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ISSUE Current Revised
2,500 to 7,000 = Rural or Non-Rural depending on Rural Characteristics
Over 7,000 = Non-Rural unless significant Rural Characteristics
“communities smaller than those always considered nonrural under ANILCA VIII will remain rural”

Current criteria are from the early 1980s. These figures are actually sub-classifications of rural communities and are not applied to urban areas, except by the Board in prior regulation. There are only two urbanized areas in Alaska (Fairbanks and Anchorage). If a threshold population is to be used, then use the one  from the Congressional hearings and from prior Board determinations which have designated nonrural communities–“communities smaller than those always considered nonrural under ANILCA VIII will remain rural”

Keep in mind that areas (not communities) which are industrial or institutional, such as Prudhoe Bay, are not considered residential by the Board and Title VIII and therefore do not have rural resident priority in consumptive uses of federal lands/waters. The US Census publishes established tables which are easy to tell if a place in Alaska has grown larger than those previously determined nonrural areas under Title VIII

RURAL CHARACTERISTICS (1)  Use of fish and wildlife
(2)  Development & diversity of economy
(3)  Community infrastructure
(4) Transportation
(5)  Educational institutions
No area determined as “Frontier or Remote” for purposes of federal services should be determined urban or “non-rural” by the Subsistence Board. “Frontier” used by USDA and HHS is an even more rural classification than “rural”

 ANILCA does not require consumptive use of lands and especially does not require a set percentage of consumptive use.

 The Court struck down the State of Alaska’s approach to defining rural areas. The State’s definition of “rural” included only those areas dominated by subsistence fishing and hunting, while excluding areas dominated primarily by a cash economy even if a substantial portion of that area’s residents engaged in subsistence activities. In making this decision, the Court said that “Congress did not limit the benefits of [Title VIII] to areas dominated by a subsistence economy. Instead, it wrote broadly, giving the statutory priority to all subsistence users residing in rural areas.”


There is no general characteristic of rural heritage or ruralness which is consistent, widely acceptable, and reproducible. Dictionary definitions are imprecise and vary with edition. The Encyclopedia Britannica, used in 1990 hearings, also has this flaw.

 Like other programs managed by USDA, services under Title VIII of ANILCA have geographic limitations that restrict eligibility to rural areas. The current 5 characteristics that are used to determine a community rural are insufficient and not consistent with current rural demographic research. It would be easier and more efficient for the Board to use characteristics that are consistent with the Congressionally-mandated federal services delivered to rural communities, such as those used by USDA and Health and Human Services which are statistically-derived and uniformly applied.

The land-use concept, used by the Census Bureau, identifies urban areas based on how densely settled the area is—the picture of settlement you get from an airplane.

Census Urbanized Areas have specific criteria. Urbanized areas are defined as populations of 50,000 or more people. It must have a core with a population of 2,500 or more people and a density of 1,000 persons per square mile. At least 1,500 core residents must reside outside institutional group quarters

All places outside of an urbanized area are considered rural.

However, within the rural classification, there are places where people live near each other and places where people live in even more isolated areas. ‘‘Frontier Area’’ The term ‘‘frontier’’ is used to describe territory characterized by some combination of low population size and high geographic remoteness.”

“Geographic remoteness” which characterizes most of Alaska  is frontier/remote, “statistically based, nationally consistent definition of ‘‘frontier territory;’’ one that is adjustable within a reasonable range, and applicable in different research and policy contexts. The U.S. Congress passed legislation directing the Secretary of HHS to issue regulations  in 2013 that would define the concept of ‘‘Frontier Area’’ The term ‘‘frontier’’ is used here to describe territory characterized by some combination of low population size and high geographic remoteness.”

In past, the subsistence Board has acted to determine which rural areas in Alaska are “urban” or non-rural, unlike other federal actions. Other federal actions when using criteria of “rural characteristics” do so to determine if enclaves within urban areas may be rural in nature and therefore can be eligible for federal services otherwise reserved for rural communities.

The Subsistence Board should determine which, if any, urban areas have sub-units which may be eligible for rural services, i.e., subsistence under ANILCA VIII. The Subsistence Board should not be reversing the Census determinations of rural.

AGGREGATION OF COMMUNITIES (1)  30% or more working people commute between communities
(2)  Shared common high school attendance area
(3) Communities in proximity and connected by road
The current criteria come from efforts to subclassify rural communities into types based upon administrative units (and not geography and landuse). They are not used to create urbanized areas. Therefore, aggregation is unneeded and should not occur.
TIMELINES 10 year review cycle, or out-of-cycle in special circumstances The board is currently required to “review” determinations. The Board doesn’t seem to be required under ANILCA VIII to “determine” every 10 years, or ever.

 To “review” existing determinations, they should use the final Decennial Census figures to see if any rural community has increased its population significantly (e.g., more than 25%).

Communities already designated as rural for purposes of ANILCA Title VIII by the Board or by Congress and the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture remain rural.

If the final Decennial Census shows a significant increase in population; such as a 25% increase in full-time residents, then the Board would initiate a review of status for those communities.

No area determined as “Frontier/Remote” for purposes of federal services may be determined urban or “non-rural” by the Board

If communities (as defined as Census Data Places) wish to petition for review of their historic non-rural status, they should be able to during this review period (after Decennial accepted as final). Saxman City is a Census Designated Place. They are currently not urban under the Census. They are enclosed by an administrative unit, Ketchikan Borough, which the Board has always considered “non-rural”. Alaska communities which find themselves inside of administrative units the Board designates as nonrural, should be allowed to petition for “rural access to federal lands and waters under ANILCA VIII”

Frontier And Remote

“The four FAR Levels are defined as follows (travel times are calculated one- way by the fastest paved road route): (1) Frontier Level 1 areas are 60 minutes or greater from Census Bureau- defined Urban Areas of 50,000 or more population; (2) Frontier Level 2 areas are 60 minutes or greater from Urban Areas of 50,000 or more people and 45 Minutes or greater from Urban Areas of 25,000– 49,999; (3) Frontier Level 3 areas are 60 minutes or greater from Urban Areas of 50,000 or more people; 45 minutes or greater from Urban Areas of 25,000– 49,999; and 30 minutes or greater from Urban Areas of 10,000–24,999; and (4) Frontier Level 4 areas are 60 minutes or greater from Urban Areas of 50,000 or more people; 45 minutes or greater from Urban Areas of 25,000– 49,999; 30 minutes or greater from Urban Areas of 10,000–24,999; and 15 minutes or greater from Urban Areas of 2,500–9,999. “

INFORMATION SOURCES U.S. Census data, as updated by Alaska Department of Labor Because this is a federal action, only federal data sources should be used. Therefore reduce the resources used to one (federal).

Decennial Census data are the source of rural and frontier/remote land-use classifications used by USDA.

In determining which data sources to use, the Board should consider being consistent in the use and definition of rural vs.”non-rural”. Both USDA and the HHS regularly provide services to rural and to remote/frontier communities. Consequently they have extensively studied and reviewed whether communities are eligible for Congressionally designated services to rural residents.

Historically, the use of DOL data came from before 1990. State population data are differently derived than US census. State population figures are modeled (estimates) whereas Decennial Census data are enumerated. The Census Bureau applies published criteria with statistical and other publicly available data to identify a nationally consistent set of urban areas, defined in as objective a manner as possible. Prior to each decennial census, the Census Bureau publishes in the Federal Register proposed criteria for delineating urban areas for public review and comment.

The Census Bureau’s urban-rural classification is fundamentally a delineation of geographical areas, identifying both individual urban areas and the rural areas of the nation.  The Census Bureau’s urban areas represent densely developed territory, and encompass residential, commercial, and other non-residential urban land uses.  The Census Bureau delineates urban areas after each decennial census by applying specified criteria to decennial census and other data.

9th Circuit—“Alaskans tended to use the word “rural” to refer to areas off the road system, rather than sparsely populated  agricultural areas, there  being few roads and little agriculture in Alaska. [24 See 5 Alaska Admin.  Code  §  99.020  (1982)  (“In this  chapter,  ‘rural’ means  outside  the  road  connected  area  o f  a  borough,  municipality,  or other community with a population of 7,000 or more, as determined by the  Alaska  Department  of  Community  and  Regional  Affairs.”)