U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today hosted a hearing on the impact of the Alaska National Interest Lands Act (ANILCA) and the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) on wildlife management and traditional and customary activities in Alaska.
"Today's hearing marks the beginning of a new dialog on subsistence; one that recognizes the changes that have occurred over the last 20 years," Murkowski said. "My hope is that we can engage all Alaskans in a civil and productive conversation about subsistence and our wildlife and fish management decisions."
Thursday's hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee was a follow up to public meetings Murkowski held across Alaska earlier this year.
Murkowski said the hearing was an opportunity to highlight the challenges Alaskan natives face every day in putting food on the table.
"I made a commitment last year to hear out all sides on this issue and to create a forum where we could openly, and respectfully, discuss subsistence and the state and federal roles in managing fish and game within Alaska's borders," Murkowski said. "The testimony we heard today was both constructive and instructive. Now stakeholders must work together to find a way forward that ensures the survival of Alaska native cultures and traditions and treats all Alaskans fairly."
Dual management on state and federal lands causes both confusion and frustration for many Alaska residents. The Federal Subsistence Board was created through regulation and continues to be a point of contention among Alaskans. Furthermore, the federal government has failed to prioritize land management decisions for subsistence to ensure healthy and abundant populations for consumption. Alaska Natives must also have a voice in the decisions that affect their ability to provide for their families and ensure the continuation of their traditional cultures.
"The status quo, with federal agencies often overreaching in their management of game and fish, is clearly not working. We must find a better solution; one that respects all Alaskans," Murkowski said. "Let me be clear, though, I do not have a pile of amendments to ANILCA and ANCSA in my back pocket -- that's not the solution.
The federal government, state of Alaska, Native corporations, regional tribal groups, villages, and other stakeholders must come together and find a productive solution to these long-standing issues that have divided Alaskans for years.
"Fish and game management is a complicated and controversial subject in Alaska. The state of Alaska must be able to manage its resources for the maximum benefit of all Alaskans -- without federal interference. But we must also recognize the challenges our native communities face in maintaining a traditional lifestyle. Subsistence is a deeply emotional and spiritual issue that goes to the heart of Alaska native cultures and we must do what we can to protect it for future generations."
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has jurisdiction over ANCSA and ANILCA. Thursday's hearing marked the first time since enactment that the committee has held a hearing on either law.
Murkowski is Alaska's senior senator and the energy panel's ranking Republican. The full archived video can be viewed on the committee's website.