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Rural Preference to Fish and Game Granted by the
Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA)

The "subsistence debate" has raged in Alaska for decades, and is as divisive today as it was in 1980 when Title 8 of ANILCA granted extra hunting and fishing privileges based on a person's location in the state, in direct contradiction to the Alaska state constitution, which grants "common use" of fish and wildlife to all Alaskans, regardless of where they live.

At the heart of this issue lies a right the federal government, however clumsily, was attempting to preserve: the right of certain people to subsist off the land and waters in a customary and traditional manner. This is still a right and privilege that many Alaskans (both Native and non-Native) enjoy not as a casual sport, but as an absolute necessity. Because Alaska is largely unroaded, and many places are accessible only by air or water, subsistence is still a vital, undiminished part of our heritage. However, it is also a vital part of the lives of tens of thousands who do not meet the federal government's definition of "rural." It was the federal government's mistake to believe that Alaska's customary subsistence traditions are based on location, or race, alone.

In recognition of this, various individuals—from former governors Wally Hickel to Jay Hammond—have suggested a solution: in times of shortage, preference to fish and game use shall be given to residents residing in or near the affected Game Management Unit; so-called "Local Preference." This solution is acceptable and deemed fair by a great many Alaskans, and upholds the "common use" intent of our state constitution while still ensuring that subsistence use of a resource is the "highest and best use" in times of shortage.

Alaska Backcountry Hunters and Anglers supports this common-sense solution to what has long been a divisive issue, and will support efforts to see the "Local Preference" idea codified in order to pave the way for our state to regain the right to again manage fish and wildlife on federal lands within Alaska.

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