by JR Gates
Alaskan hunters cherish the opportunity to carry on their hunting traditions and to put healthy food on the table. Our hunting and harvest opportunities are the main reason many of us choose to live in Alaska. At the same time, many nonresident hunters dream of an Alaskan big game hunt, and we welcome them and certainly want nonresident hunting opportunities to continue.
In some of the most popular and productive hunting areas across this Great Land, difficult and complex allocation decisions are many times necessary to maintain our stewardship of the wildlife resource.
Article 8 of the Alaska constitution directs utilization, development, and conservation of our wildlife resources “for the maximum benefit of its people,” and are “reserved to the people for common use.” The “people” referenced are Alaskans—not citizens from other states or countries.
This original intent of our constitution, as it relates to hunting, is captured best on Page 7 of our own hunting regulations booklet:
“Nonresidents are allowed to hunt when there is enough game to allow everyone to participate. When there isn’t enough game, nonresident hunters are restricted or eliminated first.”
Sadly, this common-sense approach to resident priority is not always happening. That’s why Resident Hunters of Alaska (RHAK) formed in 2016 and now represents over 1400 Alaskans and their families. RHAK is the first and only statewide organization advocating for a resident hunting priority in Alaska.
Our mission statement is:
“Resident Hunters of Alaska is dedicated to enhancing and prioritizing opportunities for Alaskan resident hunters in accordance with responsible wildlife management, focused on preserving our Alaskan hunting heritage for future generations.”
Ultimately, the RHAK movement isn’t just about wildlife allocations; it’s about conservation of our game resources and sustainable wildlife management that retains our hunting opportunities for future generations. Our pro-resident position doesn’t at all mean that RHAK is “anti-nonresident” or “anti-guide.” We certainly want others to experience what Alaska has to offer and to share our wildlife resources with family, friends, and hunters from outside… just within reason.
Alaskans now have an organized voice representing their constitutional priority to be the first to hunt, the last to sit. With a paid lobbyist and full-time Executive Director, RHAK is a tireless presence at all the regulatory meetings, and in the halls of Juneau, and in the arena of public discussion.
If you’re a resident hunter who shares our concerns, the way to assist is to join as a member and help us make your voice heard. We need numbers to influence legislators, and we need dollars to continue to fund the enormous amount of work we are doing to “enhance and prioritize” your hunting opportunities and to conserve our wildlife resources, so our kids and grandkids continue to have the same opportunities we have been so blessed with.
You can learn more about us and join online at www.ResidentHuntersofAlaska.org. If you have any questions, feel free to contact our Executive Director Mark Richards at (907) 371-7436 or send an email to Mark at info@ResidentHuntersofAlaska.org.
JR Gates is a founding member and currently serves on the board of Resident Hunters of Alaska.
This column originally appeared in the Summer 2018 issue of Hunt Alaska.