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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Integrating the needs of rural subsistence economies into regional land use planning : Tenakee springs, Alaska Leghorn, Kenneth S.


This thesis develops a rationale for natural resource planning in southeast Alaska which fosters the maintenance of rural, mixed subsistence-cash economies, and which integrates the needs of these communities for an adequate resource base with the needs of larger scale resource development projects. Operating under this rationale, natural resource planners would recognize the role that subsistence activities play in rural community stability while acknowledging the need for cash earnings and infrastructure development brought about through natural resource exports. Besides addressing the desires of rural residents to continue subsistence-oriented lifestyles, the benefits of this type of planning would be improved long term regional stability as well as increased consensus (and less litigation) over resource development projects. This research was undertaken because a growing body of literature in Alaska and Canada has shown that subsistence economies, far from being a primitive form of human enterprise which needs replacing, represent an adaptive, productive, stable, and rational socioeconomic system worthy of protecting. However, as increasing industrialization and modernization of northern regions occurs, it is evident that subsistence economies need to be better understood if they are to be maintained. This issue is important to analyze from a planning perspective because inter-disciplinary skills are needed when addressing an issue such as subsistence which involves a mix of anthropology, economics, natural resource management, and fish and wildlife biology. More importantly, planning methods and planning solutions must be applied to the issue of how subsistence and mixed economies can be maintained in order to prevent their replacement by boom-bust cycles of hinterland resource development. A case study is included to present in-depth research undertaken on one rural community in southeast Alaska. Tenakee Springs was chosen as representative of a small (population 100), isolated northern community in a resource-rich area which has experienced a moderate level of recent timber harvesting. It has a largely non-Native population, consisting of many older, retired, first or second generation white settlers and an increasing number of younger families and individuals, all of whom are attracted to the tranquil, independent, and subsistence-oriented lifestyle of this island community. This population illustrates that subsistence economies are not only present in Native cultures. Detailed information on Tenakee is used to give a complete picture of modern-day mixed subsistence-cash economies, to demonstrate that the pursuit of subsistence activities represents a viable economic strategy which enhances rural communities located in resource-rich settings and which can be negatively impacted by industrial resource development. Conclusions are also presented on the land, resource, and cash income needs of subsistence users. This case study, sponsored by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, utilized state-of-the-art research methods to address the above issues. Community meetings were made an integral part of the research. Researchers conducted meetings before the study began (to introduce the community to the methods and purposes of the research, and gain feedback and approval), during the course of the research (to present initial results and composite maps of community harvests for verification), and at the draft report stage (for review and comments). Secondly, a literature review was conducted of all pertinent demographic, economic, historical, and resource development information on Tenakee. Thirdly, 11 active resource harvesters in the community were chosen to act as "key respondents" for the purposes of intensive interviewing and mapping of their lifetime resource harvesting activity. Next, using information from these key respondents, a questionnaire was made and administered to a random 50 percent (24) of all households in Tenakee. This permitted the compilation of data on 450 variables relating to 1984 community fishing, hunting and gathering activities and socioeconomic characteristics. Finally, the random survey of 24 households also included questions on historical and current deer hunting in four areas in which a variety of timber harvesting and road building activities have occurred. The results verified that Tenakee does have an economy typical of the model for mixed subsistence-cash socioeconomic systems. There is high participation in resource harvesting, with 48 percent of all residents (including young children and people in their 80s and 90s) engaging in hunting, and 56 percent in fishing. There is a wide diversity of resources (42 species or groups of similar species) harvested, and the harvest occurs throughout the year in repeating seasonal patterns. In 1984, there was an average harvest of 500 pounds per household, or 250 pounds of wild resources for every resident. There is a network of non-commercial distribution and exchange of these resources, in which actively harvesting households give resources to non-active households, and there is a high degree of barter and trade. The cash sector of Tenakee was found to be dependent on government transfer payments, largely consisting of social security from past employment, on government employment, and on seasonal and part time work. Limited cash earnings are used, among other things, to buy resource harvesting technologies such as skiffs, motors, guns, and nets. In general, Tenakee residents are pleased with the good life they lead. Some have said the main industry in Tenakee is "taking life easy," yet residents are quick to respond to threats to their peaceful community. The Town Council is currently engaged in 3 legal actions against the US Forest Service to stop implementation of road building and logging plans in Tenakee Inlet. Results from data analysis on this issue showed that subsistence activities may be significantly effected by logging and road-building, and that the long term effects may be negative. Road building was found to result in increased deer harvests by shifting users away from the beach zone and into the upland forested areas, and by increasing the number of out-of-town hunters using an area. This made it easier for some residents to obtain deer, but others were displaced by the increased competition. Habitat alteration after logging was found to result in good deer habitat and hunting conditions for several years following clear-cutting. After approximately 10-15 years, dense regrowth may inhibit deer hunting. It is likely that over the long term, increased timber harvesting will result in a lowered deer population and more difficult hunting conditions. These results were found to have immediate application in three management arenas. First, the data was used to show that Tenakee does qualify for the subsistence protection and priority allocation provisions of Alaska law. This is an important step in maintaining subsistence opportunities for Tenakee residents. Secondly, specific information on salmon and deer harvests may be used to propose new regulations for Tenakee Inlet which restrict commercial fishing, and limit deer hunting to local residents. Thirdly, the results are being used in the impact assessment process for forest planning. Since all federal forest plans must consider their effects on subsistence uses of the forest, and because Tenakee is completely surrounded by National Forest lands, subsistence data will be of great use in community attempts to modify timber harvesting plans. A more far-reaching result of this and other studies is that the timber plans of the entire Tongass National Forest are being questioned for not having complied with subsistence assessment procedures. The thesis concludes by suggesting that planners should not just provide information so that a choice can be made between subsistence protection and resource development, but rather that planners should help formulate alternatives which allow for both goals to be achieved. A framework for a federal land use plan for the Tenakee area which balances subsistence usage of resources with larger-scale development is presented for consideration in the 1989 revision of the Tongass Land Management Plan. Current forest planning procedures in Alaska would permit such a process to unfold; it is up to professional planners and managers and interested citizens, especially from rural areas, to see that it happens.

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