Alaska Subsistence
A National Park Service Management History
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Chapter 7:

C. Establishing the Federal Regional Advisory Councils

As noted above, the April 1992 Record of Decision that followed the issuance of the Final EIS on subsistence management stated that there would be ten federally-sponsored regional advisory councils, one for each region in Alaska. As shown in the Final EIS, the boundaries of these regions would reflect those that had been established by the State of Alaska, except that both the Arctic and Southwest regions "would be divided into two regions respectively to reflect the subsistence use patterns of each region." The Record of Decision, issued shortly afterward, added two additional regions at the behest of Native subsistence user groups. One new region was created by cleaving the old Interior Region into western and eastern regions, and another new region appeared in the western portion of the old Arctic region. These two changes were made "to provide for more participation by rural residents in subsistence management" and "to reflect more closely the differences in social and cultural patterns of the of the affected subsistence users." [50]

Neither the Final EIS nor the Record of Decision, however, gave specific direction on how the various Regional Advisory Councils should be established. The Federal Subsistence Board, entrusted with that responsibility, began that task less than three weeks after the Record of Decision was issued. Hoping that the appointment of regional council members would proceed quickly, a member of the board staff noted on April 21 that "we anticipate the need for Council training and use as early as late summer 1992," and on May 28 the same staffer predicted that the councils "hopefully ... will be operational and functioning by early fall." [51] Such predictions, however, proved to be unduly optimistic.

staff coordinators
Since August 1993, staff coordinators have been assigned to each of the ten federally-designated subsistence regions in Alaska. This photo, taken during the late 1990s, shows (left to right) Vince Mathews, Fred Clark, Cliff Edenshaw (holding child), Barbara Armstrong, Helga Eakon, and John Andrew. USF&WS (OSM)

Board staff had three major tasks to complete before the new regional advisory councils could begin meeting. First, federal charters for each region needed to be approved and filed with the appropriate standing committees in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. [52] Second, qualified staff needed to be hired to assist each of the newly-appointed councils. And third, the subsistence users in each of the state's ten advisory-council regions had to be canvassed; from that number, a full complement of qualified, geographically-diverse members (between seven and thirteen, depending on the region) needed to be selected.

The first task completed was the completion of charters for the ten newly-constituted councils. By early July 1992, charters had been prepared and had been deemed acceptable to the five agencies whose representatives comprised the Federal Subsistence Board; in addition, representatives of the USDI's Office of the Solicitor and the Office of General Council had also approved the proposed charters. Later that month they were forwarded to Washington, and on January 19, 1993, Interior Secretary Manuel Lujan, Jr. signed all ten charters.

As noted in the charters, council members were to meet "at least twice each year." The councils had six functions. They were expected to:

1) review, evaluate, and make recommendations on proposals for regulations, policies, management plans, and other matters relating to subsistence uses of fish and wildlife on public lands within the region,

2) provide a forum for the expression of opinions and recommendations by persons interested in any matter related to the subsistence uses of fish and wildlife on public lands within the region,

3) encourage local and regional participation in the decisionmaking process,

4) prepare an annual report detailing the council's activities,

5) appoint members to one or more subsistence resource commissions, and

6) make recommendations on customary and traditional use determinations.

According to the various charters, each regional council would have estimated annual operating costs of $100,000, which included one person-year of staff support. [53]

The process of selecting candidates for the regional councils began in the late spring of 1992. By early June, board staff had assembled a list of key contacts in each region. [54] Beginning in August, various rural newspapers and radio stations began to get the word out. Then, in October, board staff held a series of thirteen meetings across Alaska that was designed, in part, to solicit interest in, and nominations for, the various regional council positions. [55] Potential candidates were given until November 15 to submit applications, and a total of 260 candidates applied for 84 open positions. Board staff members then screened the candidates and evaluated their qualifications. This process was largely completed by the end of the 1992 calendar year, but Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt did not officially appoint the new council members until August 11, 1993. [56]

The selection process for the various regional coordinator positions took place during the same general period as that of the regional council members. In July 1992, the various local advisory committee chairs and other key contacts were apprised that the board was interested in hiring four regional coordinators that would act as support staff for the various regional councils. A fifth coordinator, for southeastern Alaska, would be chosen by the U.S. Forest Service. The positions were publicized in the rural Alaska media over the next two months, and the various public meetings in October addressed the coordinator positions as well as the regional council member positions. [57] Potential applicants were given until November 1 to apply for the four board-appointed positions, which were to be located in Anchorage, Bethel, Fairbanks, and Kotzebue. The change in administration, and perhaps a re-examination of available funds and applicants, resulted in internal delays, and the selection of the five regional subsistence coordinators was not announced until late May of 1993. (See Appendix 2.) The selected candidates were Carol Jorgenson (Southeast Region), in Juneau; Helga Eakon (Southcentral, Kodiak-Aleutian Islands, and Bristol Bay Regions), in Anchorage; John Andrew (Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Region), in Bethel; David James (Western Interior and Eastern Interior Regions), in Fairbanks; and Barbara Armstrong (Seward Peninsula, Northwest Arctic, and North Slope Regions), in Kotzebue. Most began work within a month of their appointment. Staff support for each regional council consisted of a social scientist and a biologist as well as a coordinator; staff social scientists included Ron Thuma, Taylor Brelsford, George Sherrod and Helen Armstrong, while staff biologists included Robert Willis, Dave Fisher, Conrad Guenther, and Steve Kovach. [58]

No sooner had the various coordinators been hired than the board took steps to implement the regional advisory council system. On July 27-29, the board held a training session for the new coordinators. [59] Two months later, the first regional advisory councils meetings were held. The first meeting, that of the Southcentral regional council, was held in Anchorage on September 15. Meetings of the other nine councils were held over the next several weeks. The last regional council to convene was the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta council; it met in Bethel on October 20. (The meetings were largely occupied with introducing the new members to the new regime and the consideration of a myriad of proposals for regulation changes for the 1994-95 regulatory year.) All of the councils promised to meet again during the winter of 1993-94. To ensure that all members were aware of standards and guidelines under which that and all future meetings would be conducted, the Office of Subsistence Management prepared a Regional Advisory Council operations manual, a draft copy of which was completed in November 1993. [60]

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Last Updated: 14-Mar-2003