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Board cuts deer limit in Unit 2: Decision affects non-subsistence hunters; limit will be 2 bucks

Daily News Staff Writer

Beginning next deer season, non-subsistence hunters will have a harvest limit of two bucks on federal public land in Game Management Unit 2, which includes Prince of Wales Island.

The decision to reduce the harvest available to non-federally qualified subsistence hunters from four bucks to two bucks was made this past week by a unanimous, 8-0 vote of the Federal Subsistence Board, which met in Anchorage.

The decision affects most hunters from the Ketchikan area, who through their residence in an area designated as “non-rural” under federal subsistence rules, do not qualify to participate in federal subsistence hunts on federal public land in Unit 2.

The harvest-limit proposal was submitted to the board by the Southeast Alaska Subsistence Regional Advisory Council. The advisory council drafted the proposal after hearing testimony during its 2017 meeting in Craig from federally qualified subsistence users who said they “had a harder time harvesting deer during the 2016 season,” according to Federal Subsistence Board agenda materials.

Proposal WP18-01 had a second component, which sought to reduce the hunting season available to non-subsistence hunters on federal public land in Unit 2 by one week. The Federal Subsistence Board did not approve the proposed season reduction.

The entire proposal was opposed by the federal Office of Subsistence Management staff and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

In the OSM staff analysis of the proposal, staff wrote that the current harvest data suggests that existing federal subsistence regulations are benefitting subsistence hunters, and a further reduction to non-subsistence hunters wasn’t necessary.

“The data do not support the perception that needs of federally qualified subsistence users are not being met,” stated the OSM analysis, which paralleled the perspective voice by Fish and Game.

“There is no evidence that hunting by non-federally qualified hunters has resulted in a biological concern for the deer population or affected harvest by federally qualified hunters,” stated the Fish and Game recommendation to oppose the proposal.

The department added that “adopting this proposal would unnecessarily limit non-federally qualified users, particularly Ketchikan hunters, from deer hunting opportunity in Unit 2.”

The Daily News was unable to attend the Federal Subsistence Board meeting, which began on April 10 and ended Friday at the Egan Center in Anchorage.

Transcripts of the meeting will be available on the Office of Subsistence Management website, probably in a couple of weeks, according to Caron McKee, wildlife division supervisor at the Office of Subsistence Management.

He said the board split the proposal into two parts, rejecting the proposed season length reduction but approving unanimously the harvest limit cut.

The board had an “extensive” discussion on the proposal, McKee said.

“They spent at least close to an hour if not more on this proposal at the meeting,” he said.

McKee declined to attempt to summarize the board’s rationale in approving the harvest limit reductions.

“I wouldn't want to try to describe it,” he said. “It was a very, very long discussion on this proposal.”

 The board comprises the chairman, Anthony Christianson of Hydaburg; public members, Charles Brower of Barrow and Rhonda Pitka of Beaver; Lynn Polacca, acting regional director of the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs; Karen Mouritsen, acting state director of the federal Bureau of Land Management; Bert Frost, regional director of the National Park Service; Greg Siekaniec, regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; and Beth Pendleton, Alaska regional forester with the U.S. Forest Service.