Population Shifts Alter Rural, Subsistence Designations

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
Alaska Natives are on the move from rural villages to more urban population centers. The 2010 census confirms the changes in how Alaska’s people are distributed, but how the changes will upset the balance of rural-urban is still shaking out.

The federal subsistence board met Wednesday in a workshop session to begin the process of reviewing the rural status of Alaska communities, based on new census information. The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act mandates that only rural communities are eligible for subsistence priority on federal lands. To begin the process, the panel first heard about how 2000 census numbers shaped the current status of communities.

Under current federal rural determinations, all but 10 communities in Alaska are designated as rural. But an influx of Alaska Natives from northern areas is causing concerns among some Alaska Natives in the state’s southern area. Southcentral Regional Advisory Council chair Ralphe Lohse told the board that newly relocated Alaska Natives are putting pressure on Kenai Peninsula subsistence resources, and that too many people moving into an area can jeopardize that community’s rural status.

Federal subsistence law has a threshold population figure of 7000. A community larger than that is presumed non-rural, and some at the board workshop questioned that figure.

The Federal Subsistence Board is charged with administering ANILCA regulations, but it can only propose regulation changes to the legislation. Only Congress has the power to change ANILCA.

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