OPINION: New rules for this year’s Copper River dipnetting season

Late last fall, important cultural sites were discovered within the right-of-way between Chitina and Hailey Creek along the Copper River. The Native Village of Chitina and Ahtna, Inc. rightfully contacted the state to determine a way that we could conduct the dipnet and subsistence fisheries in a manner that protected these identified sites in a respectful manner. The state agreed that we would not allow access that impacted these sites in a manner that was culturally disrespectful.

Over the course of the past several months the Native Village of Chitina, Ahtna, Inc. and the state have worked cooperatively to implement a plan that respects the sensitive sites and that allows continued access by ATVs between Chitina and Hailey Creek. The plan involves the construction of “bridges” that span the sensitive areas and prevent ground disturbance. It also places barriers around other identified sensitive areas. The goal is to avoid impacts while further investigative work is done. Just recently, the bridging work was successfully completed, in time for the upcoming fishing season.

The state has also placed signs along the access that prescribe expected rules and behaviors. It is imperative that these rules and behaviors be adhered to. It is morally wrong to disrespect the cultural heritage of the area. Blatant disrespect of the area’s cultural resources will not be tolerated. Failure to adhere to the rules could result in restrictions to access. Be respectful of the area. Treat the lands as if your ancestors were buried there.

The state thanks the Native Village of Chitina and Ahtna, Inc., for their willingness and commitment to finding a resolution to this issue. The state remains committed to finding a long-term resolution to this issue.  The hard-working women and men of the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities are committed to ensure these “bridges” and protections are maintained throughout the summer.

Finally, be safe out there this season. The “bridges” are narrow and allow one-way passage. Do not bypass around them. Wait your turn. Use common sense. Finally, obey the fishing rules and limits. Record your harvests and mark your fish. Take only what you need. And clean up — pack out what you pack in.

In closing, have a safe fishing season. And be sensitive and respectful of the area you are using.

Doug Vincent-Lang is the commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.


Ryan Anderson is the commissioner of the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.

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