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Rural_Determination_summary_KARAC_meetingbook-FINAL-www.doi.gov (pdf file)

The material below is taken from the regional advisory council packets. Sections related to rural determination have been posted as pdf for reading at–
https://sealibrary.wordpress.com/2014/03/03/transcript-2013sep24-rural-hearing/ Transcript of Kodiak Federal Subsistence Board Rural Determination Hearing Public Comment, September 24, 2013

https://sealibrary.wordpress.com/2014/03/03/transcript-2013sept25-kodiak-rac-rural/
Transcript Kodiak/Aleutians Federal Subsistence Regional Advisory Council Meeting, 25 September 2013


RURAL DETERMINATION REVIEW REGIONAL ADVISORY COUNCIL ACTION SUMMARIES

Southeast

Regional councils should have deference in deciding which communities are rural. The Councils are the most appropriate groups to determine the characteristics of a rural community in their own region then evaluate the rural status criteria for all communities for their region.

Saxman is a rural community. The intent of ANILCA, Title VIII was to continue a way of life that existed before ANILCA was written. The community of Saxman existed before ANILCA was written. The residents of Saxman maintain a subsistence way-of- life that existed before ANILCA was written and their rights under the law must be recognized and retained.

Reliance on subsistence resources, history of use and cultural ties to resources are critical to fulfilling the traditional values of a rural subsistence lifestyle. The criteria must include consideration of social and cultural characteristics that allow the Board to determine that communities like Saxman remain rural.

A presumed rural determination population threshold is not necessary or appropriate for the Southeast Alaska region.

Aggregation or grouping of communities is arbitrary and does not lend itself to an objective or rational rural determination process. Communities can be in close geographic proximity yet still retain separate and distinct characteristics.

There should be no review or changes to a community’s rural status unless there is a significant change to the characteristics of a community. The review process can result in unnecessary financial hardships to a community.


Southcentral

The Council offers the following comments/recommendation for your consideration on the Rural Determination Process.

Overall Comments:

The recent shutdown of the Federal government has caused a delay in the public comment period. The Council strongly urges the Board to extend deadline on the comment period.

The Council suggests that the Federal Subsistence Board consider criteria for determining why a subsistence priority can be taken away, rather than criteria of who can have a subsistence priority.

Why should rural users defend themselves from the Federal government? The Regional Advisory Councils and the public should be in control (management actions i.e., be decision maker).
Timelines:

Why is it necessary to conduct the rural review every 10-years? Decisions should be left in place unless there are significant changes in a community’s status that warrants reconsideration by the Council and the Board.

Population Thresholds:

The 2,500 population threshold should still be used – communities under the criteria should remain rural.

The 2,500 – 7,000 population threshold is a grey area, (and should be analyzed to clearly define rural/non-rural for the purposes of subsistence uses)

Information Sources:

The current U.S. Census is not working for the Bristol Bay region for determining rural/non- rural. Information is coming from outside influences, but (information) should be coming from grass roots sources, such as Native Tribes, Alaska Native Organizations etc.

Kodiak-Aleutians

The Council voted to incorporate all public comments received at the fall 2013 Council meeting and the Rural Determination public hearing as its own comments. The following is a summary of those comments. In addition, the Council also incorporated as its own a set of talking points prepared by the Kodiak Rural Roundtable in preparation for the hearing, a copy of which is included after this summary.

Aggregation

Aggregating communities together for the purpose of counting population is not appropriate. Social and communal integration among communities is part of the subsistence way of life; to use that to count population and thus deem an area “non-rural” punishes communities for living a traditional way of life. Aggregation of communities should be completely eliminated.

Population Thresholds

Population should not be a primary factor in the Board’s consideration. Transient workers should not be included in the community population count, but are considered if included in the population data source (i.e., counting military personnel during a census). The current population thresholds are arbitrary and too low in many instances. The presumed non-rural population threshold should be set at 25,000.

Rural Characteristics

It was noted that the rural characteristic factors should be given more weight than population. The criteria need to be consistent and not subject to bias. Geographic remoteness should be a primary factor in determining the rural characteristics of a community. Island and archipelago communities are incredibly remote by their very nature and should be deemed automatically rural. For specific guidance on this issue, the Board should examine the “frontier” standards recently adopted by U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. (See 77 FR 214)

Other characteristics the Board should consider in identifying rural communities should include:

Impact of weather on transportation to and from the community

How supplies are delivered to the community (barge versus road system, for example)

Cost of living

Median income of the community

The reason why people choose to live there

External development forces that bring extra infrastructure and personnel into the community

Proximity to fish and wildlife resources

Use of fish and wildlife should not be considered, but access to those resources should be.

Percentage of sharing among community members

It was also noted that the Board should examine the 12 criteria currently used by the State of Alaska in determining rural status.

Timing of Review

There is no basis in Title VIII of ANILCA to conduct a decennial review. Once a community is determined rural, it should remain rural unless a significant change in population warrants review. A “significant change” should be defined as a 25% change from the last rural determination. The population of Kodiak has increased only 4% since the inception of the Federal Subsistence Management Program. Reviewing the rural status of a community every ten years causes a lot of frustration, pain, confusion, turmoil and anxiety for the communities undergoing review.

Information Resources

The Permanent Fund Dividend database should be utilized in counting residents of communities, as it will provide a more accurate picture of the number of long term residents. Additionally, the Board could and should rely on Tribal population databases where available.

Other Issues

Outside of these criteria currently used by the Board, there were other issues raised in the public meetings that warrant consideration. In many instances, people have moved away from their villages in order to seek work, but still own homes in their villages and return there to engage in subsistence activities. People should not be punished with losing their status as federally qualified subsistence users simply because they had to make this difficult choice to earn more income for their families.

In closing, the Council and the public could not express enough how importance subsistence is to the way of life for the Kodiak community. People have grown up living a subsistence way of life; it is part of their culture. They chose to live there because it provides them access to the resources that allow them to maintain that way of life. The Kodiak Archipelago has been and always will be rural because of its remote, isolated location.

Kodiak Rural Subsistence Roundtable
Suggested Talking Points for federal subsistence board rural determination Criteria public comment period:

On 9/24, @ 7pm at the KI, the Federal Subsistence Board will receive comment on these “criteria for rural determination”:

Population Threshold with three categories of population:

Population under 2,500 is considered rural

Population between 2,500 & 7,000 is considered rural or non rural depending on community characteristics
Population over 7,000 is considered non-rural, unless there are significant characteristics of a rural nature

Rural characteristics – considering the following:
Use of fish & wildlife
Development & diversity of economy

Community infrastructure
Transportation
Educational institutions

Aggregation of communities – focusing on how communities & areas are connected to each other using the following:

If communities are economically, socially & communally integrated, they will be considered in the aggregate to determine rural or non-rural status with this criteria:
30% or more working people commute from one community to another;

People share a common high school attendance area; and

Are communities in proximity & road-accessible to one another?

Timelines – Board review rural or non-rural status every 10 years, or out of cycle in
special circumstances. Should the Board change this time of review?

Information sources – most recent census conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau as updated by the Alaska Department of Labor. Should the board use the census data or something else?

Population Threshold:
Our suggested thoughts:

Regardless of any suggested population threshold, this criterion shouldn’t be the primary factor in determining a community rural!

Rural characteristics:

A rural island subsistence hub definition should be a primary criterion that would preempt population threshold; under this criterion, population wouldn’t be a consideration, but geographic remoteness would be the primary factor.

The current 5 characteristics that are used to determine a community rural are not adequate. The Board should be looking to use characteristics that are consistent with the State of Alaska so there is no conflict and inconsistency in determining rural/non-rural. If the Board adopts the 12 criteria that the State of Alaska currently uses, this process would be consistent and those criteria are more applicable to Alaskan communities. One example would be; the State of Alaska

criterion #6 discusses the variety of fish and game used by people in the community. Kodiak has a substantial availability of resources and is within imminent proximity to those who use those resources. These resources have been able to sustain our residents for more than 7000 years.

This factor is more important in defining our rural community’s culture than the number of people residing here.

Aggregation of communities:

Aggregation of communities should only apply to communities that are physically connected to urban centers. Aggregation should not be used to combine rural communities in an effort to increase their population and determine them non-rural.

Timelines:

The board should not review community’s rural determination every ten years. Once a community is determined rural it should remain rural unless there is a significant increase in population; such as a 25% increase in full-time residents.

Information sources:

In determining which data sources to use, the Board should consider being consistent in the use and definition of rural vs. non-rural. USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services who regularly provide services to rural communities and have extensively reviewed and determined communities to be rural, frontier, Island and non-rural.

These talking points have been provided by: “Kodiak Rural Subsistence Roundtable”

Including participation from Tribal Organizations, Fish and Game Advisory Committee, Pacific Islanders, Kodiak Island Borough, KRAC, Guides, Outfitters,

Hunters and Fisherman.

Providing information for an ethnically diverse community
Bristol Bay

The Bristol Bay Subsistence Regional Advisory Council provided formal comments/recommendations at its fall 2013 meeting.

Timelines:

Why is it necessary to conduct the rural review every 10-years? Decisions should be left in place unless there are significant changes in a community’s status that warrants reconsideration by the Council and the Board.

Population Thresholds:

The 2,500 population threshold should still be used – communities under the criteria should remain rural. The 2,500 – 7,000 population threshold is a grey area, (and should be analyzed to clearly define rural/non-rural for the purposes of subsistence uses)

Information Sources:

The current U.S. Census is not working for the Bristol Bay region for determining rural/non- rural. Information is coming from outside influences, but (information) should be coming from grass roots sources, such as Native Tribes, Alaska Native Organizations etc.

Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta

The Council sees room for variance in the current population threshold. In areas which demonstrate strong rural characteristics, population should not be considered.

The Council also feels that the rural characteristics, use of fish and wildlife and economic development, diversity, infrastructure, transportation, and educational institutions, are all good criteria to consider.

Aggregation:

The Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Regional Advisory Council feels that grouping of communities is not practical in this region because of the population size of a community such as Bethel.

Timeline: The 10 year review timeline should be changed to consideration when needed under special circumstances that trigger a review of population size or evaluation of other rural criteria.

Information sources:

The U.S. Census could be used but it is important to also consider other rural characteristics and data such as percentage of the population that is dependent on the subsistence resources that are in the area and use of fish and wildlife resources for subsistence.

Western Interior

The Western Interior Council deferred providing formal comment to their winter 2014 meeting where correspondence to the Federal Subsistence Board will be approved.

Seward Peninsula

The population threshold should be raised from 7,000 to 20,000 when communities are being considered to become non-rural.

Northwest Arctic

The Council requested more time to gather feedback from the region and submit formal comments. Formal comments will be crafted at its winter 2014 meeting.

Eastern Interior

The Council made recommendations on each of the rural criteria as follows:
Population threshold:

The Council decided by consensus to maintain the current population thresholds

The Council then concurred with the Wrangell St- Elias Subsistence Resource Commission (SRC) to change the population assessment process from every 10 years to just an initial assessment and then any needed further assessment if triggered by an unusual event or extenuating circumstances, such as a long term population trend up or down or spike in population. Further the Council concurred that the population assessment should be measured using a five-year running average to avoid evaluating a community on a temporary population flux such as during pipeline or road development. This would avoid a determination being made on temporary extreme high or low of boom/bust cycle.

Rural characteristics:

The Council agreed by consensus to remove education institutions from the list currently considered under rural characteristics noting that whether it be a local school, boarding school or university satellite campus that the staffing of those educational institutions is usually made up of a largely transient population. The council also agrees that some infrastructure is for temporary use – such as mining development or the example of the DEW line site and should be evaluated carefully as to what it actually brought for long term services to the community.

The Council agreed by consensus to add subsistence related activities such as gardening, gathering and canning of foods to put away for family and community for the year was indicative of a rural characteristic.

The Council concurred with the SRC that National Park Service resident zone communities should also be added as a rural characteristic, noting that there are 7 National Parks in Alaska that have recognized “resident zone” communities that have access to subsistence activities in the parks and are also evaluated based on long-term patterns of subsistence activity in the area.

Aggregation:

The Council agreed by consensus to eliminate aggregation of communities as a criteria for rural status and discussed that each community has its own unique rural characteristics and subsistence patterns and should not be arbitrarily lumped with others simply due to proximity or being located on a road system. The Council heard public testimony and stressed that being

located on or near a road should not be a criteria for rural determination in since the road itself does not define the rural nature and subsistence activities of a community.

Timeline:

The Council agreed by consensus to eliminate the 10 year review cycle and move to a baseline population census and then as needed if triggered by extenuating circumstances as discussed for population thresholds above.

Information sources:

The Council agreed by consensus to include other information sources such as local government data, school attendance numbers, property ownership taxes, permanent fund data, harvest data may all be useful sources of information to determine population and residence.

North Slope

The Council took no action at this time. The Council was concerned that more information was needed before making a recommendation to the Federal Subsistence Board, stressing that the public only received a briefing the night before and the Council had no opportunity to consult with their communities and tribes prior to their meeting. The Council stated they would go back to their communities and consult with them on the Rural information and encourage public comments be submitted by the November 1 deadline but were concerned they were not given sufficient opportunity to deliberate and comment as a Council. The Council wishes to continue the discussion at the winter 2014 meeting and deferred formal comment until then.
Kodiak/Aleutians Subsistence Regional Advisory Council

c/o U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Subsistence Management 1011 East Tudor Road, MS 121

Anchorage, Alaska 99503-6199



D R A F T

Mr. Tim Towarak, Chair Federal Subsistence Board
1011 E. Tudor Rd., MS121
Anchorage, Alaska 99503
Dear Chairman Towarak:

The Kodiak/Aleutians Subsistence Regional Advisory Council (Council) met in Kodiak on September 25-26, 2013, to, among other things, receive a presentation on the Federal Subsistence Board’s Rural Determination review process and provide feedback on that review. Additionally, members of the Council attended a public hearing on the review, where over 80 people attended and nearly 20 individuals from the greater Kodiak community testified. The Council submits this letter to the Board as a comment on the Rural Determination review process.

Before discussing the different components on which the Board sought input, it is worth noting a few things about what the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) says, and does not say, about this rural determination process. Title VIII of ANILCA does not contain any of the following terms: census, decade, urban, non-rural, determination, or community. Rather, it stresses the rural status of individuals and residents. It mandates the “continuation of opportunity for a subsistence way of life by residents of rural Alaska” and the “utilization of public lands in Alaska” in a manner that causes “the least adverse impact possible on rural residents.”

At its September 2013 meeting, the Council voted to incorporate all public comments received at the Council meeting and the Rural Determination public hearing as its own comments. The following is a summary of those comments, which includes issues identified by the Kodiak Rural Roundtable. The Council also incorporates by reference any summary of public comments made at the Kodiak hearing that may be prepared by the Office of Subsistence Management.

Aggregation

Aggregating communities together for the purpose of counting population is not appropriate, and should only apply in relation to urban areas. The current criteria come from efforts to subclassify rural communities into types based on administrative units, not geography and land use. These criteria are not used to identify urbanized areas. Social and communal integration among communities is part of the subsistence way of life; to use that to count population and thus deem an area “non-rural” punishes communities for living a traditional way of life.

Aggregation of communities should be completely eliminated for areas that have previously been deemed rural.

Population Thresholds

Population should not be a primary factor in the Board’s consideration. Transient workers should not be included in the community population count, but are considered if included in the population data source (i.e., counting military personnel or transient fishermen during a census). The current population thresholds are arbitrary and too low in many instances. The presumed non-rural population threshold should be set at no less than 25,000 (if including transients).

Rural Characteristics

The rural characteristic factors should be given more weight than population. The criteria need to be consistent and not subject to staff interpretive bias. Dictionary definitions are imprecise and vary with edition. Geographic remoteness should be a primary factor in determining the rural characteristics of a community. Island and archipelago communities (as well as most bush communities) are incredibly remote by their very nature and should be deemed automatically rural because of difficulties of access to urban centers, transportation, and centuries of reliance on subsistence resources. The five criteria currently utilized by the Board in identifying the rural nature of a community are not adequate in that they are demographic only in nature and do not fully incorporate the culture and unique characteristics of a community. They do not adequately capture what constitutes a “rural” community.

For specific guidance on this issue, the Board should examine the “frontier” standards recently adopted by U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. (See 77 FR 214) The term “frontier” is used to describe a territory that is characterized by low population size and density and high geographic remoteness. No area determined to be “frontier” or “remote” for purposes of receiving Federal services should be determined “urban” or “nonrural” by the Board.

It is also worth noting that the U.S. Census Bureau, which provides the primary data relied upon by the Board in making its rural determinations, employs a land use concept that defines urban areas based on population density. Under this approach, the Census Bureau “urbanized areas” are defined as populations of 50,000 or more people, with a core population of at least 2,500 people and a density of 1,000 persons per square mile. At least 1,500 core residents must reside outside institutional group quarters (like a military barracks or university dormitory). With this approach, all populations outside of urban areas thus defined are deemed rural.

Other characteristics the Board should consider in identifying rural communities should include:

Impact of weather on transportation to and from the community

Length of time the community has existed; i.e., thousands of years versus only a few decades

How supplies are delivered to the community (barge versus road system, for example)

Cost of living

Median income of the community

The reason why people choose to live there

External development forces that bring extra infrastructure and transient personnel into the community

Proximity to fish and wildlife resources

Use of subsistence resources (fish, wildlife, intertidal species), as well as access to those resources

Percentage of sharing of subsistence resources among community members

It was also noted that the Board should examine the 12 criteria currently used by the State of Alaska in determining rural status. These criteria not only incorporate demographic data in decision making, but also include examinations of the percentage of users and extent of sharing. One example can be found in criteria number 6, which discusses the variety of fish and game used by people in the community. Kodiak has a substantial availability of resources and is within imminent proximity to those who use those resources. These resources have sustained the residents of Kodiak for over 7,000 years. This factor is far more important in identifying the rural nature of a community than the number of people who live there.

Timing of Review

Title VIII of ANILCA does not require the Board to conduct a decennial review, it only requires that there should be a “review.” Once a community is determined rural, it should remain rural unless a significant change in population warrants review. A “significant change” should be defined as a 25% increase in population from the last rural determination. The population of Kodiak has increased only 4% since the inception of the Federal Subsistence Management Program. Reviewing the rural status of a community every ten years causes a lot of frustration, pain, confusion, turmoil and anxiety for the communities undergoing review.

Information Resources

The Permanent Fund Dividend database could be utilized in counting residents of communities, as it would provide a more accurate picture of the number of long term residents. Additionally, the Board could utilize Tribal and Native association population databases where available. It was also suggested that because this is a Federal action, only Federal data sources should be utilized, such as the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S.D.A. and U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, where rural definitions are already provided.

Other Issues

Outside of these criteria currently used by the Board, there were other issues raised in the public meetings that warrant consideration. In many instances, people have moved away from their villages in order to seek work, but still own homes in their villages and return there to engage in subsistence activities. People should not be punished with losing their status as Federally qualified subsistence users simply because they had to make this difficult choice to earn more income for their families.

In closing, the Council and the public could not express enough how importance subsistence is to the way of life for the Kodiak community. People have grown up living a subsistence way of

life; it is part of their culture. They chose to live there because it provides them access to the resources that allow them to maintain that way of life. The Kodiak Archipelago has been and always will be rural because of its remote, isolated location.

In conclusion, the Council thanks the Board for the opportunity to provide this comment on the review of the Rural Determination process. This is a matter of utmost importance to the Council and is crucial in ensuring that residents of this region continue to enjoy the rural subsistence priority promised in Title VIII of ANILCA. If you have any questions, please contact me through Carl Johnson, Council Coordination Division Chief, Office of Subsistence Management, at (907) 786-3676.

Sincerely,

Speridon Mitchell Simeonoff, Chair Kodiak/Aleutians Subsistence Regional Advisory Council

cc: Federal Subsistence Board

Kodiak/Aleutians Subsistence Regional Advisory Council Eugene R. Peltola, Jr., Assistant Regional Director, OSM Karen Hyer, Acting Deputy Assistant Regional Director, OSM Carl Johnson, Council Coordination Division Chief, OSM Interagency Staff Committee

Administrative Record

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