JUNEAU, Alaska —A U.S. District judge has rejected a challenge by Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration to a special subsistence hunt authorized for a southeast Alaska tribe by a federal board last year.
The Organized Village of Kake last year requested an emergency hunt, citing food security concerns amid the pandemic, according to court documents. A limited season of up to 60 days was granted by the Federal Subsistence Board, and the harvest was distributed to 135 households in the village, documents state.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game challenged the board’s action, raising procedural objections, CoastAlaska reported. U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason, in a recent ruling, said the state’s claims regarding the hunt must be dismissed as moot, finding there was a not a “reasonable likelihood” that the board would take similar actions in the future.
She also rejected the state’s objections to the board excluding urban hunters from harvesting moose in an area of the Interior, which the subsistence board determined was needed for public safety.
The Native American Rights Fund, which offered legal assistance to the tribe, welcomed the ruling.
“The Organized Village of Kake, like many Alaska Native communities, relies on subsistence hunting to ensure food security for its tribal citizens,” Matthew Newman, a staff attorney with the fund, said in a statement. He said federal authorities did well to work with a Native community like Kake, concerned about its food security, and that the court “made the right decision when it held that the board acted within its authority.”
Aaron Sadler, a spokesperson for the Alaska Department of Law, said the state was considering an appeal. He called the ruling “contradictory” to the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act and said the state maintains the subsistence board “overstepped its authority.”