In response to public testimony in February and April, and a staff discussion paper on the Council’s approach to outreach in recent years, the Council expressed interest in creating a community engagement and outreach committee. The Council will further discuss the purpose and scope of such a committee at the June 2018 meeting.
The discussion paper that the Council reviewed during B reports briefly outlined the activities of the Council’s Rural Outreach Committee, which was extant from 2009–2011. The ROC was established to provide guidance to the Council on ways to improve communication between the Council and rural communities for Council actions that may affect communities in rural Alaska. The three-tiered method suggested by the ROC, and which has been applied during the last ten years, includes direct mailings, statewide teleconference presentations, and direct presentations to US Fish and Wildlife Service Regional Advisory Councils and other regional meetings. These methods have been successfully employed for several Council projects since 2011, most recently in March 2018, with positive feedback from the Regional Advisory Councils and communities.
With the Council’s recent engagement in more programmatic initiatives such as the Bering Sea Fishery Ecosystem Plan and abundance-based bycatch management, members of the public have requested that the Council reconsider their engagement with rural Alaskan and Alaska Native communities to foster direct two-way communications on relevant Council activities. During Staff Tasking, members of the public requested that the Council consider reconvening the Rural Outreach Committee with an expanded role or establishing an ad-hoc committee specifically tasked with soliciting and considering community engagement strategies. There was also a request to ask communities directly for input on how they would like to engage in the Council process.
The Council expressed interest both in creating a committee and in thinking about how to solicit input from communities about engagement. Council members noted that it is important that the process is transparent, and that information shared with a Committee is also available to Council members. They also discussed how to solicit input while also setting appropriate expectations. Ultimately, the Council indicated that it would consider a scope of work for a committee at the June meeting, and tasked staff to develop ideas for a draft solicitation announcement for a request for proposals from the public on ways to effectively engage rural and Alaska Native communities during the Council process, for review in June. If the establishment of a committee is approved by the Council in June, the Council would issue a call for nominations for Committee representation, with plans for the Committee to meet in Fall 2018. Staff contact is Steve MacLean.