On appeal, state wins right to challenge subsistence hunting decision for Kake

People cut up meat in a kitchen.
Kake residents and elders process moose that were harvested during an emergency hunting season in 2020. The meat was distributed among the community. (Organized Village of Kake)

The state of Alaska is claiming victory in a subsistence case argued before the 9th Circuit court of appeals. 

The state challenged the authority of the Federal Subsistence Board to open an emergency hunt aimed at helping people in Kake get food in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. The board allowed a 60-day emergency hunt for moose and deer.

By the time the case was before a judge, the hunt was over. But the 9th Circuit ruled this week that the judge was wrong to dismiss the challenge as moot, or no longer applicable. The appeals court said the state should be able to make its case to a District Court judge, because similar circumstances could arise again.

The appellate court also ruled on the state’s challenge to a Federal Subsistence Board decision to close moose and caribou hunting in in Game Unit 13 to all but rural subsistence users.  The area borders the Glenn and Richardson highways and is popular with urban hunters. 

“This decision was made regardless of science or research from individuals on the ground and impacts how Alaskans plan their hunts and fill their freezers,” Attorney General Treg Taylor said in an emailed statement Wednesday. “Our assertion is that Alaskans know how to manage our resources.”

The District Court decided the subsistence board had the authority to issue the partial closure. But the appellate court said that challenge should have been dismissed as moot. The closure was over, and the appeals court said the regulatory circumstances were unlikely to occur again.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org.

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