[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 216 (Thursday, November 7, 2013)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 66885-66887]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-26680]


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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Forest Service

50 CFR Part 242

DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 100

[FWS-R7-SM-2013-0126; FXFR13350700640-145-FF07J00000]


Subsistence Management Program for Public Lands in Alaska; Rural 
Determination Process

AGENCIES:  Forest Service, Agriculture; Fish and Wildlife Service, 
Interior.

ACTION: Advanced notice of proposed rulemaking; extension of comment 
period.

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SUMMARY: The Federal Subsistence Board is extending the comment period 
through December 2, 2013, on its earlier request for comments (77 FR 
77005, Dec. 31, 2012) on the rural determination process. These 
comments will be used by the Board, coordinating with the Secretaries 
of the Interior and Agriculture, to assist in making decisions 
regarding the scope and nature of possible changes to improve the rural 
determination process.

DATES: Comments: The comment period for the document published December 
31, 2012 (77 FR 77005), is extended through, and comments must be 
received or postmarked by, December 2, 2013.
    Public meetings: The Federal Subsistence Regional Advisory 
Councils, through the Board, has rescheduled public meetings to receive 
comments and make recommendations to the Federal Subsistence Board on 
this notice on several dates between November 5 and November 19, 2013. 
See Public Meetings under SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION for specific 
information on dates and locations of the public meetings.

ADDRESSES: Comments: Comments on this extension must be received or 
postmarked by December 2, 2013. You may submit comments by one of the 
following methods:
     Electronically: Comments addressing this notice may be 
sent to subsistence@fws.gov.
     By hard copy: U.S. mail or hand-delivery to: USFWS, Office 
of Subsistence Management, 1011 East Tudor Road, MS 121, Attn: Theo 
Matuskowitz, Anchorage, AK 99503-6199, or hand delivery to the 
Designated Federal Official attending any of the Federal Subsistence 
Regional Advisory Council public meetings.
    Comments received will be available for public review during public 
meetings held by the Board on this issue. This generally means that any 
personal information you provide us will be available during public 
review.
    Public meetings: See SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION for specific 
information on dates and locations of the public meetings. If the Board 
decides additional meetings are required, public announcements will be 
made that provide meeting dates and locations.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Chair, Federal Subsistence Board, c/o 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Attention: Gene Peltola, Office of 
Subsistence Management; (907) 786-3888; or subsistence@fws.gov. For 
questions specific to National Forest System lands, contact Steve 
Kessler, Regional Subsistence Program Leader, USDA, Forest Service, 
Alaska Region; (907) 743-9461; or skessler@fs.fed.us.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    Under Title VIII of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation 
Act (ANILCA) (16 U.S.C. 3111-3126), the Secretary of the Interior and 
the Secretary of Agriculture (Secretaries) jointly implement the 
Federal Subsistence Management Program. This Program provides a 
priority for taking of fish and wildlife resources for subsistence uses 
on Federal public lands and waters in Alaska. The Secretaries published 
temporary regulations to implement this Program in the Federal Register 
on June 29, 1990 (55 FR 27114), and final regulations in the Federal 
Register on May 29, 1992 (57 FR 22940). The Secretaries have amended 
these regulations a number of times. Because this Program is a joint 
effort between Interior and Agriculture, these regulations are located 
in two titles of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR): Title 36, 
``Parks, Forests, and Public Property,'' and Title 50, ``Wildlife and 
Fisheries,'' at 36 CFR 242.1-28 and 50 CFR 100.1-28, respectively. The 
regulations contain the following subparts: Subpart A, General 
Provisions; Subpart B, Program Structure; Subpart C, Board 
Determinations; and Subpart D, Subsistence Taking of Fish and Wildlife.

Federal Subsistence Board

    Consistent with subpart B of these regulations, the Secretaries 
established a Federal Subsistence Board to administer the Federal 
Subsistence Management Program. The Board comprises:
     A Chair, appointed by the Secretary of the Interior with 
concurrence of the Secretary of Agriculture;
     The Alaska Regional Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service;
     The Alaska Regional Director, U.S. National Park Service;
     The Alaska State Director, U.S. Bureau of Land Management;
     The Alaska Regional Director, U.S. Bureau of Indian 
Affairs;
     The Alaska Regional Forester, U.S. Forest Service; and
     Two public members appointed by the Secretary of the 
Interior with concurrence of the Secretary of Agriculture.
    Through the Board, these agencies and public members participate in 
the development of regulations for subparts C and D, which, among other 
things, set forth program eligibility and specific harvest seasons and 
limits.
    In administering the program, the Secretaries divided Alaska into 
10 subsistence resource regions, each of which is represented by a 
Federal Subsistence Regional Advisory Council. The Councils provide a 
forum for rural residents with personal knowledge of local conditions 
and resource requirements to have a meaningful role in the subsistence 
management of fish and wildlife on Federal public lands in Alaska. The 
Council members represent varied geographical, cultural, and user 
interests within each region.

Public Meetings

    The Federal Subsistence Regional Advisory Councils have a 
substantial role in reviewing subsistence issues and making 
recommendations to the Board. The Federal Subsistence Board scheduled 
public meetings in conjunction with the Council meetings to accept 
comments on this notice during the fall meeting cycle. Due to a lapse 
in appropriations and the subsequent closure of the Federal Government, 
five preannounced Council meetings were cancelled. The Board decided 
that a rescheduling of the cancelled meetings was needed to allow for 
full public participation and discussion of regional subsistence 
issues. You may present comments on this notice during these 
rescheduled meetings at the following locations in Alaska, on the 
following dates:

Region 2--Southcentral Regional Council, Anchorage, November 5, 2013

[[Page 66886]]

Region 5--Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Regional Council, Bethel, November 13, 
2013
Region 6--Western Interior Regional Council, Fairbanks, November6, 2013
Region 7--Seward Peninsula Regional Council, Nome, November 19, 2013
Region 9--Eastern Interior Regional Council, Fairbanks, November 19, 
2013

    A news release will be published of specific dates, times, and 
meeting locations in local and statewide newspapers, and on the web at 
http://www.doi.gov/subsistence/index.cfm, prior to these rescheduled 
meetings. Locations and dates may change based on weather or local 
circumstances.

Tribal Consultation and Comment

    As expressed in Executive Order 13175, ``Consultation and 
Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments,'' the Federal officials 
that have been delegated authority by the Secretaries are committed to 
honoring the unique government-to-government relationship that exists 
between the Federal Government and Federally Recognized Indian Tribes 
(Tribes) as listed in 75 FR 60810 (October 1, 2010). Consultation with 
Alaska Native corporations is based on Public Law 108-199, div. H, Sec. 
161, Jan. 23, 2004, 118 Stat. 452, as amended by Public Law 108-447, 
div. H, title V, Sec. 518, Dec. 8, 2004, 118 Stat. 3267, which provides 
that: ``The Director of the Office of Management and Budget and all 
Federal agencies shall hereafter consult with Alaska Native 
corporations on the same basis as Indian tribes under Executive Order 
No. 13175.''
    The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, Title VIII (16 
U.S.C. 3111-3126), does not provide specific rights to Tribes for the 
subsistence taking of wildlife, fish, and shellfish. However, because 
tribal members and Alaska Native corporations are affected by 
subsistence regulations, the Secretaries, through the Board, will 
provide Federally recognized Tribes and Alaska Native corporations an 
opportunity to consult. The Board provides a variety of opportunities 
for consultation: engaging in dialogue at the Council meetings; 
engaging in dialogue at the Board's meetings; and providing input in 
person, or by mail, email, or phone at any time during the comment 
period.
    The Board will engage in outreach efforts for this extension 
notice, including a notification letter, to Tribes and Alaska Native 
corporations to ensure they are advised of the mechanisms by which they 
can participate. The Board will commit to efficiently and adequately 
providing an opportunity for consultation to Tribes and Alaska Native 
corporations prior to the adoption of any changes in policy or 
regulation concerning the rural determination process.
    The Board will consider Tribes' and Alaska Native corporations' 
information, input, and recommendations, and endeavor to address their 
concerns.

Purpose of This Notice

    In accordance with Sec.  ----.10(d)(4)(ii), one of the 
responsibilities given to the Federal Subsistence Board is to determine 
which communities or areas of the State are rural or nonrural. Only 
residents of areas identified as rural are eligible to participate in 
the Federal Subsistence Management Program on Federal public lands in 
Alaska.
    The Board determines if a community or area is rural in accordance 
with established guidelines set forth in Sec.  ----.15(a). The Board 
reviews rural determinations on a 10-year cycle and may review 
determinations out-of-cycle in special circumstances. The Board 
conducts rulemaking to determine if the list at Sec.  ----.23(a), which 
defines the rural/nonrural status of communities and/or areas, needs 
revision. Residents would have 5 years to comply with a rural to 
nonrural change. A change from nonrural to rural would be effective 30 
days after publication of the rule.
    On May 7, 2007, the Board published a final rule, ``Subsistence 
Management Regulations for Public Lands in Alaska, Subpart C; Nonrural 
Determinations'' (72 FR 25688). This rule revised the list of nonrural 
areas identified by the Board. The Board changed Adak's status to 
rural, added Prudhoe Bay to the list of nonrural areas, and adjusted 
the boundaries of the following nonrural areas: the Kenai Area; the 
Wasilla/Palmer Area, including Point McKenzie; the Homer Area, 
including Fritz Creek East (except Voznesenka) and the North Fork Road 
area; and the Ketchikan Area, including Saxman and portions of Gravina 
Island. The effective date was June 6, 2007, with a 5-year compliance 
date of May 7, 2012.
    On October 23, 2009, Secretary of the Interior Salazar announced 
the initiation of a Departmental review of the Federal Subsistence 
Management Program in Alaska; Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack later 
concurred with this course of action. The review focused on how the 
Program is meeting the purposes and subsistence provisions of Title 
VIII of ANILCA, and how the Program is serving rural subsistence users 
as envisioned when it began in the early 1990s.
    On August 31, 2010, the Secretaries announced the findings of the 
review, which included several proposed administrative and regulatory 
reviews and/or revisions to strengthen the Program and make it more 
responsive to those who rely on it for their subsistence uses. One 
proposal called for a review, with Council input, of the rural and 
nonrural determination process and, if needed, recommendations for 
regulatory changes.
    On January 20, 2012, the Board met to consider the Secretarial 
directive, consider the Council's recommendations, and review all 
public, Tribal, and Native Corporation comments on the initial review 
of the rural determinations process. After discussion and careful 
review, the Board voted unanimously to initiate a review of the rural 
determination process and the 2010 decennial review. Consequently, 
based on that action, the Board found that it was in the public's best 
interest to extend the compliance date of its 2007 final rule (72 FR 
25688; May 7, 2007) on rural and nonrural determinations until after 
the review of the rural determination process and decennial review are 
complete or in 5 years, whichever comes first. The Board has already 
published a final rule (77 FR 12477; March 1, 2012) extending the 
compliance date.
    Due to a lapse in appropriations on October 1, 2013, and the 
subsequent closure of the Federal Government, preannounced public 
meetings and Tribal consultations to receive comments on the rural 
determinations process during the closure were cancelled. The Board 
decided that an extension to the comment period was needed to allow for 
the complete participation from the public and Tribes to address this 
issue.

Request for Input

    To comply with the Secretarial directives and the Federal 
subsistence regulations, the Federal Subsistence Board is proceeding 
with a review of the rural determination process. As part of the 
Secretaries' commitment to open government and in accordance with 
Executive Order 13563, the Board requests input from the public on the 
rural determination process and regulations, and ways to improve them 
for the benefit of rural Alaskans.
    The Board has identified the following components in the process 
for review: Population thresholds, rural characteristics, aggregation 
of communities, timelines, and

[[Page 66887]]

information sources. We describe these components below and include 
questions for public consideration and comment.
    Population thresholds. The Federal Subsistence Board currently uses 
several guidelines to determine whether a specific area of Alaska is 
rural. One guideline sets population thresholds. A community or area 
with a population below 2,500 will be considered rural. A community or 
area with a population between 2,500 and 7,000 will be considered rural 
or nonrural, based on community characteristics and criteria used to 
group communities together. Communities with populations more than 
7,000 will be considered nonrural, unless such communities possess 
significant characteristics of a rural nature. In 2008, the Board 
recommended to the Secretaries that the upper population threshold be 
changed to 11,000. The Secretaries have taken no action on this 
recommendation.
    (1) Are these population threshold guidelines useful for 
determining whether a specific area of Alaska is rural?
    (2) If they are not, please provide population size(s) to 
distinguish between rural and nonrural areas, and the reasons for the 
population size you believe more accurately reflects rural and nonrural 
areas in Alaska.
    Rural characteristics. The Board recognizes that population alone 
is not the only indicator of rural or nonrural status. Other 
characteristics the Board considers include, but are not limited to, 
the following: Use of fish and wildlife; development and diversity of 
the economy; community infrastructure; transportation; and educational 
institutions.
    (3) Are these characteristics useful for determining whether a 
specific area of Alaska is rural?
    (4) If they are not, please provide a list of characteristics that 
better define or enhance rural and nonrural status.
    Aggregation of communities. The Board recognizes that communities 
and areas of Alaska are connected in diverse ways. Communities that are 
economically, socially, and communally integrated are considered in the 
aggregate in determining rural and nonrural status. The aggregation 
criteria are as follows: Do 30 percent or more of the working people 
commute from one community to another; do they share a common high 
school attendance area; and are the communities in proximity and road-
accessible to one another?
    (5) Are these aggregation criteria useful in determining rural and 
nonrural status?
    (6) If they are not, please provide a list of criteria that better 
specify how communities may be integrated economically, socially, and 
communally for the purposes of determining rural and nonrural status.
    Timelines. The Board reviews rural determinations on a 10-year 
cycle, and out of cycle in special circumstances.
    (7) Should the Board review rural determinations on a 10-year 
cycle? If so, why; if not, why not?
    Information sources. Current regulations state that population data 
from the most recent census conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, as 
updated by the Alaska Department of Labor, shall be utilized in the 
rural determination process. The information collected and the reports 
generated during the decennial census vary between each census; as 
such, data used during the Board's rural determination may vary.
    (8) These information sources as stated in regulations will 
continue to be the foundation of data used for rural determinations. Do 
you have any additional sources you think would be beneficial to use?
    (9) In addition to the preceding questions, do you have any 
additional comments on how to make the rural determination process more 
effective?
    This notice announces to the public, including rural Alaska 
residents, Federally recognized Tribes of Alaska, and Alaska Native 
corporations, the request for comments on the Federal Subsistence 
Program's rural determination process. These comments will be used by 
the Board to assist in making decisions regarding the scope and nature 
of possible changes to improve the rural determination process, which 
may include, where the Board has authority, proposed regulatory 
action(s) or, in areas where the Secretaries maintain purview, 
recommended courses of action.

    Dated: October 23, 2013.
Gene Peltola,
Assistant Regional Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Acting 
Chair, Federal Subsistence Board.
Steve Kessler,
Subsistence Program Leader, USDA-Forest Service.
[FR Doc. 2013-26680 Filed 11-5-13; 4:15 pm]
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