Major Federal and State Laws and Court Decisions Affecting Subsistence, 1971-1991*

1971—Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA): The federal law settling aboriginal land claims of Alaska Natives makes no provision for subsistence rights, but the accompanying conference committee report says "The Conference Committee expects both the Secretary (of the Interior) and the State (of Alaska) to take any action necessary to protect the subsistence needs of the Natives." (S. Rpt. 92-581, 92nd Congress, 1st Session, December 14, 1971)

1978—State Subsistence Preference Law: The state government enacts legislation giving subsistence hunting and fishing priority over other uses and describing subsistence as "customary and traditional uses of . . . wild, renewable resources for direct personal or family consumption . . . ." (Alaska Statutes 16.05.940 (26))

1980—Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA): The federal law designating large tracts of federal land in Alaska for inclusion in the national conservation system also gives priority to subsistence hunting and fishing on federal land. Subsistence uses are defined as "customary and traditional uses by rural Alaska residents of wild, renewable resources for direct personal or family consumption. . . ." (ANILCA Section 804, 16 USCA, 3114)

1982—Ballot Initiative on State Subsistence Law: Alaska voters are asked whether they want to repeal or keep the state law giving subsistence uses priority over other uses. Alaskans vote to retain subsistence priority by 58 percent to 42 percent.

1985—Madison vs. Alaska Department of Fish and Game: The Alaska Supreme Court rules that existing state regulations limiting subsistence users to rural residents are inconsistent with the state law (and therefore invalid) because the law itself does not restrict subsistence users to rural residents (696 P. 2d 168)

1986—State Subsistence Law Revised: The Alaska Legislature revises state law to say that subsistence hunting and fishing are limited to residents "domiciled in a rural area of the state." The revised law also defines rural as "a community or area . . . in which the noncommercial, customary, and traditional use of fish and game for personal or family consumption is a principal characteristic of the economy. . . ." (Alaska Statutes 16.05.940(25))

1988—Kenaitze Indian Tribe vs. State of Alaska: The federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rules that the state's definition of rural in the 1986 statute is inconsistent with the federal definition in ANILCA. The court interprets ANILCA's definition to include all "sparsely populated" areas without particular reference to whether the economies of those areas are subsistence-oriented (860 F.2d 312, 314)

1989—McDowell vs. Collingsworth: The Alaska Supreme Court rules that the state law basing subsistence rights on place of residence is unconstitutional. The majority opinion says "the grant of special privileges with respect to game based on one's residence" violates provisions of Alaska's constitution that guarantee all Alaskans equal access to fish and game and prohibit the state from creating "exclusive or special privileges with respect to fish and game" (Sections 3, 15, and 17 of Article 8). However, the court upholds the state's right to grant subsistence users priority, and says that criteria other than just place of residence might be constitutional. (Opinion, the Supreme Court of the State of Alaska, No. 3540, December 22, 1989)

1990—Federal Takeover of Management on Federal Lands: In the wake of the McDowell decision, state law no longer complies with provisions of ANILCA restricting subsistence users to rural residents. The federal government takes over management of hunting and some fishing on federal lands. The state retains management of fish and game on state and private lands and of fisheries in navigable waters and in intertidal areas.

1991—Governor's Advisory Council on Subsistence: The governor appoints a task force to make recommendations for a revised state subsistence policy, including new criteria for determining subsistence users.

*Source: page 5 from ISER, UAA Alaska Review of Social and Economic Conditions, June 1991, vol. XXVIII, No. 1, "Hunting and Fishing in Southeast Alaska" by Marybeth Holleman and Jack Kruse.

Subsistence Timeline Compiled by Jacoby Ballard

Alaska Natives Commisson Report III-Subsistence and Native Government

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