Subsistence in Alaska

The term, "subsistence," encompasses more than just food on the table. It involves the fundamentals of identity and culture, including the customs, traditions, values and beliefs that make Alaska Native peoples and rural communities unique. The subsistence way of life is rooted in a strong sense of place that extends back through the generations. It involves the social and economic ties that bind families and communities together. And, most importantly, it endures over time through the passing of traditional knowledge from one generation to the next.

ANILCA and Subsistence in Alaska's National Parks

Subsistence in Alaska's national park units is unique and administered by the Federal Subsistence Management Program and National Park Service (NPS) subsistence regulations. Nowhere else in the United States is there a federally mandated program to manage traditional subsistence harvests of fish and wildlife on federal lands, including national parks, monuments and preserves.
The direction for implementing the Federal Subsistence Program on Alaska's national park lands comes from the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) of 1980. ANILCA recognizes the significance of traditional Alaska Native and non-Native subsistence uses as a cultural value of most national park lands in Alaska and a vital piece of America's heritage. ANILCA also recognizes the importance of maintaining unimpaired ecosystems and natural and healthy populations of fish and wildlife. This is the foundation for providing opportunities for traditional subsistence activities and other uses for future generations.

ANILCA created an enduring legacy of national public lands in Alaska for the American people. Title II of ANILCA designated 10 new park areas and expanded three existing units. Congress respected the importance of these lands to Alaska rural residents and provided for traditional subsistence activities in nine of the new ANILCA park areas and two of the expanded areas. Four of the ANILCA park units—Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, Cape Krusenstern National Monument, Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve and Kobuk Valley National Park—have purpose statements that include protecting subsistence resources as a specific park function. In addition, Congress established a priority in Title VIII that gives local rural residents precedence for using fish or wildlife resources. This is commonly known as the "rural preference" and grants subsistence uses priority over other uses, such as non-local sport hunting and fishing.

Last updated: March 1, 2022