Following on momentum built during the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention last week, Sen. Mark Begich today issued a letter to Sen. Daniel Akaka, chair of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, renewing his call for an Alaska-based field hearing of the committee to address food security and subsistence rights for Alaska Natives.
Begich has been pressing the committee and its chair for a hearing on the matter for more than a year. His first letter to Akaka was issued in February 2011.
"I'm hopeful that AFN resolution 12-18 and recent commitments by Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Don Young to pursue a hearing mean it will happen soon," Begich said. "Alaska Natives who are reliant on seasonal salmon returns don't have time to wait for action any longer."
The need for a hearing was reinforced this summer when more than 30 subsistence fishermen were arrested and their nets confiscated by federal and state officials for violating the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (USFWS) salmon conservation order following low returns of chinook salmon in the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers. The hearing would attempt to resolve inconsistencies between state and federal subsistence management practices and consider legislative recommendations to reach a meaningful co-management solution.
"Alaska Native people suffer under some of the highest prices for food and energy in the nation and access to subsistence hunting and fishing allows them some relief," Begich wrote in the letter to Akaka. "The burden is on the federal government to ensure the USFWS and the State of Alaska efficiently and effectively manage subsistence resources for the food security of Alaska Native peoples."