‘We should be the ones that say what’s happening on our land’: Involving local communities in Porcupine caribou management

Theme 1. Environmental protection
Session Name 1.2 International conservation law and local communities. Can local interests be adequately integrated?
Presentation Type Oral
Author(s) Erin Consiglio (University of Aberdeen, United Kingdom)
Abstract text

In northern Canada and Alaska, the Gwich’in Nation has depended on the Porcupine Caribou Herd for generations.  The herd migrates across the international border every year, with calving grounds located in the contested “10-02” area of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; the Gwich’in do not know what will happen to the herd if there is oil development in this region, but they fear the kind of decline seen in other herds across Canada.  They consider the protection of the herd to be a human rights issue because it is a matter of food security for isolated communities, and also affects their right to practice their traditional culture.  As an international resource, conservation measures are recommended by an International Porcupine Caribou Board that includes members from both countries.  However, the Board must deal with several competing interests, as the current administration in the United States favours oil development in the Refuge, while the Canadian government and the Gwich’in seek to protect the herd. 

This paper is based on my PhD fieldwork with the Vuntut Gwitchin in Old Crow, the northernmost community in the Yukon.  In it, I will explore some of the ways the Gwich’in are fighting to make their own voices heard in the debate between oil development and wildlife conservation, including the lobbying activities of the Gwich’in Steering Committee and a recent Yukon-based project combining Gwich’in knowledge with biological data to develop effective caribou management strategies.

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