What is 'Subsistence'?

Alaska National Interest Lands Claims Act:

Subsistence users are "customary and traditional uses by rural Alaska residents of wild renewable resources..." (Section 803)

Alaska Department of Fish and Game; Division of Subsistence:

"State and federal law define subsistence as the 'customary and traditional uses' of wild resources for food, clothing, fuel, transportation, construction, art, crafts, sharing, and customary trade. Subsistence uses are central to the customs and traditions of many cultural groups in Alaska, including Aleut, Athabaskan, Alutiiq, Euroamerican, Haida, Inupiat, Tlingit, Tsimshian, and Yup'ik. Subsistence fishing and hunting are important sources of employment and nutrition in almost all rural communities...Federal and state laws currently differ in who qualifies for subsistence. Rural Alaska residents qualify for subsistence under federal law [this is about 20% of Alaska residents]. Since 1989, all states residents have qualified [as subsistence users] under state law...Subsistence uses are given a priority over commercial fishing and recreational fishing and hunting in state and federal law. By and large, urban fishers and hunters have not experience major changes in harvest opportunity due to the subsistence priority."

David Hullen of The Anchorage Daily News:

"Subsistencfe is the harvesting of wild fish, game and other resources for food, cultural, and other uses. Deciding who gets it may be the most controversial-and complicated-issue in Alaska politics."

'Revisions to Alaska's Subsistence Law and Regulations Following the McDowell Decision':

"'subsistence uses' means the noncommercial, customary and traditional uses of wild, renewable resources by a resident domiciled in the state for direct personal or family consumption as food, shelter, fuel, clothing, tools or transportation, for the making and selling of handicraft articles out of nonedible by-products of fish and wildlife resources taken for personal or family consumption, and for the customary trade, barter, or sharing for personal or family consumption..." (Alaska State 16.05.940(29))

University of Colorado Law Review, David S. Case:

"The traditional economy is based on subsistence activities that require special skills and a complex understanding of the local environment that enables people to live directly from the land. It also involves cultural values and attitudes: mutual respect, sharing, resourcefulness, and an understanding that is both conscious and mystical of the intricate interrelationships that link humans, animals, and the environment. To this array of activities and deeply embedded values, we attach the word 'subsistence,' recognizing that no one word can adequately encompass all these related concepts."

Les Palmer, for 'The Peninsula Clarion':

"The current (1992) [and current in 2000] subsistence law has no rural priority, but just a subsistence priority. In effect, it means all residents are subsistence users. This law applies to all lands except federal lands. It also applies to state waters, which include marine waters and navigable streams. One place the state's subsistence priority doesn't apply is in "nonsubsistence areas." Five nonsubsistence areas - Valdez, Juneau, Ketchikan, Fairbanks and Anchorage-Matsu-Kenai - were created by the joint boards of fish and game. These areas exist today, and are likely to exist in the future. Since a subsistence priority has the potential to restrict or halt all other uses of fish or game, the nonsubsistence areas offer a sort of protection zone for sport fishing, hunting and other non-subsistence activities.

The state regulations say a nonsubsistence area is "an area or community where dependence upon subsistence is not a principal characteristic of the economy, culture, and way of life of the area or community." General hunting is allowed in nonsubsistence areas, as are personal-use fishing, sport fishing, guided sport fishing and commercial fishing. Subsistence hunting and fishing are not allowed in nonsubsistence areas.

Another place the state's subsistence preference doesn't apply is on federal public lands, not even when they're in state nonsubsistence areas. The feds give special subsistence hunting seasons to residents of federally designated "rural" communities. On the peninsula, these include Hope, Whittier, Ninilchik, Cooper Landing, and the lower-peninsula Native villages of Seldovia, Nanwalek and Port Graham."


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