UPDATE June 26:
The Federal Subsistence Board gave Alaska resident hunters a big win Friday. The Board has decided not to restrict Unit 26 caribou hunting to only local subsistence hunters.
Recents hearings to consider that closure drew a storm of protest from hunters who rely on the Haul Road and surrounding area for caribou hunting.
Here is a detailed update posted on social media by the Resident Hunters Association this weekend:
“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. ”
Full News Release at:
“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.
Additional information on the Federal Subsistence Management Program may be found on the web at www.doi.gov/subsistence or by visiting www.facebook.com/subsistencealaska.
We previously reported the village support for Federal Subsistence measures to close GMU 23 and 26 to all hunters except local subsistence residents.
The area’s “hometown newspaper,” The Arctic Sounder, has done a good job reporting that story and has also done a good followup on the other side of the story. Both
Here’s the Sounder’s followup, include Alaska Backcountry Hunters president Larry Bartlett’s arguments that the hunting areas should be open to all hunters, and that arguments that aircraft used by transporters are not affecting the herd migrations:
Here is our and their original story:
Residents of several North Slope villages expressed strong support for keeping their exclusive right to hunt GMU 23 caribou, during a series of Federal Subsistence hearings this week and last.
The Arctic Sounder newspaper did lengthy interviews with Noatak residents and others supporting the continued closure of Unit 23 caribou hunting to all but Federally-certified local subsistence hunters. You can read those comments at
In brief, their concerns were:
Hunting for caribou is harder than it used to be, with herds not migrating to villages as in previous decades;
The herds are declining, a fact support by state surveys;
Non-local hunters, both Alaska residents and non-residents, who fly into the area to hunt are competing for hunting areas as well as caribou; and
Airplane activity may be disrupting migrations, which sporting hunter groups dispute.
The Federal Subsistence hearings were seeking comments on whether to continue the Unit 23 closure, and also add a closure on Federal lands in Unit 26, including the popular Dalton Highway.