- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 2, 2014

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Two Republicans who are running against Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Begich told a crowd of Alaska Native leaders at a candidates forum that they value subsistence, but they stopped short of answering a question about the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to review the state’s appeal of a lower court’s ruling on rural fishing and hunting rights.

Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and former state natural resources commissioner Dan Sullivan spoke Tuesday at the Alaska Native Village CEO Association conference, the Anchorage Daily News (http://is.gd/bJPOwU) reported.

The Supreme Court decision not to review the 9th U.S. circuit Court of Appeals ruling was a victory for rural Alaskans who rely on hunting and fishing or subsistence. The decision was praised by the Alaska Federation of Natives and by Begich, who opposed the state lawsuit.

Moderator Sarah Lukin asked Treadwell and Sullivan what they would do if elected and the state asked for legislation to reverse Monday’s Supreme Court decision.

Treadwell said he would sit down with Alaska Natives. He would try to find a consensus that works, “because frankly we shouldn’t be battling each other in Washington,” he said.

“What can we do so that we can manage wildlife appropriately, so that we can maintain food security, so that we can put subsistence first, as the federal law is,” he said.

Sullivan said subsistence is not going to be won in the courtroom.

“I don’t think that there’s a solution where the federal government can mandate something or a state court or a federal court can mandate something and then you have a victory with one side and a loss with another,” he said.

The state has been in court battles off and on since late Athabascan elder Katie Jonn first brought a lawsuit in the 1980s asserting her right to fish at her Copper River fish camp to feed herself and others.

The issue is rooted in a conflict between the Alaska Constitution and the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, which gave a fishing and hunting preference to rural Alaskans especially when there wasn’t enough for everyone. The state constitution says all Alaskans, urban and rural, are equally entitled to fish and game.

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Information from: Anchorage (Alaska) Daily News, http://www.adn.com