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Alaska Republicans hatch plans for gull egg harvests in national park

Alex DeMarban

Alaska's Republican duo in Washington, D.C., plans to bring traditional gull-egg harvesting back to Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.

The 3.3-million-acre Southeast Alaska park is "ancestral homeland" for the Huna Tlingit, who once harvested gull eggs from cliffs for food. But the practice was banned decades ago under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and National Park Service regulations.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski introduced legislation on Monday to restore those rights as part of subsistence hunting activities, said a press release from her office. Rep. Don Young plans to introduce a companion bill in the House.

Under Murkowski's proposal, tribal members of the Hoonah Indian Association would have the right to collect gull eggs up to two times a year at as many as five locations within the park, the statement said.

Annual harvests wouldn't hurt the park's gull populations, the National Park Service determined in 2010.

"The Huna Tlingit have gathered gull eggs as part of their traditional subsistence activities for centuries -- certainly long before Glacier Bay was made into a national park," Murkowski said. "Gull eggs are part of their traditional diet and cultural identity, and I believe it’s an activity they should be allowed to continue legally."

Contact Alex DeMarban at alex(at)alaskadispatch.com