Federal Subsistence Board Rejects Request to Close Federal Public Lands
in Unit 26A and Unit 26B to Caribou Hunting by Non-Federally Qualified Users
The Federal Subsistence Board (Board) rejected Temporary Special Action Request WSA17-04, which requested that Federal public lands in Unit 26A and Unit 26B be closed to caribou hunting by non-Federally qualified users during the July 1, 2017 – June 30, 2018 regulatory year.
The Board concluded that recently enacted conservation actions by the Alaska Board of Game and Board for the Western Arctic, Teshekpuk, and Central Arctic Caribou Herds need to be given time to determine if they are effective in reducing the caribou harvest, and in slowing down or reversing the population declines in these caribou herds before additional closures are enacted. Closure of Federal public lands to non-Federally qualified users would not likely have as much of an effect as recent Alaska Board of Game actions that protect cows and reduce the overall caribou harvest. Much of the non-Federally qualified user harvest occurs on State lands, and a closure runs the risk of concentrating hunters onto State lands, which are adjacent to some villages, thereby increasing impacts to these communities.
The number of caribou harvested by non-Federally qualified users is not biologically significant for the Western Arctic and Teshekpuk Caribou Herds in Unit 26A and the potentially significant impact of non-Federally qualified user harvest from the Central Arctic Caribou Herd in Unit 26B has now been addressed by newly enacted State regulations for the 2017-2018 regulatory year. The Board recommends that these changes take effect in lieu of enacting additional regulations at this time.
Federal Subsistence Board Approves Partial Closure of Federal Public Lands
to Caribou Hunting in Unit 23
The Federal Subsistence Board (Board) has approved Temporary Special Action Request WSA17-03 with modification to close all Federal public lands within a 10 mile wide corridor (5 miles either side) along the Noatak River from the western boundary of Noatak National Preserve upstream to the confluence with the Cutler River; within the northern and southern boundaries of the Eli and Agashashok River drainages, respectively; and within the Squirrel River drainage to caribou hunting except by Federally qualified subsistence users for the July 1, 2017 – June 30, 2018 regulatory year. The Board supports a more targeted closure at this time and would prefer to leave the question of a closure of all Federal public lands in Unit 23 to be addressed through the 2018-2020 regulatory cycle. The Board believes that the request, as modified, is a reasonable compromise for all users.
Closure of some Federal public lands for the continuation of subsistence uses is warranted. Continued complaints about conflicts surrounding the Noatak, Eli, Agashashok and Squirrel River drainages and the apparent benefit of the 2016-2017 Federal closure to Noatak residents, as evidenced by letters and public testimony, support the closure of Federal public lands in these areas. Additionally, the short-term effects of aircraft on caribou behavior can negatively affect hunting success and harvest. However, closure of all Federal public lands in Unit 23 represents an unnecessary restriction on non-Federally qualified users.