Interior, Ahtna will jointly manage wildlife

AITRC says project will assure that traditional knowledge, practices are heard

An agreement reached between the Interior Department and the Ahtna Intertribal Resources Commission will create a cooperative wildlife management demonstration project on federal and Ahtna Corp. lands in Southcentral Alaska.

Deputy Interior Secretary Michael L. Connor said the agreement is an effort to help preserve the traditional way of life of Ahtna people, “put food on the table and improve wildlife habitat and populations for everyone.”

The memorandum of agreement between Interior and AITRC, which coordinates natural resource management issues for eight federally recognized tribes in the Ahtna region, was announced on Nov. 29 during a Bureau of Indian Affairs Conference in Anchorage.

Under Secretarial Order No. 3342 ( announced last month by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell at the Alaska Federation of Natives gathering in Fairbanks, federal land managers are encouraged to involve Native Americans and Alaska Natives in management of fish and wildlife resources on federal lands that are part of their traditional lands.

The order reflects President Obama’s commitment to work collaboratively with tribal leaders to build stronger, more resilient communities, respect tribal sovereignty, advance self-determination and protect traditional ways of life and cultural and natural resources, Interior officials said.

The announcement drew kudos from Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, who said that “Ahtna has long-standing concerns about the rules governing the subsistence hunt and the availability of food resources to tribal communities in the Ahtna region.  It is encouraging to see DOI engaging with Ahtna and its tribes and exercising the flexibility provided by federal law to address those concerns,” Walker said.


Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott added that the Walker administration “is optimistic that Alaska’s Board of Game, the Department of Fish and Game, and the Federal Subsistence Board will find new opportunities to coordinate the state and federal game management systems and ensure that those Alaskans most in need have access to critical subsistence resources.”

The laska Board of Game and ADF&G are generally responsible for game management in Alaska, but under the Alaska National Interest Lands Act, the Federal Subsistence Board oversees the subsistence hunt on federal public lands and provides priority access to rural residents. ANILCA also contemplates cooperative agreements between the federal government and tribal governments and Alaska Native corporations to fulfill responsibilities under ANILCA, the Walker administration noted.

Christopher Gene, board chair of AITRC, said that the DOI and AITRC share mutual concern for conservation of healthy wildlife populations and their habitats, as well as ensuring sustainable and sufficient harvests for customary and traditional subsistence uses. Gene said AITRC is thankful for the project, which will “make sure our traditional ecological knowledge and customary and traditional management practices are heard and represented.”

Rural Alaskans in the Ahtna region who are not tribal members will be able to continue to hunt on federal lands under the Federal Subsistence Management Program , and will not be affected by the agreement.  Federal lands in the Ahtna region include portions of Denali National Park and Preserve, Wrangell St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge, and scattered Bureau of Land Management lands around the Richardson and Denali highways.