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By ZACHARY HALASCHAK
Daily News Staff Writer
If a recently proposed change to federal subsistence hunting regulations is approved, subsistence hunters in the area may soon be able to hunt deer anywhere on federal public lands in Southeast Alaska.
The Federal Subsistence Board is now soliciting comments through Aug. 4 on proposed changes to a number of policies for the 2018-20 regulatory years. One of the proposals would dramatically change where individual subsistence hunters can harvest deer.
For example, under the proposed policy, a subsistence hunter from the City of Saxman currently has a customary and traditional use determination for game management units 1-A, 1-B, and 2. If the proposal were approved, that same hunter would have access to deer populations in federal public lands in game management units 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.
This differs from current regulations, which can be confusing and restrict hunters to predetermined areas within Southeast Alaska.
The proposal, which was submitted by the Southeast Alaska Regional Advisory Council, was created out of frustration among customary and traditional use hunters who are not able to hunt when visiting out-of-town friends and family, attending cultural celebrations, or traveling in areas outside of their game region. The proposal says that, “At these times, they (subsistence hunters) need to be able to continue longstanding patterns of hunting.”
DeAnna Perry, council coordinator for the regional advisory council, told the Daily News that current laws are at times confusing to hunters and that the council “wanted to make sure the regulatory language was easier to understand.”
In terms of a potential effect this may have on regional populations of deer, the proposal states that there is no anticipated impact to wildlife, even though the proposal would increase the area where individual subsistence hunters may harvest by a large margin.
When questioned about the proposal’s anticipated lack of environmental impact, Perry told the Daily News that analysts have not yet finished their assessment of exactly what effect this proposal will have.
“Each proposal gets assigned to certain biologists who will analyze it and make a recommendation to the board,” Perry said. “Once it gets analyzed it may be different.”
Another proposal being put forth by the regional advisory council would “reduce the annual bag limit for non-federally qualified users in unit 2 to two deer and reduce the season for non-federally qualified users by one week or more.”
A third proposal introduced by the regional advisory council that would affect the Ketchikan area’s game unit is a change that would extend the federal subsistence hunting season for wolf to May 31, and push the start of the wolf-trapping season forward to Nov. 1.
Public comment for both of these issues, as well as a number of other proposals in regions all over the state, is open until Aug. 4.
The proposal book is available online at http://www.doi.gov/subsistence/proposal/current.