Friday, September 4, 2009

Ann Strongeart Writes to Gov. Parnell on the Upcoming Winter Crisis in the Bush

Dear Governor Parnell, Mr. Moller, Ms. Jollie, Mr. Black and others,

After reading the article in the [Alaska] Dispatch, I am gravely concerned and worried even more so than before about what this winter will bring to rural Alaska.

Not only is the lack of both subsistence and commercial fishing, greatly diminishing our ability to put away fish for the winter but also the lack of funds brought in from commercial fishing is now making it hard, if not impossible, for rural Alaskans to put away other subsistence game.

Moose season is now. The birds are flying now. Now is the time to be out hunting for seals and whales. All of these types of game are critical for us to survive this winter. If we cannot purchase gas to go out and hunt then I fear this winter we will have a crisis of much greater proportions than last winter. Last winter we were able to depend a little bit on other game that we had put up for the winter since we were lacking fish.

It looks like this winter that option will not be available to many rural Alaskans because they simply cannot afford the gas and other necessities required to go out hunting.

I am quite confident in saying that none of us want to again have to rely on food and fuel drives to keep rural Alaska from having to make the choice between feeding their families or heating their homes this winter. Additionally, I am certain that ADF&G will NOT open up commercial fishing of Coho Salmon to try to help rural Alaskans earn some money for fuel. Even if they do, there might not be a market for them and the money that might be made probably won’t do much to avert another crisis this winter.

So what can we do??? I know that a fisheries disaster declaration went to Washington DC. But let's be realistic, even if a disaster is declared the help and funds will be slow to come. Although these monies and aid will help, they will not bring back the birds, the seals, the whales and other game we need to put away for winter.

There has to be something we can do NOW. Fuel vouchers for gas so we can hunt now before the game heads south? There has to be some type of emergency funding available to help rural Alaskans now, so we can try to put away enough game to make it through the winter.

Last winter the BIA stepped in and helped. Who can help NOW? I refuse to think that there isn't something that can be done now. We have been seeing the warning signs for months. Winter is fast approaching. Help and solutions need to happen NOW before people have to make the same life threatening decisions they had to make last winter.

Step up NOW, help NOW! Come up with solutions NOW before we have a much bigger crisis than last winter.

Rural Alaskans will tell you NOW is the time we need help, NOW is the time to help prevent another crisis this winter. NOW before winter sets in is the time to do something, not later when we start getting reports of families going without food or going cold this winter.

Please do your jobs, help your people! We are telling you NOW that there is a high risk for a repeat of last year’s crisis only this year it looks to be much worse than last years. Don't ignore us, don't wait until we are freezing and going without food to hear us. Help EMPOWER us NOW, to keep us from having another crisis this winter. Last winter was hard; this winter looks like it’s going to be worse. We need to start coming up with solutions for not only this winter but also what about next year and after that? Plan ahead, come up with solutions now, let’s not keep going through the same thing year after year. Don’t ignore us and placate us until we are in a full emergency crisis winter after winter.

Coming up with solutions and preventative measures now will not only empower us but also will save hard earned taxpayers money now and in the future I am sure.

Quyana Cakneq in advance for your attention to this serious matter. I look forward to hearing from each and every one of you. This letter is an open letter to not only all of you but also will be posted on my blog and cc’d to various media and blogs.


Ann Strongheart

image - subsistence fishing on the lower Yukon, 2008 - Oysters4me


Anonymous said...

I wish Ann the best of luck, but honestly, what is the state supposed to do? If people can't live there without depending on the state, private donations or charitable organizations, maybe it's time to move where the jobs are.

jim said...

Rural Alaska isn't the only place in our country that is suffering. "Real" nationwide unemployment may be at 16 percent or higher. Rural Alaskans aren't the only ones facing economic difficulty, but for some reason we expect them (unlike other Americans) to move away from their homes when their times get hard.

Anonymous said...

Jim - It has always been very expensive to live in rural Alaska because of the transportation costs. It's remote. Everything has to be shipped in; either by air or boat.

alaskapi said...

The state can do a variety of things. First and foremost , develop an energy policy which takes into account the necessity of properly supporting remote communities , through PCE and bulk fuel loans for example , until area specific power solutions can be developed.
The state can look seriously at developing the transportation interties necessary to relieving some of the burden rural communities have... sometimes a mere 20 miles of gravel road would go a long way toward allowing folks choices they do not have currently...
The state can- in it's participatory and/or advisory capacity- QUIT okaying projects of the one-size-fits-all type which waste enormous amounts of money in the bush... housing,sewer,water, etc projects which are NOT designed for cold climate or remote regions and fail or underperform have sucked up a bazillion dollars no one can afford to waste...and rural Alaska is stuck with.
The state can FINALLY get real about the dollars GENERATED by rural Alaska and the fact that most of it flows directly right back out of rural Alaska...
In a variety of ways, but right straight out.As the rest of us in Alaska benefit from the dollars which flow out, we have some vested interest in keeping our neighbors in rural Alaska in mind...
The state could get over it's lil self on the ongoing hoo-hoo over rural preference/subsistence etc and truly come to an agreement which accepts the major differences between parts of the state in relation our state constitution's gaurentee that resources will be managed for the benfit of all.
The state can revisit it's economic disaster regulations of 2000 and get real about the fact that the Yukon River fisheries situation has put everyday Alaskan citizens right smack dab in the middle of federal waters management/mis-management policies re-pollack factory trawling , an international agreement with Canada to collectively manage salmon fisheries (of which Alaska has a legal responsibility to participate in ) AND a likely downturn in fish numbers related to non-human intervntion.
I can think of a number of other things the state could a legal governmental entity and as the collective group which is us, as citizens of this state... but I think this is a big enough start.

I'd also like to see rural Alaska try some new things or explore them seriously-
Were rural Alaskans to band together and develop supply co-ops and bypass the profit part of cost, what would they save?
Were cold climate housing ideas (now being tested) to supplant traditional ways of building in the bush, what would folks save- both in building and heating costs?

There's lots EVERYONE can do to allow folks in bush Alaska the kinds of choices the rest of us in so-called urban Alaska have.
Reality is it will always be expensive to live in remote areas, no one disputes that. It is, however, unacceptable that we don't look at methods and ideas to adjust the HUGE disparity in costs...