Rural Alaska Outreach Day – Aug 12, 2009


Jul 25, 2009

Remember a while back we voiced skepticism when the NPFMC, in answer to waves of criticism for their lack of rural input in determining the salmon bycatch cap, announced the creation of a Rural Community Outreach Committee?

NPFMC: Fishing Dismal – Let’s Take a Road Trip!

The committee will hold meetings in urban areas and invite tribal and Native leaders, he said. Council members and staff will also travel to predominantly Native rural Alaska to meet with people there.

So where do they kick it off? In Anchorage on August 12.

A group meant to inform rural Alaskans and Alaska Natives about federal fishery issues will meet for the first time in August.

The seven-member Rural Community Outreach Committee will serve as an advisory group to the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

And what else that might be of interest to rural Alaskans is happening August 12? President Obama’s Rural Tour is making a stop in Bethel.

The August 12 visit to Bethel will include Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Housing and Urban Development secretary Shaun Donovan, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack. They’ll be discussing rural infrastructure, green jobs and climate change, the White House said.

It seems that every time there’s a problem in Alaska they create a new committee, agency or board. Six months from now this will probably be the RCOC – a bland addition to Alaska’s recipe for alphabet soup. Will it be an improvement?

Starting off with the first meeting in Anchorage at a time when most rural dwellers are busy preparing for winter isn’t very sensitive, especially when the agenda for this meeting will set the stage for future meetings.

On the agenda:

Review purpose of the committee per Council direction:

1)  to advise the Council on how to provide opportunities for better understanding and participation from AK Native and rural communities;

2)  to provide feedback on community impacts sections of specific analyses; and

3)  to provide recommendations regarding which proposed Council actions need a

specific outreach plan and prioritize multiple actions when necessary.

•  Discuss how the meetings will be conducted (e.g., consensus vs. vote; no-host, etc.)

•  Discuss frequency & location of meetings

•  Budget information/considerations

Probably the most significant indicator that this will be a less than effective solution to the problems facing rural Alaskans is that the members of the committee are not struggling to feed their families and heat their homes come winter.

The committee is no-host, as are all Council committees, so members must pay for their own travel and accommodations.

The NPFMC newsletter states clearly what the committee isn’t:

Note that this committee is not intended as the primary mechanism for community input on specific Council actions, instead, it is intended to assist the Council in improving the overall outreach process and analyses relevant to community and Native concerns.

So here’s a list of committee members who have the means to serve on this committee – are they your neighbors?

Committee members are as follows: Eric Olson (Chair), Duncan Fields (Council member), Pete Probasco, Paula Cullenberg, Jennifer Hooper, Ole Olsen, and Tom Okleasik. The intent is to have a committee meeting over the summer and report back to the Council in the fall/winter.

Rural Alaskans, pool your money and send a delegation to Bethel on August 12. Once there, corner Ken Salazar and explain to him about bycatch and why he needs to look closely at the NPFMC bycatch cap before he approves it. The ROCO is not the answer!

~ Jane


18 Responses to “Rural Alaska Outreach Day – Aug 12, 2009”

  1. alaskapi Says:

    The names of folks on the new committee are respected Alaskan names regarding a broad variety of coastal and fishing issues…

  2. alaskapi Says:

    but the question remains…

    Why August while federal Rural tour is going on…?
    These folks should be at THAT place- themselves…

    IF outreach to everyday rural Alaskans becomes a reality AND those voices are heard in parity with other stakeholders in the issues the NPFMC deals with , I will celebrate til the fish return to spawn!

    There ARE so many commissions and commitees already and each has a compartmentalized chore and outlook…
    What could make this committee work better than those already in place?

  3. Martha Unalaska Yard Sign Says:

    I would like to know who is on the list to be notified of these meetings. There must be a press release to certain media, and an additional mailing list. How do we find this out?

    The idea behind these are meetings is to help rural Alaska, but it seems odd that only way of announcing these meetings is in the Tundra Drums? Is there a better way to communicate with villages and villagers who might really want to go to these meetings? Do the tribal leaders know about them? Do the villages with City councils know about them?

    A bit off topic – but did anyone ever get information on the Federal Board of Subsistence emergency meeting in Emmonak at the end of June?

  4. alaskapi Says:


    “The group’s role includes advising the council on how to improve the “understanding and participation” of Alaska Natives and rural Alaskans, and to describe how council decisions will affect communities, according to an agenda of the first meeting.

    The committee plans to take input from residents in rural Alaska, members have said. But the first meeting is set for Aug. 12 in Anchorage. ”

    The August meeting has every appearance of being primarily organizational- in and of themselves.

    Many of the names on the list belong to people who truly are well versed in fisheries and subsistence issues…
    The murkiness of “advisoriness” concerns me. NPFMC has a scientific advisory panel by statute which doesn’t, from out here on the street, seem to have much sway with decisions…

    The ranking of criteria for judgement in NPFMC council decisions seems to veer too far toward “corporate’ health – without a balance with sustainablity of all fisheries involved and sensible notions about effects on communities in or outside the CDQ zone…

    If this turns out to be the right mix of folks to make a difference it will be exciting…
    But even a great group of people can bang their heads against a system weighted, by nature, towards compartmentalizing human activities…
    There are plans for all kinds of fisheries under the MSA- ALL in the same area…
    When does it ALL get looked at critically…?

  5. Jim Says:

    I’m concerned this group may end up ineffective and ultimately, despite best intentions, exploited by the Council (who may claim it was fair and formally factored in Rural Alaska concerns).

    I know less than a fraction of what folks like Alaskapi understand here, but it seems to me the basic question is: Is Pollock bycatch relatively harmless and insignificant, or is it harmful?

    The Pollock industry may have done huge damage to Yukon kings. Unfortunately “science” may be providing an umbrella to the NPFMC to claim otherwise, and this advisory group may give them additional PR leverage.

  6. alaskapi Says:

    Jim-we’ll have to watch carefully…

  7. alaskapi Says:

    There is much to be hopeful about the upcoming rural meeting in Bethel.

    The personalities and directives of the current federal administration are of a distinctly different flavor of those of recent years.

    The relationship of the fed and American Native peoples ,derived from the few short words in the Constitution addressing it, is not clear to most folks including ,sadly, far too many who have had the responsibility of directing programs and so on from the seats of offices in DC.

    At this point, Mr Echo Hawk is a breath of fresh air and I, for one, hope he is able to reform the primary agency of contact with Native peoples to the level where it may meet it’s mandate …

  8. Martha Unalaska Yard Sign Says:

    So…if someone in rural Alaska were to choose between these conflicting meetings, the Bethel meeting sounds like the one to attend!

  9. alaskapi Says:

    I don’t think they are really invited to the Anchorage meeting… it sounds like an organizational meeting…
    The Bethel meeting may not be open to everyday folks… but sure would encourage people to contact their representitives , of all types, and try to be part of something which holds real promise…

    Now, if the integrated approach to America’s oceans policies the current administration in DC is talking about gathers steam , we might see change on another important front…

  10. Martha Unalaska Yard Sign Says:

    Too many meetings, not enough fish. Sigh.

  11. Kath the Scrappy Says:

    The timing seems ‘odd’ to me also, both because of the same date but also during the summer season. Is it just so the state can claim “Yes, we’re addressing these rural issues! We’ve even set up yet another new committee to go to endless meetings where nothing results!”

    I’m hoping that the Bethel mtg is more productive. Let the Feds hear 1st hand what the problems are from real people that are suffering the shortage of fishing along with their neighbors. Does it seem like Nick Tucker will be there to talk too?

  12. alaskapi Says:

    Not your usual meet the bigwigs type visit shaping up :-D
    I worried about that… but this is going to be different …

    “Alaska Inter-Tribal Council Chairman Mike Williams plans to take him to the Kuskokwim River villages of Akiachak, Akiak and Kwethluk.

    “We’re going to be making visits to the fish camps and also meet with the AVCP traditional chief Joe Lomack in Akiachak, who is my uncle. And after that we’re gonna travel up to Akiak to meet with the community members to see some of the recovery projects up here, and to meet with tribal leaders,” Williams said.”

    Mr Echo Hawk will meet everyday folks in their everyday surroundings.
    Good on that!

  13. Michigander Says:

    I read a story in ADN in regards to Pebble Mine. Would this be an opportunity to bring that issue up?
    Also, recommend someone from here comment at Mudflats about this. People are interested and wondering how to help.

  14. Martha Unalaska Yard Sign Says:


    We could certainly ask Victoria to provide a summary of the issues from the perspective of her village which is in this region, but I am not sure whether an issue this huge could be summarized without a lot of background introduced also. The perspective of the rural villagers is not going to be the same as folks who live in urban areas down south or even in Alaska – there are forces at work and desires for rural Alaska that are always bubbling beneath what we can see from the outside.

    Hey, how’s that for a clear and concise answer? I’m beginning to sound a little like Alaska’s rural advisor, John Moller. “I don’t know, it’s not my area of expertise, other people do that, I haven’t heard, I’m not sure…”

  15. Michigander Says:

    Thanks for responding Martha Unalaska (o:

    I didn’t know if it was relevant or not and didn’t want a missed opportunity if that was indeed what it might be and trying to help.

    Hope you can make sense out of THAT mess of the English language! Grandkids running about here.

  16. Martha Unalaska Yard Sign Says:

    @ Michigander

    Thank you for bringing it up – and it is VERY relevant to Western Alaska, aka Bristol Bay. It’s relevant to all of us who consider Alaska’s salmon & Bristol Bay world treasures. We use gold in almost everything, so it’s a very important mineral – but mining companies have a horrible track record and so the fight goes on.

  17. Kath the Scrappy Says:

    I posted this at Mudflats & Shannyn’s sites as well:

    Today’s Seattle Times had a BIG & seriously good write up on Pebble Mine & Bristol Bay, from the LA Times, – with a big picture of Bristol Bay. Seems like the recent lawsuit is FINALLY getting the issues into the MSM. Yippee!

    “Lawsuit seeks to halt huge Alaskan mine”

  18. alaskapi Says:

    it’s really exciting to see this story get out there! The suit is a landmark for Alaska too in that it asks for a balance use of resources our state constitution says are to be used for the benefit of all of us.
    While over 70% of locals are against the mine the pressure is enormous within the “business as usual” mindset here to go ahead…

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