In the world of subsistence harvesting, at least within federal lands and waters, rural and non-rural classifications mean everything. Basically, rural communities are entitled to the land, and are first in line for consuming natural resources. Kodiak’s long-standing rural label has been called into question in the past, and according to Pamela Bumsted, could be questioned again in the near future.
Bumsted is the environmental Project Manager for Sun’aq Tribe of Kodiak, but also works with various individuals, governments and organizations regarding rural and non-rural definitions. She said the Federal Subsistence Board is currently reviewing who is eligible to use federal lands for subsistence.
“They have had criteria in the past to enable them to figure out rural and who is not. The process has not gone to every body’s satisfaction, so in 2009 they said we need to have an idea of how you’re going to determine this and in 2012 they actually issued a request for comments.”
Bumsted said the board is collecting comments about what the criteria
for rural labels should be, and will later use those criteria to
reevaluate rural communities around the state. So while Kodiak’s status
isn’t in jeopardy right now, Bumsted said it could be if the board
favors rural requirements that Kodiak can’t meet.
“Ever since 1990 Kodiak and
Sitka both have always been rural, however they’ve always had scrutiny
put on them. And many people will remember in 2006 how upsetting it was
to everyone when they were going to scrutinize Kodiak once again. And
that’s why it’s so important for people in Kodiak, and the archipelago
as a whole, to look very carefully at what would be an easier set of
criteria to use. Perhaps one that’s fairer, represents standard
population descriptions, or something that is broadly recognized and not
She said the classification has often been determined by population
numbers, and hopefully that will change in the new criteria. Some folks
have suggested increasing the allowable population threshold, or doing
away with it as a requirement all together. Other suggestions consider
looking at subsistence calorically, as in the number of calories
communities derive from local foods.
“We need something which is
going to be fair, something which is pretty obvious, maybe, you know,
backed by sound research. And also recognizes the fact that Kodiak is an
island. That we do have issues of food security and also looking at the
history of all of this, with the intent is to make sure that people
that who are depend or use local resources can continue to use them.”
Comments on the rural criteria will be accepted until November 1,
and will be reviewed during the April 2014 Federal Subsistence Board
meeting. The board’s recommendations will then go to the Secretaries of
Interior and Agriculture for a final review and decision.
“And then the next step, after
that, after the secretaries accept or reject the criteria which had
been suggested, is then they will be doing those determinations,
following those criteria.”
She said it’s important for people get involved with the process
now, because it will come down the line and affect Kodiak in the future.
Bumsted is planning a community meeting in September so folks can learn
more about the review process and how to submit comments.