Tundra Drums: Senators propose duck-stamp exemption for subsistence hunters

Alaska's senators sent this written statement to reporters today, May 24:

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich today introduced legislation that would eliminate the law requiring Alaskans to purchase duck stamps for subsistence purposes.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has announced that beginning this spring, it will enforce a regulation requiring subsistence hunters to purchase and carry duck stamps when hunting or when gathering the eggs of birds. This requirement presents additional burdens to Alaskans living a subsistence lifestyle. In many small towns and villages, duck stamps may not be readily available. In addition, purchasing stamps may present a hardship for those who live subsistence lifestyles, many of whom depend upon the taking of birds for economic, cultural and dietary reasons. The Murkowski/Begich bill would amend the Fish and Wildlife Improvement Act of 1978 to remove this requirement on Alaskans who take birds or eggs for subsistence purposes.

Under the current law, exemptions are made for hunters under the age of 16, federal and state institutions, taking of birds for propagation, and for landowners and sharecroppers when birds are found to be causing damage to crops or property.

In addition, the requirement that subsistence users obtain stamps for takings is inconsistent with agreements made under the migratory bird treaty between the United States and Canada. In 1996, the treaty was amended requiring that non-wasteful takings of migratory birds and collection of eggs be allowed so long as the takings were done for the traditional and nutritional needs of Alaskan subsistence users.

"Removing the duck stamp requirement for substance purposes will enable many of our first peoples to maintain their subsistence ways of life without unnecessary regulation," said Murkowski. "If exemptions can be made for crops or population management, then it is only reasonable to make an exception to protect traditional ways of Native life."

"The duck stamp requirement is costly, overly burdensome for hunters and enforcement officers, and is contrary to subsistence uses," Sen. Begich said. "Many subsistence users in Alaska have little opportunity to participate in the cash economy and depend on the ability to take migratory birds for their physical, economic and cultural existence."

The bill has been referred to the Environment and Public Works Committee.

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Source: By Alex DeMarban. Originally published May 24, 2010