to the Noatak National Preserve, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska on Dec. 1. The activity violated multiple federal regulations regarding commercial activity on National Park Service land, the release said.
Owen was charged with providing false information, engaging in business without a permit and a failure to follow a lawful order. His wife, Julie Owen, 60, was also charged with providing false information and violation of provisions of a permit.
It was not immediately clear how the couple transported hunters into the preserve, what false information they provided and what order they failed to obey. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, proceedings of cases involving U.S. District Court Violation Notices are handled differently from regular cases, and detailed information about them is not publicly available.
If convicted, the defendants could face up to six months imprisonment and a $5,000 fine for each charge. The defendants could also be required to pay all costs of the legal proceedings as part of their sentence.
A federal district court judge will determine the sentence. The defendants’ first court appearance is scheduled for Dec. 7.
Caribou — which are a vital species in the ecosystem and for communities in Northwest Alaska — are protected within Noatak National Preserve, said Western Arctic National Parklands Superintendent Ray McPadden in a statement.
Traditional subsistence hunters who live in the range of the herd can harvest five caribou per day within the preserve any time of the year but can’t harvest cows between April 1 and Aug. 1, according to Western Arctic National Parklands officials.
Nonlocal hunters couldn’t hunt caribou within the preserve between the Noatak and Kobuk rivers from August until the end of September in the last two years. They also can’t hunt caribou along several river corridors in the preserve at any time, officials said.
The National Park Service is responsible for managing natural resources and permitting commercial activity within Noatak National Preserve.
“Hunting is critical to subsistence and is a key piece of Alaskan culture,” U.S. Attorney for the District of Alaska S. Lane Tucker said in a prepared statement. “Hunting and all associated activities must be done legally and in accordance with regulations.”